The Obedience Jesus Commanded
Keeping the commands of Christ without ever actually becoming born-again will not save anyone! That is, just because someone lives a “good” life doesn’t make them a Christian. Because, when someone becomes a Christian, God takes out their heart of stone and gives them a new heart where he writes his laws. One of the proofs that someone is a Christian is that they keep the laws of God, not because they have to, but because they want to.
“…and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…” Hebrews 5:9
- Based on Hebrews 5:9, why is obedience to Christ necessary?
(So that we may receive eternal salvation.)
“For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:14
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30
- Is Christianity easy? How do we reconcile Matthew 7:14 with Matthew 11:30?
(Christianity is not easy. It’s an active, rather than passive faith. It is also a faith of submission. As humans, we don’t care to submit very much. However, it’s in our submission to God that the burdens of artificial man-made religion are released from us.)
A prophet is someone who speaks on behalf of God. While James warns us not to presume to be teachers of God’s Word, because there is greater accountability for teachers, the accountability for prophets is even greater.
In the Old Covenant, the prophet was also regarded as an “intercessor” (one who prayed for others and communed with God in prayer). In the New Covenant, the prophet is described as someone who also encourages believers. Ephesians 2:20 says that Christ builds his Church upon the foundation of Prophets and Apostles. In one sense this refers to the foundation of Scripture given to us by the Old Testament Prophets and the New Testament Apostles, but there is also a sense of this being an ongoing building program where each generation is given its own apostles and prophets by Christ to the Church.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Matthew 7:15
- Why is it sometimes hard to quickly identify a false prophet according to Matthew 7:15?
(Because they say all the right things and act the right way in public. It’s hard to know what’s really in their hearts.)
There is a difference between someone who thinks they have heard from God and are wrong, and someone who simply falsely declares something as being from God. One of the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in First Corinthians 12 is prophecy. This gift will be done away with once “that which is perfect has come.” Until then, the Bible says we prophecy in part. This means that we can sense what God is saying at times only in part (not fully). We may at times get this wrong. But it doesn’t mean that we are false.
“You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:16-20
- How did Jesus say we could identify a “false” prophet? (Matthew 7:16-20)
(You will know them by the fruit they bear.)
DEPART FROM ME!
There is coming a day when we will stand before God and be judged. This first judgment is whether we will be with the Lord for eternity, or whether we will be separated away from Him eternally. It is this Judgment that Jesus now refers to. Christ links obedience to His commands with eternal consequences.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” Matthew 7:21
- How does Jesus link obedience to him with eternal judgment? (Matt. 7:21)
(It’s not enough to profess your faith in words or even in deeds. We must recognize with our lives that Christ is our Lord and submit our will to his.)
“Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’” Matthew 7:23
It is possible to be doing things for Christ without ever knowing him. But even worse still is to be doing things for Christ and not be known by him! Just as in a healthy marriage, intimacy, or knowledge of a person, comes when feelings, hurts, fears, disappointments, triumphs, dreams, ideas and needs are shared with each other. When we share at that level with another person, they get to know us.
- How does this explain what Christ said in Matthew 7:23?
(A true relationship with Christ involves our hearts. We have a bond with him. We love him. It’s not doing something for him so that we can look good to others or even get to heaven. It’s loving him and others simply out of love itself.)
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” Matthew 7:24-27
- Based on what Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-27, how should we follow him?
(We should follow him by allowing his commands to take action in our lives.)
The Faith Jesus Commanded
“And Jesus answered them, ‘Have faith in God.’” Mark 11:22
The Jewish people did not have a concept of “faith” in God. In fact the word doesn’t even appear in the Old Testament. What does appear is faithfulness. To the Hebrew, you demonstrated faith.
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would approach him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
Jesus spoke of the necessity for faith in him when he said, “Believe in God. Believe also in me.” To believe is not just to agree that something is true, it is also to have a change of convictions based on the trust being put in someone. Paul describes faith as a “mystery.” Perhaps this is because it is something God requires of us and yet gives to us. We are told to “have faith,” but this faith is actually given to us as a gift from God.
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test!” 2 Corinthians 13:5
- What does this verse encourage us to do?
(Examine ourselves. It’s hard! We have to continually be looking at ourselves and what it is that’s motivating our actions.)
FAITH AND ACTION
“And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’” Matthew 9:2
- Faith is something that can be “seen.” How and why?
(We live our lives in a way that we know Jesus is making a difference in us and can still do great things in those around us.)
When someone has faith in Jesus, they live differently.
“For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20
- What is the promise associated with faith in Matthew 17:20?
(All things are possible through Christ who strengthens us.)
The Kingdom Living Jesus Commanded
The “Kingdom of God” was the subject of Christ’s preaching and the only topic that he commanded His disciples to preach. It constitutes the main topic of what the New Testament records as Christ’s teaching. Christ’s original audience had built up certain expectations of what they thought God was about to do that affected how they understood “the Kingdom of God”. These Jews expected their “messiah” to be a military ruler who would conquer the Romans and once again make Israel a world-power. But Jesus presented a radically different concept about the Kingdom of God.
“Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.’” Luke 17:20-21
- How does Christ’s statement in verse 21 give a different understanding about the Kingdom of God than what the Jews expected?
(The kingdom of God is here and there. It’s everywhere. When we receive Christ as our savior, we become a continuing part of the kingdom of God.)
“And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell” Mark 9:47
- How important did Jesus say entering the Kingdom was?
(It’s so important that we must put aside whatever it is that could keep us from entering it.)
Entering the Kingdom of God is a matter of eternal life or death! The greatest thing you can do with your life is to enter the Kingdom of God! The greatest thing you can do with your life is to help others enter the Kingdom of God! The greatest thing you can do with your life is to represent the King of the Kingdom to those outside of the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God, Jesus said, was the place of peace with God where those who enter it have been forgiven by God. This then demands that people realize their need for God’s forgiveness in order to enter the Kingdom of God.
“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:3
- What did Jesus say was necessary before entering the Kingdom of God that is, what was necessary to see the Kingdom of God let alone enter it?
(Being born again. Meaning put away the old life and embracing the fullness of life in Christ.)
The Kingdom of God is represented by the Church. It is the church’s mission to extend the Kingdom of God on earth. We do this by leading people to Christ so that He reigns in their hearts. While the Church can give itself to many worthy causes, our main cause is His cause: to extend the Kingdom of God on earth through the preaching of the Gospel and the establishment of Kingdom communities (called- churches). If someone gave me a billion dollars, I would dedicate it to this cause. In the meantime, please join with me to dedicate our existing time, talent, and treasure to strive for the Kingdom of God to conquer lost souls with Christ’s love.
The Religion Jesus Commanded
Religion consists of rituals, ceremonies and observances. In one respect, Jesus did not come to establish another religion, He came to reveal God and how we can know peace with God. Christ was very critical of the Pharisees who had invented many religious practices.
“Do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.” Matthew 23:3
- Jesus had some stern words for religious leaders. Based on this verse what does Jesus expect of his followers?
(Do what is right, even if those who are over you don’t do as they say.)
The religion that Jesus condemned was hypocritical, oppressive, and guilt-ridden. Jesus rebuked the Jewish religious leaders for imposing religious burdens on people.
“The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted” Matthew 23:11-12
- Rather than religion being used to belittle people and boss them around, what did Christ command his followers to do?
(Be a servant and humble ourselves.)
But the New Testament doesn’t just condemn religion—it begins to redefine it!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:27-28
- Christianity is not merely about behaving, being nice, or looking good. In Matthew 23, what did Jesus say was about people who were only concerned about how they looked to others?
(They are hypocrites!)
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