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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Life in the Spirit

Recently I attended a meeting where someone posed the question “What is discipleship?” which set me thinking. But before we can even begin to answer that question we first need to ask “What is a Disciple?”

“Easy,” we might say, “simply turn to the pages of the New Testament and start listing James and John, Peter and Andrew and the rest of the twelve Jesus called to follow him. Those are the 12 disciples.” So we might conclude that a disciple is someone who has been with Jesus. I sometimes find myself wondering wistfully what it would have been like to be one of those first 12 disciples and to have the privilege of spending 3 years, 24/7 with Jesus; walking the same dusty roads, sleeping on the same dusty floors and eating food from the same battered table.

Yet it is clear from the Great Commission where he tells us to ‘make disciples of all nations[1] that Jesus saw the group of people called disciples as extending far beyond the 12 to include ourselves. But how can this be when we can’t be with Jesus like the twelve were? Or can we?

Jesus promised that when he went to heaven he would leave behind the Holy Spirit to be our comforter or ‘advocate to help us and be with us forever’.[2] Take a moment to ponder the significance of this promise. Jesus is saying that the Holy Spirit has been given to us so that, like the 12 disciples, we can be in Jesus’ company every moment of every day, wherever we are!

We will begin this autumn term with a series called ‘Life in the Spirit’. My prayer is that we do more than simply learn truth about the Holy Spirit over the coming weeks. Unless we have a genuine experience of the Holy Spirit that causes us to encounter Jesus day by day we are liable to drift from being in relationship with him as his disciples and become merely historians who know about Jesus. Join me in praying that this series will lead us into a fresh encounter with Jesus as we open up our lives to Him.

[1] Matthew 28:19

[2] John 14:16

 

This blog post featured in the September 2014 edition of Lifelines