Commands of Christ: 60

Do not rejoice at power over demons, but over eternal life.

I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.  However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”  Luke 10:19-20

This command was in the context of debriefing ministry with the 72.  When they returned from their ministry they were particularly impressed by the authority the Lord had given them over demons.  Jesus was commenting here that they were missing the point.  In the big picture, this authority was simply a nice side benefit.  The big picture was their relationship to God and their place in His Kingdom.  That was the news.  That was the impressive fact.  That was the point of their ministry, to bring others into an awareness of and participation in this relationship and identity.

Commands of Christ: 59

Follow me and let the dead bury their own dead.

“Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” Matthew 8:22b

And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”  But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.  But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  Luke 9:59-60

The word “disciple” essentially means “follower”.  To follow Jesus means not following anything else.  He is the exclusive determinant of what we do, where, when, and how.  Jesus expounds on this idea in Luke 14:25-35.  In verse 26 of that chapter, He says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”  The point is that there is no comparison between the level of commitment we have for anything or anyone and our commitment to Christ.

Our overwhelming and overriding focus is on living as citizens of the Kingdom of God.  We are to follow our King at all times, in all places, without reservation or exception.  That is what Jesus commands.

Commands of Christ: 58

Come to Me and drink.

On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’” He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.   John 7:37-39

This is reminiscent of Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria in John 4.  In verse 10 Jesus told her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”  This is the sort of command which it is an obvious and immediate joy to obey.  We have thirst.  In this fallen world, there is so much unfulfilled desire, so much difficulty, so much heartache.  Jesus commands us to come to Him to find fulfillment.  He is the answer to the questions.  He is the provision for the need.  Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we receive the downpayment on eternal, redeemed, full life.  Come to Jesus.  Drink.

Commands of Christ: 57

Do not judge by appearances, but judge justly.

“Stop judging by appearances, but judge justly.”  John 7:24

This command is given in the context of Jesus being rebuked by the religious leaders for healing a man on the Sabbath.  Jesus responds by admonishing them to live by God’s character, nature, purposes, ways, and desires rather than merely legalism.  This is a contrast between living according to Law versus living by the Spirit.

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7b)  When God told this to the prophet Samuel, there was a fairly dramatic illustration given.  The current king of Israel, Saul, was outwardly impressive, but proved to be immature and unfaithful.  When Samuel, according to God’s instruction, was choosing a new king from among the seven sons of Jesse, he was inclined to select the most impressive one.  God, however, saw deeper than that.  God chose the younger and less impressive David because of his heart, which was like God’s heart.

Let us press on to know God more fully and intimately in order that we may understand his character, nature, purposes, ways and desires.  Let us live according to the Spirit rather than according to the Law.

Commands of Christ: 56

Forgive 70 times 7 times.

Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. Matthew 18:21-22

“Be on your guard!  If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.”  Luke 17:3-4

Jesus must have known this would be one of His commands that might be exceedingly difficult for us to obey.  He gave us some extra commentary on this issue.  In the Lord’s Prayer, he teaches us to pray for the Lord to forgive us as we forgive others.  He then makes sure we understand by adding, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  (Matthew 6:14-15)

Jesus also told a parable about an unforgiving servant which puts the matter quite clearly.  Anything we may be called upon to forgive in others pales in comparison with what God is willing to forgive in us.  Because of His infinite holiness, the “smallest” sin is infinitely unacceptable.  As recipients of His grace and mercy we are called upon to reflect that grace and mercy when others sin against us.

Realizing the magnitude of the forgiveness we have received from God is important because, “Whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”  (Luke 7:47b)  The more we realize the magnitude of our sin against God, the more we love Him.  The more we love Him, the more we will forgive others who sin against us.

Commands of Christ: 55

Deal with a brother who sins.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.  Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  Again, truly I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.  For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:15-20

I think this is one of the most ignored commands of Jesus.  So often it seems that within the church, we respond to sin in every way except this.  We will ignore it.  We will gossip about it.  We will avoid contact with the one who has sinned.

