Commands of Christ: 44

Do not fear man, but fear God.

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more.  I shall show you whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one.”  Luke 12:4-5

“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”  Matthew 10:28

People have a tendency to become absorbed by the things of this world.  They desire things of this world.  They fear things of this world.  They are proud of things of this world.  This is a grave mistake.  This world is temporary.  The Kingdom of God is eternal.  The new heavens and new earth which will be fully renewed under God’s uncontested reign are of far more value and importance.  Hence, Jesus commands to desire those eternal things, and here, not to fear temporal death or loss.  As Jim Elliot so eloquently put it before being martyred, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Therefore we need to seek the Lord and His will.  Live for His purposes and Kingdom.  Fear no opposition or loss.

Commands of Christ: 43

Do not worry about your defense when you are arrested for My sake.

“When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say.  For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”  Matthew 10:19-20

“When they take you before synagogues and before rulers and authorities, do not worry about how or what your defense will be or about what you are to say.  For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that moment what you should say.”  Luke 12:11-12

“They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.  It will lead to your giving testimony.  Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.”  Luke 21:12b-15

It is interesting that Jesus assumed His followers would be arrested and persecuted by authorities.    It is also interesting that He specifically instructed them not to plan or prepare ahead of time for making a defense.  He knew that His followers would have the Holy Spirit within them.  He would speak to them moment by moment instructing them.  This must have seemed strange to the ears of the disciples, since the Holy Spirit had not yet been given.  This is a great comfort to us, however.  Because of Jesus’ promise that He would give us irrefutable wisdom, we do not have to concern ourselves with the need to be the smartest person in the room.  We simply need to listen and obey.

There are few testimonies more moving than those of disciples who have had opportunities like Jesus described.  In 2 Timothy 3:12 Paul tells us that everyone who desires to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.  While persecution takes different forms in different societies, this continues to hold true today.  May each of us be living lives filled by the Holy Spirit and sensitive to His leadership so we will be ready every time such opportunities arise for us.

Commands of Christ: 42

Go, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves, so be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.

“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.  But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues,  and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans.”  Matthew 10:16-18

“Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.”  Luke 10:3

Welcome to the upside-down Kingdom.  This is the Kingdom where the King sacrifices Himself for His subjects rather than the other way around.  This is the Kingdom where the path to life is through dying to yourself.  This is the Kingdom where the “soldiers” go out to be like lambs among wolves.  As ambassadors for the Kingdom, we are to be wise, but for the purpose of blessing others rather than for protecting ourselves and our own welfare.  We will be punished for being blameless and selfless and good.  Despite this, we are to carry the King’s message and deliver it to everyone, including those who will even kill us.  The King is worth it.  The life He gives is worth it.  Our eternal hope of the Kingdom prevailing in the end, forever, is worth it.

Commands of Christ: 41

Shake the dust off your feet where no one receives you or listens to you.

Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet.  Truly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.  Matthew 10:14-15

And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them. Luke 9:5

Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say,  ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’ Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand.  I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.  Luke 10:10-12

Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them. Mark 6:11

This seems harsh.  This is part of the basis of the old adage that we are only responsible for sharing the good news, not for people’s response to it.  This can be the merciful thing to do, however, because the more revelation and opportunity a person has, the more severely they will be judged if they do not respond.  This also increases the opportunity for those who will respond to hear the message since the message-bearers will not be absorbed with the unresponsive for long periods of time.  Also, those who fail to respond now may well become more responsive later, and some of the people who do respond now may be the ones to take the message to them at that time.

Commands of Christ: 40

Freely you have received. Freely give.

Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.  Matthew 10:8b

We didn’t earn or pay for God’s marvelous grace to us.  We are not to charge others or ask them to earn it as we share it with them.  Our service is to be a sacrifice of love in gratitude for all God’s goodness and His incomprehensible greatness.  When Jesus on two occasions cast out those who were doing business in the temple, He was illustrating this.  In the Reformation, the opposition to the selling of indulgences was another.  Today there is a huge industry built on profiting from the sale of Christian knick-knacks, books, movies, and so on.  I believe a good deal of that is no better than those selling in the temple.  When it comes to spiritual blessings and insights, what do we have that we were not given?  Certainly, there are costs involved in distributing hard copies of books, but it is free to distribute them electronically.  Great fortunes are being built from the sale of these items.  One major result is that there are many spiritual resources that are only available to those who can pay for them.  This distribution issue is one reason why there is such a strong correlation between places that have the least access to the gospel and those who have the greatest material poverty.

 

Commands of Christ: 39

Proclaim that the kingdom of God is near.

As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Matthew 10:7

Say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’  Luke 10:9b

This is another of the commands Jesus gave as He was instructing the seventy and the twelve in these two passages.  In many ways, this is the central command for Jesus’ followers in terms of our task here on earth prior to His return.  God’s rule, God’s reign, is the good news we are to share everywhere with everyone.  His instruction is for our guidance.  His purpose is our direction.  His character is our aspiration.  His desire is our command.  His nature is our inspiration.  His promise is our hope.

Commands of Christ: 38

Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, drive out demons.

“Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.” Matthew 10:8a

 “Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it.”  Luke 10:8-9a

These commands were to specific groups of people at specific times, but seem to be somewhat typical of what Jesus’ followers continued to do in later years.  His instructions to the seventy in Matthew and to the twelve in Luke provide at least general patterns for us today as we go to new areas to announce the Kingdom of God.  These dramatic signs serve to demonstrate the activity of God among men.  They show the concern of God for the plight of men and the power of God to do something about it.  We are still to demonstrate these truths as we extend the Kingdom of God to every place and people group on earth where He is not known.

Commands of Christ: 37

Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few;  so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”  Matthew 9:37-38

He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”  Luke 10:2

Many of you will have heard of the 10:02 prayer.  It is based on Luke 10:2b.  It was started back in the 1990’s by a couple of friends of mine in Colorado, Kenny Moore and John White.  They were prayer partners and started praying every day at 10:02 for laborers for the harvest wherever they happened to be.  Now, due to their faithfulness (and the faithfulness of those they influenced), many thousands of people around the world pray that prayer daily.  Many of us set our watch or phone alarms to remind us.  It is remarkable how often we see answers to that prayer.  This is a wonderful example of how applying what the Lord teaches us and passing it on to others can change the world.  Set your alarm and share this idea with others you encounter.  The alarm going off is a great reminder to share the concept with others in your presence.

Commands of Christ: 36

Come to me. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Matthew 11:28-30

This is one of the most encouraging commands I have ever heard.  Though He is the King of kings, He is not a harsh taskmaster.  He is gentle and giving and understanding of our weakness and is there to help.  This is contingent on our taking His burden, and not our own.  It is contingent on our following His instruction and His way and not our own.  Of course, this is best in every conceivable way.  He is wiser.  He sees the end from the beginning.  He made us and knows us better than we know ourselves.  He wants the best for us and has the power to make everything work for our good.  What a joy to obey this command to come to Him!

Commands of Christ: 35

Take care what you listen to and what you do with it.

He also told them, “Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you.  To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”  Mark 4:24-25

“Take care, then, how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.”  Luke 8:18

We are evaluated based on what we know.  We are accountable to apply what we know and to share it with others.  Failure to do so is a serious matter.  From those to whom much has been given, much shall be required.  (Luke 12:48)  This is a valid principle in responsibilities and rewards, such as in the parable of the talents.  It is also valid in terms of punishment.  (Luke 12:48)

Our own faithfulness is important.  It is also good stewardship for us to invest in others who are faithful with what they learn and receive.  We are not doing people a favor if we continually “pour into them” if they are not faithfully applying and sharing what they have already learned.