“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
– Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20)
Jesus told his disciples that as they are going forth, making disciples and baptizing them they must also be sure to teach them “…everything I have commanded you.” In his book, What Jesus Demands From the World (2011) John Piper’s approach to this command is to list at least 50 of those commands from the gospels.
I love the first dozen of Jesus’ commands that he lists:
- You must be born again.
- Come to Me
- Believe in Me
- Love Me
- Listen to Me
- Abide in Me
- Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me
- Love God with All Of Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength.
- Rejoice and Leap for Joy
- Fear Him Who Can Destroy Both Body and Soul in Hell
- Worship God in Spirit and in Truth
When we take the time to actually ask the question, “What did Jesus command?” we find commandments that are familiar to us. At the same time, we feel the urge to run to Paul’s letters to find concrete how to’s. As evidence of this tendency, I have found that one of the most popular occasional letters of the entire Bible is that of James because we long for practical, explicit, black-and-white…concrete examples of how we are to live and act as followers of Christ.
Just studying the life of Christ, meditating on His words and contemplating the grand expanse of what He is calling us to be–not just focusing upon what we are to do–begins its transformational work at the level of our heart, spirit and soul. This interaction pushes us to strive to bring harmony between who we are and who we have been called to become.
Finally, I believe it is this interaction with the words of Jesus that gives us the needed grounding for understanding and applying the letters of Paul, James, John and Peter. If we are not careful, without being anchored in the words of Jesus we begin moving into the realm of legalism, much like the Pharisees, Sadducees and legal experts to whom Jesus had much to say.