The most loving thing to do for someone in the church who has sinned, is to follow Jesus’ instructions.  This is for their sake, the sake of the church, and for God’s sake.  Everyone stands to lose if it is ignored or dealt with improperly.  It is a serious matter so we need to deal with it directly and decisively.  If possible we should limit disclosure of it to others.  The process is clear.

The attitude is important as well.  In Galatians 6:1 Paul tells us, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”

The purpose of doing this, is the joy and fellowship and restoration of the person who has sinned.  Let’s love one another deeply enough to do this for one another.

Commands of Christ: 54

Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.

“Everyone will be salted with fire.  Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor?  Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.”  Mark 9:49-50

This is in the context of holiness and purification from sin.  Everyone must be purified.  None is righteous in themselves.  For those who have been purified and made holy, it is a tragedy for them to be defiled.  Jesus is commanding us to stay pure and to be at peace with one another within His family.

We will be know by our fruit.  Are we peaceable?  Are we living holy and pure lives?  These are evidences of genuine followers of Christ.  This is what He commands.

Commands of Christ: 53

Resist temptation radically.

“Woe to the world because of things that cause sin!  Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come!  If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into eternal fire.  And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.  It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the fiery hell.”  Matthew 18:7-9

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire.  And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into hell.   And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,  where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”  Mark 9:43-49

If we have come to terms with the necessity of dying to ourselves to enter the Kingdom then this command should not even “raise an eyebrow.”  Cutting off a hand or foot or gouging out an eye from a dead person is not a painful process.  Six times in the gospels Jesus said that whoever wanted to save his life in this world would lose it, but whoever loses their life for His sake will find it for life eternal.

Jesus’ command makes it quite clear that anything that separates us from God must be dealt with severely.  It is literally a matter of life and death.  Sin is not something to be flirted with.  We cannot please ourselves and serve God.  If we think we can then we have deceived ourselves and not truly chosen to follow God.  In our own strength, we cannot do this, but if we have truly repented and believed in the Lord, then through the power of the Holy Spirit whom He has given us, we can follow.  If we have not truly turned to follow God, we must do so, or we will be separated from Him for eternity in hell.

Commands of Christ: 52

Do not hinder anyone just because they are not in your group.

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”  Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.  For whoever is not against us is for us.  Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, truly, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.”  Mark 9:38-41

Then John said in reply, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow in our company.”  Jesus said to him, “Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”  Luke 9:49-50

This is reminiscent of what Paul says in Philippians 1:15-18: “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”

It seems that in our day there are a lot of self-proclaimed servants of Christ who draw the lines more and more tightly in identifying who are legitimate disciples.  They make major distinctions based on minor issues, while ignoring major considerations such as love.  Pride is rampant, based on comparing themselves with others.  Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17 where He prayed for unity among His followers ignored.

Paul says in Romans 14:4, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall.  And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.”

There are lines that need to be drawn.  Those lines are between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness.  There are only two camps.  Those who are for the Lord and those who are not.  I love the time when Joshua was getting ready to attack Jericho.  In Joshua 5:13-14 it tells us, “Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand.  Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”  “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”  Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”  

Whether people are for us or not is irrelevant.  The question is, are they on the Lord’s side.  Let’s not shoot His allies.

Commands of Christ: 51

Become like children.

He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”  Matthew 18:3-5

Pride is one of the most insidious sins.  Jesus’ teaching here is in the context of His followers asking Him who (among men) was greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.  Essentially, Jesus is saying the God is the greatest.  It is nonsensical to ask who is greatest (among men) in the Kingdom.  None is worthy.  None has power in themselves.  Only the humble can enter.  Only those who recognize they are helpless can receive God’s power.  We should rejoice in our relationship with the Lord and glory only in Him.  The most humbly grateful soul is the greatest in the Kingdom.