Commands of Christ: 79

Watch out that no false Christ deceives you.  

He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them!”  Luke 21:8-9

Jesus said to them in reply, “See that no one deceives you.  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and they will deceive many.”  Matthew 24:4-5

 Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one deceives you.  Many will come in my name saying, ‘I am he,’ and they will deceive many.”  Mark 13:5-6

I suppose it is natural for people to believe what they wish to be true.  It is natural for us to desire Jesus’ return.  Jesus warns His followers, however, not to be misled.  When He returns, it will be very clear.  Let us wait patiently for His return and not be led astray by our impatient desires.

Commands of Christ: 78

Beware of the scribes and do not imitate them.

In the course of his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.  They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.” Mark 12:38-40

Then, within the hearing of all the people, he said to his disciples,  “Be on guard against the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and love greetings in marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.  They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation.”  Luke 20:45-47

Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.  Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.  They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.  All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.  They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues,  greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’   As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.   Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.  Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah.  The greatest among you must be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of hell twice as much as yourselves.  Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’  Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the temple that made the gold sacred?  And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’  You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?  One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it;  one who swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it;  one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it.  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. But these you should have done, without neglecting the others.  Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth.  Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous,  and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets;  now fill up what your ancestors measured out!  You serpents, you brood of vipers, how can you flee from the judgment of hell?   Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and pursue from town to town,  so that there may come upon you all the righteous blood shed upon earth, from the righteous blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.  Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.  Matthew 23:1-36

Evidently, Jesus was not too fond of people who act religiously for the sake of appearance.  He was pretty clear about the fact that those doing religious activities in order to enhance their reputation were not pleasing Him.  Our reputation is not the point.  His is.  Our Christian celebrity culture is a dangerous thing.  His Name is to be honored, not the name of His servants.

Humility is the hallmark of the King and His Kingdom and His true servants.  Run from anything that seeks to draw you into the limelight.  If people are going to follow you, make sure they are following you on the path to service and sacrifice rather than fame and glory.

 

Commands of Christ: 77

Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.

They came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?”  Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.”  They brought one to him and he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied to him, “Caesar’s.”  So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were utterly amazed at him. Mark 12:14-17

They posed this question to him, “Teacher, we know that what you say and teach is correct, and you show no partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  Is it lawful for us to pay tribute to Caesar or not?”  Recognizing their craftiness he said to them,  “Show me a denarius; whose image and name does it bear?”  They replied, “Caesar’s.”  So he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” Luke 20:21-25

They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status.  Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”  Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?  Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin.  He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”  They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”  Matthew 22:16-21

Be a good citizen of the earthly country in which you reside.  More than that, however, be a good citizen of the Kingdom of God.  All authority and honor belong to God.  All kingdoms of the earth are under His rule.  All creation is His, including our own selves.  Our lives, our relationships, our possessions, are all His to do with whatever He pleases.  We have the option to disregard this now, but if we do so, we will pay the price for eternity, suffering His wrath and punishment as His enemies.  Far better, to recognize and honor His reign now and have the benefits of reigning with Him for all eternity.

Commands of Christ: 76

Have faith in God.

In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.  Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”  “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.  “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”  Mark 11:20-24

If we are living and walking in the Holy Spirit, we can know that our words and actions and ways are in His will.  He is able to bring about anything.  We are not serving ourselves, but Him.  We are not seeking our desires, but His.  Let us not be shy about asking for anything we need to do so.  His glory is a worthy cause.  It is worth God’s attention and resources.  He can and will provide.  Have the faith to ask.

Commands of Christ: 75

Serve others.

But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt.  But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;  whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.  Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28

Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.  But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;  whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.  For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45

He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as ‘Benefactors’;  but among you it shall not be so. Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.  For who is greater: the one seated at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one seated at table?  I am among you as the one who serves. Luke 22:25-27

So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you?  You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am.  If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.  I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.  Truly, truly, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.  If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.  John 13:12-17

God’s Kingdom is upside-down from the world.  What king sacrifices himself for his subjects?  What great man serves those under his authority?  In a world that says, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  We are told in Philippians 2:5-11, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus tells us that this life is a race to the bottom.  The goal is to serve, not to be served.  The goal is to sacrifice for others benefit rather than for our own.  The goal is not to make a name for ourselves but to serve without recognition.  The reward is eternal while the pain is temporary.  The reward is far greater than the sacrifice.  Be like Jesus.

Commands of Christ: 74

Keep the commandments.

Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”  He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good?  There is only One who is good.  If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”  He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness;  honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 19:16-19

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’” Mark 10:17-19

An official asked him this question, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone.  You know the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother.’”  Luke 18:18-20

In Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus said,“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

In our day, many religious teachers are denying the validity of these commands in the name of “good theology.”  It is true enough that we are not under law but under grace.  It is true enough that we cannot and will not earn salvation by obeying these commands.  But what so many fail to recognize is that if we recognize all that Christ has done for us, and if we walk in the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit Whom He gives us, our love and gratitude and Spirit-filled life will result in a life that surpasses these commands.  We will not only obey them but we will go beyond them.  Obeying them out of love and gratitude is the least we can do.  Keep the commandments.  Teach the commandments.  Do it from a Spirit-filled life of love and gratitude.

Commands of Christ: 73

Let children come to Jesus and do not despise them.

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked them,  but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:13-14

And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them.  When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them. Mark 10:13-16

People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them, and when the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.  Jesus, however, called the children to himself and said, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Luke 18:15-17

At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  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 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”  Matthew 18:1-6, 10

In the eyes of men, children are of little account.  They are often viewed as inconveniences.  In the United States, in the name of convenience, we have murdered about 310 million babies through abortion (including chemical abortions) since Roe v. Wade in 1973.  Only China, with their one-child policy is worse in this regard.

We ignore children.  As a culture we often seek to delegate as much of their care and nurture as possible, through childcare programs, schools, age-specific programs in churches, babysitting, sitting them in front of televisions or computer screens, etc.  We consider children a nuisance to be avoided.

Jesus had a very different attitude toward children and He instructs us as His followers, to follow His example.  He spent time with them.  He paid attention to them.  He valued them.  They served as an example of His pattern of valuing the last, the least and the lost.  In fact, He held them up as an example for us to emulate.  Their humility and dependence are a shining example in our world of pride and independence.

Value children.  Demonstrate it by loving and investing in them.

Commands of Christ: 72

Be wholesome in your speech.

“Either declare the tree good and its fruit is good, or declare the tree rotten and its fruit is rotten, for a tree is known by its fruit.  You brood of vipers, how can you say good things when you are evil? For from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.  A good person brings forth good out of a store of goodness, but an evil person brings forth evil out of a store of evil.  I tell you, on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak.  By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”  Matthew 12:33-37

Words matter.  Unplanned words reveal the heart.  For good or for bad, our words will defend or condemn us on the day of judgment.  Amy Carmichael, the great missionary to India had a quote that always impressed me.  She said, “No matter how suddenly you jar a bowl of sweet water, no bitter water will ever spill out.”  True enough.  Let us guard our hearts, ever walking in the Spirit, so our speech might be gracious and suitable for a Kingdom ambassador.

 

Commands of Christ: 71

Remember Lot’s wife and do not try to preserve your life.

Remember Lot’s wife!  Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.  Luke 17:32-33

Here is yet another place where Jesus tells us to live for eternity and not for our temporal life here.  If, like Lot’s wife, we become enamored with the pursuit of earthly benefits, then we will lose sight of eternal ones, and our lives will be led astray.  Our direction determines our destination.  If our eyes remain fixed upon the Lord, He will guide us and bring us safely into His presence.  If we are distracted by the things of the world and seek them, we will end up with sulphur and fire in the end as Sodom did, and miss out on eternal reward.  It is impossible to serve both God and worldly wealth.

Commands of Christ: 70

When you have done all you were asked to, say, “we are unprofitable slaves, we have only done our duty.”

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’?  Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’?  Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?  So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”  Luke 17:7-10

I’d say this this is a bit counter-cultural and politically incorrect in our day.  There are lots of biblical metaphors of our relationship with Christ: slaves, friends, bride, body, etc.  I dare say that slave is the least popular.  It’s true Jesus told the twelve disciples they were no longer His servants, but now were His friends.  Despite this we see later disciples, including the apostle Paul, refer to themselves as slaves of the Lord.  In some of His parables, Jesus has a master telling his slaves at the end of their service, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Here, Jesus says that even if we do everything we’ve been asked to, that we have only done the minimum.  Let us rather seek extravagant ways to demonstrate our love for Him for all that He is and  our gratitude to Him for all He has done.  He says that even in regard to our enemies, if they ask for our shirt we should give them our coat as well.  If that is to be our attitude toward our enemies then how much more should we go beyond what has been asked of us to glorify our perfect and gracious Lord?