Two thoughts are repressed in most American Christians' thinking. The first is dying. The second is the judgment. That is a sad spiritual tragedy. Jesus died to destroy our fear of death (Hebrews 2:14,15). Jesus was resurrected to create the anticipation of our joyful reunion with God (Revelation 14:13; 21:1-7).
What happened? Why are many American Christians enslaved to the fears that Jesus died to destroy? We changed the concept of Christian existence. The current concept emphasizes authority. For nearly a hundred years our study and instruction focused on commands.
Because we emphasize authority and commands, we often (1) ignore or (2) oversimplify God's purposes. In the current concept, Christians obey commands because it is required. Obedience does not occur to accomplish God's purposes. It occurs to respect authority.
In this common concept, obedience is divorced from God's purposes and objectives. "God's concern: Christians must respect His authority. Obedience focuses on respecting authority." Some Christians think obedience is not concerned with God's purposes.
This concept of obedience creates a check list of "must do" requirements. Understanding the requirements is unimportant. The "reason" for doing them is "God said so." Obeying the requirements in a manner that accomplishes God's purposes is unimportant. You obey to say, "I did that." "Your faithfulness" is measured by "my check list." Faith is reduced to compliance with a check list. This check list also determines (1) fellowship, (2) maturity, (3) spiritual status, and (4) conversion.
Jesus' concept of obedience focused on serving. Christians love God by loving people (Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 13:8-10; 1 Peter 1:22,23; 1 John 3:13-24). Christians minister to Jesus by ministering to people (see today's text).
Jesus gave no parable about a spiritual ACT or SAT test to be given on the judgment day. He gave no parable that coupled the judgment with a check list or with a form that determined "where you stand on the issues." Jesus did couple the judgment with serving.
Check lists fill us with a sense of failure and fear. They exist to expose failures and shortcomings. Serving fills us with humility and love. Serving "the least of these" transforms us (1) into the image of our Father who sends the sun and rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45) and (2) into the image of our Savior who was and is merciful and kind to the evil (which includes each of us!).
Is Jesus Christ our authority? Absolutely! Must we respect his authority? Certainly! Should we obey his commands? Unquestionably! When we obey his teachings with his heart and mind, we will pursue God's purposes just as he did, even when God's purposes lead to a cross.
Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 2, Lesson 12
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