The Commands of Jesus

One of the core values of the good news of Christ is grace. There are many places in the NT we could go to find the message of grace expressed but one of my favourites is in Ephesians ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.’ (Ephesians 2:8–9). Paul makes it clear that our salvation is 100% the work of God in Christ and 0% our own effort. No amount of law keeping on our part will win us access to heaven. Another way of expressing this truth is ‘Nothing I can do will make God love me more, nothing I can do will make God love me less!’ This is indeed good news and something to celebrate! Christ not only offers us forgiveness but also the freedom from the tyranny of law.

Does this mean then that there are no longer commandments to obey? Absolutely not! 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 fulfil them”. (Matthew 5:17). The difference is that our obedience now arises from a love response to the gift we have been given rather than an effort to win God’s favour.

Have you noticed that Jesus actually gave us some new commandments? During the opening weeks of 2017 we will be looking at commands that Jesus gave his disciples and seeing how they apply to us. The first commandment is known as the Great Commandment and is found in both Matthew and Mark’s gospels. Actually we get two commandments for the price of one!

Love God and Love One Another

Only those who know the forgiveness of Christ are able to love God and love people as God intends for us to do. It is a good place to start the year by allowing the Holy Spirit to illuminate again to us how to obey those ‘buy one get one free’ commandments.

The second (third?) commandment we shall look at is also found in Matthew and Mark but is usually known as the Great Commission. It is still very much a commandment because Jesus commands us to

Go and Make Disciples

Some people are inclined towards emphasising either the Great Commandment or the Great Commission but over the next few weeks I hope that we will see that these Commands of Jesus are inextricably combined. For people who have experienced the lavish grace, unlimited grace of God, obeying these commands is perfect freedom; a reciprocating demonstration of a love response to his love for us.

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God’s purpose of grace

God’s purpose of election is bound to be mysterious to men, for we cannot aspire to an understanding of the secret thoughts and decisions of the mind of God.  However, the doctrine of election is never introduced in Scripture either to arouse or to baffle our carnal curiosity, but always for a practical purpose.  On the one hand, it engenders deep humility and gratitude, for it excludes all boasting.  On the other, it brings both peace and assurance, for nothing can quieten our fears for our own stability like the knowledge that our safety depends ultimately not on ourselves but on God’s own purpose of grace.

From: Authentic Christianity 1995 John Stott and Timothy Dudley-Smith.

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The mystery of election

“Many mysteries surround the doctrine of election, and theologians are unwise to systematize it in such a way that no puzzles, enigmas or loose ends are left. At the same time, in addition to the arguments developed in the exposition of Romans 8:28-30, we need to remember two truths.

First, election is not just a Pauline or apostolic doctrine; it was also taught by Jesus himself. “I know those I have chosen,’ he said. (Jn. 13:18).

Secondly, election is an indispensable foundation of Christian worship, in time and eternity. It is the essence of worship to say: ‘Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory’ (Ps. 115:1). If we were responsible for our own salvation, either in whole or even in part, we would be justified in singing our own praises and blowing our own trumpet in heaven. But such a thing is inconceivable. God’s redeemed people will spend eternity worshipping him, humbling themselves before him in grateful adoration, ascribing their salvation to him and to the Lamb, and acknowledging that he alone is worthy to receive all praise, honour and glory. Why? Because our salvation is due entirely to his grace, will, initiative, wisdom and power.”

Quoted from Authentic Christianity 1995 John Stott and Timothy Dudley-Smith.
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