As promised, the first installment of messages just finished on The Seven Basic Commands of Jesus.
Original date: January 6, 2008
As we enter into a new year, I want to start a new series of messages that are designed to enable to clearly answer the question, “What does God want from us? How does he want us to live? What are the priorities of Jesus for His people?” The reality is that there’s an amazingly clear answer given to us by Jesus.
But first, let’s realize that there is a gap, a huge gap, between what the average church asks of its people and what Jesus asks—a better word would be requires—of His people.
For many churches, what they ask really is, “Come, give money, help out, and don’t cause trouble.” Others set the bar even lower: “Be baptized and send a check from time to time.”
This can’t be right! This is not the community of transformed that Jesus lived and died for. He saw His church as a mighty force of ordinary people in love with and following Himself as its Lord. Ordinary people following the extraordinary Jesus and doing extraordinary things—that’s always been the plan of Jesus.
Jesus saw His church as a body of believers who would not simple assert faith in certain doctrines, but who would be so gripped by what Jesus did and taught and commanded that even in their ordinariness and even in their weakness they, in their lives, deeds and character would be a dazzling display of the greatness and glory of God.
Sometimes we get kind of confused about this. We begin to think that Jesus is all about us. That He came so we could go to heaven and so we can have somewhere to turn when we have a hard time in the meanwhile. Nothing could be further from the New Testament truth. Jesus came to overturn the whole world, not by some kind of political revolution but by an inner revolution of the human heart, paid for by His blood. He’s come to set the world right, and we’ve been caught up in His work. We’re not bystanders; we’re part of His ongoing mission.
Now what does He want from His people? Is it possible that Jesus wants a people who just get baptized? Is it possible that He died on a cross for a people who live their lives on their own agenda but then have a place in heaven? Could it be possible that He died to create a people who are only called upon to make out a check on payday?
No way. He has a very clear blueprint, and it’s found in Matthew 28:18-20:
18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Now you probably think I’m going to talk about missions or evangelism. You’ve heard, and I’ve given, many messages about missions and evangelism based on this passage. That’s valid. There’s a lot about missions and evangelism here. But that’s not that part I want to focus on. What I want to focus on is what He tells us to do here. A lot of people read this passage and say, “Well, Jesus tells us to tell everybody about the Good News.” That’s right, but there’s more. “Well, Jesus tells us to tell all nations.” That’s right too, but there’s still more.
So what does He tell us here? Someone might go further and say, “Jesus tells us to make disciples.” Right, great! We’re moving in the right direction. “Jesus tells us to tell them everything that He taught.” Yes, but look again. He’s very specific. On the screen is the command of Jesus isolated so you can see it:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…
We know about “go”; we know about “make disciples”; we know about “baptizing.” But did you catch the last part?
…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…
Jesus didn’t just tell us to teach them what He taught us. He says, “…teach them to obey/live by/observe everything I have taught you.”
In other words, what He is calling for us to do is to teach people to enter into a lifestyle based on the teachings of Jesus—a Jesus-soaked, Jesus-exalting way of living.
I noticed this several years ago and said, “Sometime I need to go through the gospels and see all the commands of Jesus so I know what it is He wants to do.” Well, somebody a lot smarter than me did that. He’s one of my favorite authors, John Piper. He wrote a book called What Jesus Demands of the World and he found 50 commands of Jesus. That’s kind of overwhelming! But let me tell you a story about somebody way back in the 1960s who took what Jesus said here seriously and the impact that had.
George Patterson was a missionary in Honduras. He went there to teach in a seminary, but traditional seminary education of pastors was failing miserably. What would happen is these young pastors would get a diploma and then didn’t want to go back to their village. They wanted to stay in the city or even get a nice paying job with the Dole Fruit Company.
So the mission George was with had to come up with a completely different way of training pastors. They pioneered what’s known as TEE: Theological Education by Extension. That’s a fancy way of saying that George got on the back of a mule and went from village to village to teach pastors and church elders what the Bible teaches and how to live the Jesus-following life. Instead of them leaving the village to get an education, the education came to them. They had to come up a way of teaching the faith, church life and sound Biblical teaching that would be simple, practical, memorable and impactful.
George had to figure how to do that. A whole new way of teaching had to be found. Do you where he found it? Right here in Matthew 28:18-20. Let me read his words.
Jesus, after affirming His deity and total authority on earth, commissioned His Church to make disciples who obey all His commands. So His commands take priority over all other institutional rules (even the hallowed Church Constitution and Bylaws). This obedience is always in love. If we obey God for any other reason, it becomes sheer legalism; God hates that.
…We asked our converts to memorize the following list of
Christ’s basic commands:
1. Repent and believe: Mark 1:15
2. Be baptized (and continue in the new life it initiates): Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1-11
3. Love God and neighbor in a practical way: Matthew 22:37-40
4. Celebrate the Lord’s Supper: Luke 22:17-20
5. Pray: Matthew 6:5-15
6. Give: Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 6:38
7. Disciple others: Matthew 28:18-20
George had all the pastors then all the elders and then every member in these village churches memorize these seven basic commands. Everything that George and the others involved in this ministry related to those seven basic commands of Jesus. So what happened?
The results were nothing less than amazing. In just four years, the four little churches he started out with grew to 21 churches as they kept the training close, local and practical.
I was so taken by this I found myself saying, “If it’s good enough for Honduras, it’s good enough for the US!”
Now let’s be clear about some things. This is not a new Ten Commandments. This is not some legalistic thing. This is a simple way to sum up what Jesus taught us, especially what Jesus taught us to do. But if we give ourselves over to these things, if we really do, won’t we be living the way Jesus said we should live? Isn’t that the point of what He says in Matthew 28?
…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…
Let me explain it this way. Over the last few years I have almost ceased using the term “Christian.” I talk constantly about following Jesus. The New Testament uses the term “Christian” only three times; at the same time the idea of the disciple as a follower of Jesus is all over the New Testament. Jesus repeatedly tells people, “You come and follow Me!” There are about eighty places in the New Testament where either Jesus tells people to follow Him, or His people are described as following Him. Three vs. eighty.
Jesus-followers! That’s what we are. Sometimes “Christian” has come to mean “not Jewish, not Catholic, and not secular.” “Christian” sometimes has come to mean “People like us, who like the things we like.” As in “contemporary Christian music.” “Christian experience.” “Christian life.” “Christian Bed and Breakfast.” “Christian counselor.” It’s come to stand for a subculture that is only partly about following Jesus.
I’m going to show you a video that’s a kind of parody of those PC and Mac commercials, but let me warn you: while it may make you laugh, it may also bug you. Here’s the clip:
VIDEO: Christ-Follower 1
I told you it might irritate you. It kind of irritates me. I mean, I’m kind of like that guy on the left (all except for the King James part—I’m an NIV kind of guy). But in the last few years I have to tell you—I’ve been on a journey, and this really sums it up for me. I want to be a Jesus follower. I want to live like Him, obey Him, and let His name be known. In these next nine weeks, we’re going to go on a journey back to the roots of the faith we believe and just as important, that we pledged to live by when we put our trust in Jesus. The process will sometimes make you squirm (it made we squirm when I was planning it). You might have some of your assumptions challenged. You’ll probably find yourself questioning your faith—especially what it means to live your faith. And you’ll come face to face with Jesus Himself and you’ll be asking yourself, “Is what I’m doing what You want, or just I’ve always assumed you wanted?” So strap in tight, get prayed up, bring your Bible and let’s get ready: --to live by the commands of Jesus --and to not just come to church, but to BE the church that Jesus died for.