Teachings of Jesus: Were they commands or just suggestions
Note: This is an excerpt from a chapter in an upcoming book called “In The Image of God,” by Keith Bollig. This is copy-righted by Keith Bollig. Any unauthorized reproduction or distribution is against the law.
One of the modern-day songs that has always given me comfort is “Rest In The Arms of God” by Mark Lowry. I was listening to this song, the night I rededicated my life to Jesus after more than a decade of ignoring him. In summary, it says, if you’ve tried everything yourself and nothing seems to be working to solve a problem or mend a broken heart, rest in the arms of God.
Jesus knows the problems you are facing. He knows the challenges you’ve gone through, how you’ve been hurt by others. He’s gone through all your grief with you. He loves you with an everlasting love and is waiting for you to stop trying so hard and turn it all over to him.
When Jesus walked the earth in human form, he saw all the pain his followers experienced. He taught us how to live life to make the pain bearable, and even avoidable. He taught us how to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. And he taught us how to love our neighbors as ourselves. His teachings are often referred to as the “commands” of Jesus.
Whether you look at them as commands or teachings, it is clear that Jesus gave them to us to make life more enjoyable, to help us grow in Christ-likeness, and as a way to express our love to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The teachings of Jesus do not negate the Ten Commandments or make them obsolete. Jesus said he did not come to abolish any of God’s commands. He came to fulfill them since we cannot fulfill them ourselves. Many of the New Testament teachings in this list from Jesus relate to one or more of the Ten Commandments.
Jesus expects us to take these commands seriously. Toward the end of Jesus’ life, after he had taught all that he was going to teach, he gave us one last directive. Jesus said, “… 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. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the ageMatthew 5:281 ,” He stressed the importance of following his commands by stating three times that following his commands is how we can show the Father how much we love the Son. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands2.” A second time, he said, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me3.” A little later, when referring to them as his teachings, Jesus said, “…Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching4”.
Jesus also said it is to our benefit to keep his commands. When teaching that he is the vine and we are the branches, Jesus said, ““As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete5.” Who wouldn’t want the joy of the Son of God, the co-Creator of the universe to be in them through all of life’s problems, challenges, hurts, and pain?
The following are 50 topics that Jesus taught about that are typically referred to as the commands of Jesus. I encourage you to study these commands and ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to incorporate them into your life so you can experience the joy of Jesus.
Repent (Matthew 4:17, Luke 13:3)
Have you ever said to your child, “Now tell them you are sorry”? Have you ever wondered how a friend could go without apologizing to you when they have wronged you? God expects the same from us. We may live under the grace of God that comes only through faith in Jesus Christ, but God still expects us to say we’re sorry when we disobey Him.
The command to repent can be found at least 60 times in the Old Testament and more than 15 times in New Testament.
In the Old Testament, David and Solomon wrote about repentance. It is clear from the first verse of Psalm 51 that David understood forgiveness is an unmerited act of mercy on us because of God’s unfailing love for us. David continues to say that when he did not confess his sins, he was burdened by them. In the book of Proverbs, Solomon said, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy6.”
In the New Testament repent was Jesus’ first command. At the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, before he called his disciples, before he did any of his miracles, and before he preached any message, Matthew’s gospel records that Jesus preached, “… Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near7.”
We all have a propensity to sin. The Bible says we have a sin nature. Because our sin is always before us8, there is a good chance you have unrepentant sin. David said when he had unrepentant sin, he lost the joy that he was meant to experience from being saved by Jesus9.”
Do you feel a distance between yourself and God? If so, you may be living with one or more sins that you have never taken to God with a repentant heart. God wants to restore the joy to you that is your birthright as a Christian. Do as David did. Ask God to reveal sin in your life. None of us knows our own heart as well as God does. Begin by praying something like David did asking God to reveal your sin to you. David said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along the path of everlasting life10.”
David prayed asking God to cleanse him of his sins and to change his heart’s desires which is the root of all sins. End your time of confession with a prayer similar to David’s prayer in Psalms 51 or 32. Then, rejoice that Jesus made it possible for you to be spotless in the sight of God.
The second beatitude says you are blessed when you mourn over your sins11. If you want to be blessed, take your sins to the Father. Repent and let them be washed completely clean by the blood of Jesus.
Don’t Worry (John 14:27, John 16:33, Matthew 6:25-26)
My wife and I know the kind of challenges that can cause people to worry. We had cause to worry when our son was going through a rebellious youth, when Jennifer had breast cancer and whenever I am between consulting projects and there is no revenue coming into my business. But worry has never been as effective as prayer.
Worrying is feeling uneasy or overly concerned about a situation or problem. Excessive worrying, causes your mind to go into overdrive as you constantly focus on “what might happen.” According to the WebMD website, “Chronic worrying can affect your daily life so much that it may interfere with your appetite, lifestyle habits, relationships, sleep, and job performance. Many people who worry excessively are so anxiety-ridden that they seek relief in harmful lifestyle habits such as overeating, cigarette smoking, or using alcohol and drugs12.”
Worrying leads to stress. Stress has been linked to several health problems. People who suffer from high levels of stress can be more prone to cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal issues, weight problems and even certain cancers. All of these medical conditions can compromise the quality of life and potentially shorten your lifespan.
