My Commands (again and again)….

Lets jump a little further in the chapter of John cited in the previous post.

This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another.

John 15, 12-17

If anyone has any doubts that Jesus had commands he told us to follow the above verses should strike down that doubt. Again and again in these verses Jesus used the word “command”. I’m sure there are some of the ever-present theologians out there that will somehow take the word “command” and turn it into something else. After all they have had almost two thousand years to hone in on that task.  But for me I take the word command to be what the current dictionary says it is:

com·mand      [kuh-mand, -mahnd]   verb (used with object)

1. to direct with specific authority or prerogative; order

2. to require authoritatively; demand

3. to have or exercise authority or control over

4. to deserve and receive (respect, sympathy, attention, etc.)

All of these definitions certainly point to what Jesus says. Jesus certainly had the authority to direct, demand, and have control over us. And what did Jesus command. The first command here was to love one another as he loved us.  That is an impossible command but we should strive to do it just the same.  Jesus said you are my friends if you do what I command. So, if we try to do what he commands we are no longer slaves to our weaknesses; in other words we are no longer just poor miserable sinners but are now friends of Jesus and therefore God. What an exhilarating feeling this is if we just take these words to heart.  Yes Jesus did come to us when we were in a far less than noble shape but now through Jesus we have the ability to do what he commands.  As is common with many of his talks with us Jesus closes out this one repeating one more time what he commands us to do.

Getting Back to the Red Letters….

I have been away from the red letters for too long in this blog. For that reason we will spend the next several posts getting back to the core of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ and that is to take his words and especially his commands to heart.

Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

John 14, 11-15

I chose these words because of several things. One is that Jesus says that he is in the Father and the Father is in him. Some say this is a foundation for the concept of the Trinity but I don’t necessarily take it as such. To me it just says the Jesus and God in heaven are aligned in everything Jesus does and says. So, we are to treat Jesus’ words as if they came directly from God the Father himself. Let’s look as some of those words in this text.

Jesus says if you believe in God then you will imitate him in the works that he did. But he even goes beyond that and says that if you really believe in God you will actually do greater works than Jesus! So much for the belief that we are all just poor miserable sinners incapable of anything good!!  Jesus, by the words found here, was staking his reputation on his actions. He even said if you don’t necessarily believe in me then believe in the works that I do. He certainly puts a lot of emphasis on works in these words doesn’t he. In that regard when he says when you ask in my name (and in the works that I do), I will do it, he is saying when you do the works that I do I will be there to help you out. So when you do good works Jesus is there to help you out. What an awesome thought!

The final verse in this quote is the kicker. If you love me you will keep my commandments. Just what were the commandments of Jesus. He told us elsewhere in this words that the new covenant he brought only contained two commands and that is to love God and to love each other. He also made it clear that all the Old Testaments laws could be wrapped up in his new covenant and therefore in these two commands.  Notice that Jesus did not call his commands “suggestions if you feel like it”, he called them commands. These words like so many others found in the red letters goes contrary to what many who call themselves Christians today espouse.  When Jesus commands we should be listening but it seems many of us have glossed over these type words to make them almost meaningless. I am certainly not one of those and I hope and pray that each and every one of you who are reading these words aren’t either. When Jesus commands I am certainly going to listen.

The Nature of Man…

Since this is my 300th post to this blog and as I am coming off a rather long hiatus, I thought I would handle an impossible topic and that is the nature of man.  I apologize in advance for this post’s length but describing the nature of man will take a few more than the five hundred words I try to limit my posts to. 🙂

The nature of man is to seek God –– Most of us are on this earth for seventy-some years and at least sometimes, and often many times, we have a deep spiritual urge to know where we came from and what it is we are supposed to do while we are here. Most of us believe that there is someone or something called God who brought us to life. What does this God want from us? Why did he give us existence? These questions have personally plagued me throughout my life but I am not alone in that regard. Seeking the meaning of life is built into the basic structure of us all.

The nature of man is self centered and self destructive— Some say that man’s self centered nature stem from the “survival of the fittest” attitude from our ancient past.  That is in the early days of man only the strongest survived; there was no place for looking out for others in that mode. As a history buff and someone who has seen man’s inhumanity to man it is obvious that the man is still a very self centered creature.  Jesus told us to love one another. That and to love God were the only two commandments in his new covenant that he brought to us. But as cited above the nature of man is contrary to Jesus’ command. The history of the world is, for the most part recorded in the histories of our wars. Just go to the history section of any modern library or bookstore and you will see that to be the fact.  We seem to define ourselves as to who we have killed; not who we have loved. Just look at the love affair with weapons of destruction among us, especially in the U.S. Our technology seems to advance first in our war machines and then migrate to other areas. We have become total experts in killing each other but total failures in loving each other.

The nature of man is to ignore the teaching of God ––  Many of us who were brought up to be Christians, have been taught that Christianity is a “do nothing” religion. God has done it all for us and absolutely nothing is expected of us but to believe in him. With this mentality we are at least indirectly trained to ignore the teachings of God beyond this one thought. We were taught that God views us as nothing but poor miserable sinners and expects nothing good from us. This “do-nothing” attitude is the reason that many outside of Christianity feel Christianity as a false religion. Hindus have a rather strict list of requirements that are deemed mandatory by their religion. Of course the same goes for Muslims. They, like their Jewish counterparts are even told what they are allowed to eat and how many times a day they are to pray.  With 80% of those in the world today believing that God wants us to do certain things and act certain ways it is hard for them to believe that a god who says nothing is required is not a false god.

Of course much of this “do nothing” mentality comes from a few of the letters of St. Paul not from Jesus himself who many times said just the opposite. In order to maintain this stream of logic it is necessary to ignore much, and I would even say most, of Jesus teachings.  Of course, those of us who look at “all ” the words of Jesus know that he intended those who called themselves his follower to do and act according to his words. Being a follower of Jesus Christ is definitely not a “do nothing ” proposition. How did so much of Christianity get this so wrong?  So many who call themselves Christians have latched onto a scant few pieces of Jesus’ words and thrown out the rest. This saddens me deeply. The most glaring example of this looking past the words of Jesus come from the “Great Commission” contained in Matthew 28:19-20:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
20 teaching them to obey all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

There are so many who quickly cite verse 19 and then go on to ignore verse 20 where Jesus tells us to do what he commands of us. This selectively choosing the words of Jesus seems to be so prevalent in today’s churches I at times refrain from calling myself a Christian. Instead I am beginning to simply say that I am a follower of Jesus Christ.

The next time in a corresponding manner I will be tackling an even more impossible task and that is to try to understand the nature of God.