When Jesus told his disciples he was about to go away, he said the Father was leaving them and all of us with the Holy Spirit who would explain everything Jesus taught the disciples. He ended by saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid13.”
Regarding worry, Jesus said, worry cannot add a single hour to your life14. He assures us that God is taking care of everything we need. Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they15?”
When you worry, you are saying I don’t believe God’s promise to take care of me. Or you are doubting His capability.
Do you believe that God loves you more than you can imagine and that your wellbeing is His number one priority?
Do you believe the Creator of the Universe has the capability to handle all of your needs?
Your life may not be headed in the direction you prefer. But, if you will let go and let God, it will head in the direction that is most glorifying to God.
Follow me (Matthew 4:19)
Do you ever struggle with the people you work with? I remember Marion, a woman who reported to me in my first professional management position. Because of her disposition, she terrified me. I did not enjoy checking on the status of her deliverables every day. Imagine my surprise and delight when one day she came to my office and said she accepted Jesus into her heart at a weekend church service that she was invited to attend.
Marion told me that the way I loved her when she was unlovable and the way I occasionally mentioned Jesus’ name in our conversations influenced her decision to go to church with her friend that Sunday. She saw something different in me that she wanted. She associated it with my love for Jesus. It was my attempt to imitate or follow Jesus’ ways that caused Marion to be interested in going to church with her friend.
When Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee one day, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were fishermen, casting a net into the lake. They were not out for an afternoon of restful fishing. Fishing was their job.
Jesus said to them, “Come, follow me” … “and I will send you out to fish for people16.” Simon and Andrew already knew Jesus. He had talked to them previously17 and had been preaching in the area. Because they saw something different in Jesus that they wanted for themselves, they immediately left their nets and followed Jesus. These two men left their jobs to follow Jesus and begin fishing for men.
In the same way, Jesus calls everyone who loves him to become fishers of men. For most of us, this does not mean leaving our job or business to become a full-time evangelist or missionary. Jesus is asking all of us to make it a priority to be productive spiritually and fish for souls exactly where God put us. If we learn to love others like Jesus, practice his teachings and share the Good News with others, God will use our life to draw those around us to Jesus like a fisherman who pulls fish into his boat with nets.
Do you see the people you interact with daily as merely people? Or, do you see them as souls who are destined for an eternal residence in heaven or hell?
What if Jesus asked you to follow him and begin to fish for lost souls? Well, he did.
How will your answer to the previous question affect the way you interact with the people you interact with at home, at work, on the street, in a subway, or in every part of your life?
Rejoice Always (Matthew 5:12)
Kids can be cruel to each other. And so can adults. It is especially cruel when someone Is picked on because of their faith. In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you18.”
Just one verse before, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven19.” You will be ridiculed for taking an unpopular stand for the sake of righteousness. When this happens, Jesus is saying to rejoice about it. You are blessed because of your stance.
Paul explains all the hardships he encountered because of his faith in 2 Corinthians 6:3-9. Then, he says he was, “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything20.” He gave up everything to follow Jesus and to seek and save the lost. But he saw that in giving up everything in this temporal life, he possessed everything that matters for all eternity. Living for eternity instead of for today and living for the glory of Jesus gave Paul what he needed to rejoice always.
How do you need to change your thinking so that you can rejoice through all things?
What do you think it would look and feel like to rejoice always?
Who can help you make the changes you need to make to be able to rejoice always?
Let your light shine (Matthew 5:16)
God, in His infinite mercy, has determined that I am a worthy vessel for Him to use to draw people to Himself through Jesus. Often, when I travel on airplanes, at work in the office, on a subway, or just about anywhere, He will orchestrate a conversation between me and someone who needs to know Jesus. I am honored that He is willing to use me after my very stormy early adult life.
I used to keep these supernatural encounters a secret because I did not want to be seen as prideful. Jesus said, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them … “ and “when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do …21”. At the time, I had a prideful heart and needed to heed these verses.
As the Holy Spirit changed my prideful heart, my motivations changed, and I wanted to see God get the glory for what He did through me. In Matthew 6, Jesus said, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven22.” This seems to contradict Matthew 6:1-5, but it does not.
When your heart tends to be prideful, you need to be very careful not to practice your righteous deeds so that others can see them. When your heart is in this state, their complements will go to your head and you will take the glory yourself rather than give it to God.
When your heart is in the right place, Jesus wants you to let your good deeds shine so others can see them, and you can give glory to God for them. Jesus goes further and says, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven23.”
When my heart was humbled and God started using me regularly to share the Good News, Gary Pauley, the pastor of the church I attended, encouraged me to share those stories to give glory to God and to encourage others to be open to God’s promptings to be the light of the world and let others see Jesus through them.
I still have to check my motive when I share what God is doing through my life with others. But as I’ve begun to share these experiences, people in my sphere of influence have begun to look for opportunities in their life to be the light in their part of the world.
Where is your heart right now? If God were to use you in a way that is intended to glorify Him, would you be more likely to accept the glory for yourself? Or, would you give it all to Him?
Do you look for opportunities to reflect the light of Jesus for others to see? If not, what is stopping you?
He wants your heart to be willing and humbled so He can use you to shine the light of Jesus for all to see.