Contend Earnestly: Teachings of Jesus That Christians Ignore

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Teachings of Jesus That Christians Ignore


I am a follower of Jesus. The problem with saying this is that some might constitute this as me saying, "I always follow what Jesus says." Which isn't true in any sense. I, like the apostle Peter, fail miserably at following Jesus every day. But, like Peter, I believe that my power doesn't come from myself, but from Jesus and I also believe, like Peter, that God shows me grace when I fail and is merciful and compassionate and forgives me.

What God doesn't like is when one calls themselves a follower of Jesus and then just flat out ignores certain things that are expected from a follower of Jesus. This is the good thing about being a follower of Jesus. The fact that others can hold me to a standard of asking me, "Why don't you follow this teaching more?" or just, "Do you try to follow this teaching, or that teaching?" What I have found as I have been studying the Scriptures is that there are certain ones that we as American followers of Jesus just ignore because we follow culture more than Jesus. We have made the American culture our idol in place of God and have whored ourselves to them because they make us more comfortable in our sin and excuses for not following some of the hardest teachings of Jesus. The reason idolatry is so prevalent is because idolatry says that you are doing okay and you are allowed to live how you want to, instead of how God desires you to live.

I recently asked over twitter and facebook, "What is the hardest teachings of Jesus to follow?" and received numerous answers. What I want followers of Jesus to do is ask yourself if you are aiming in your life to follow these. I want you to pray that God would reinstate these commands in your life and remove the idol of culture from your heart so that God is king in your life. What is interesting is that the reason that most Muslims believe the Bible is corrupted is from teachings that came after the Crusades. The reason? They knew the Jesus in the Qur'an and knew that Isa al-Masih would never give credence to such actions. Because Arabic had no word for "crusade" before this time, it was given the translation as, "the war of the cross." So, knowing who Jesus is, through the Qur'an, and seeing the brutal actions found in the Crusades there was only one conclusion: These peoples' Bibles must be corrupted. I have to say, because of our actions as followers of Jesus, "Can we really blame them?"

As a follower of Jesus, I want to honestly repent to any Muslims who are reading this. I repent, in the name of all followers of Jesus, who have come before me or who will come after me that have not followed the teachings of Jesus, but have used the Bible as a means of trampling our friends of the Muslim faith. I am truly sorry.

I would also ask our fellow friends of other faiths, to please be patient with us. We are mere men and, unlike the one we follow, are not perfect but were born, just as you were born. Even saying this, I would also ask anybody from other faiths to comment or email me to let me know ways that we could follow Jesus more closely in your eyes and teachings you see that go most unfollowed by us.

As far as those teachings that people said were the hardest to follow, they are listed as follows (in no particular order):

1. And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
Luke 9:23-26

Taking up our cross as followers of Jesus means that we are willing to die to self everyday for the sake of loving our God and loving our neighbor. Notice that these two come before loving ourselves. We must look to see how we can serve God first, through serving others. We have to die to our self in every way. We must die to our goals, to our self serving idols, to our thoughts, impurities, and temptations and follow Jesus instead. We do this, not because it earns us any favor, but because we love God and desire to follow Jesus.

2. “The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:31

This was the command that was most often given as the hardest to follow. Notice that Jesus puts forth the understanding that we naturally love ourselves. Not only this, but we should love our neighbors, just as we love ourselves. Think of all the ways you love yourself, give yourself mercy and grace, feed yourself physical things, etc. This is the same as you should be doing for your neighbor. Jesus gives an example of neighbor in the story of the good Samaritan. Jesus shows that all people are our neighbor, including our enemies. Are we following what Jesus said here? Are we seeking out the needs and wants of those around us, as we would seek out the needs and wants of ourselves? Or, do we desire to give ourselves everything we desire and then our neighbor gets our leftovers?

3. Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Matthew 18:21-22

We have this idea in America that we will only forgive someone if they deserve it. Jesus never says this. We must forgive no matter and be quick to forgive. We must be ready to forgive neighbors, family and even our enemies. How can we not forgive others? We have been forgiven so much as followers of Jesus.

4. “...for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 18:14

America is a very cocky nation. We love our sports players, actors and even politicians to be very arrogant. This is why so many people watch sports, watch award shows and listen to talk radio. It's brutal. We are so arrogant, that we believe that America as a nation should be the culture that the whole world should look like. Dumb. We must be humble as followers of Jesus. Humility is not denying the truths we know, but it does mean understanding how to have friendships, how to be respectful and not desiring to merely win some sort of debate. A lot of Christians love to watch religious debates. Why? Because they want to win. I have seen this done no matter the cost, even belittling an opponent or their religion. We are not to be this way. We are to be confident in truth, but loving in how we live out this understanding. Seek ways to be humble in all aspects of your life and destroy pride.

5. “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Luke 6:27-36

In my mind, this is the most unfollowed teaching of Jesus. We pay back what is given to us. Someone mistreats us, we mistreat them. They steal something from us, we sue them. They gossip about us, we gossip about them. We are a culture that pays back what is owed. We not only don't forgive, we retaliate. Jesus is counter cultural. He tells us, to not only love neighbors, but to love enemies. To not only be at peace with everyone, but to bless and pray for our enemies and to loan them money without expecting them to pay us back. When was the last time you asked God to bless your enemy abundantly? When was the last time you gave your enemy money as a gift? This command is an interesting one. It is one of action. It is one to where we should be the ones who initiate love and blessing, not wait for our enemies to come to us. We should, as the followers of Jesus, be looking for opportunities to love and bless our enemies. Culture says to pay back what they are owed, we should be showing mercy and grace because we have been shown the greatest mercy and grace. Can you say that you love, bless and pray for your enemies? Or, are you like most Christians who have pushed this command aside for the sake of being a whore to your idols?

These are the five teachings that were given to me as the hardest to follow from Jesus. Do I fail at these? Yes, all the time. But, as a follower of Jesus is my desire to follow these closely? Yes. But, I do know that when I fail, grace awaits me from God. Pray that God would show you more clearly how you can be living these teachings. Know that when you make a mistake, it is because of your sin and you should repent. When you are successful, it is because of God, not yourself.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. "
Matthew 5:14-16

12 comments:

SnatchedFromTheFire said...

Seth -
love you bro but i'm finding it harder and harder to read your blog. This post has so much good in it and convicting truths we all need to hear. But i find it 'cluttered' so often with what seems to be so much more than a soap-box now and, truthfully, an idol in your life. What i mean by that is simply, it seems like your are infatuated with this subject (Muslims and understanding them) to the place where your focus (at least in your posts) seems inordiante to your focus on Jesus. This is not 'across the board', but it is something i see from a distance. So i wonder, are there people in your life (family, friends, etc.) who do not share your current passion a dn vission for Muslim people? Could you ask those godly individuals, 'do you feel my life is becoming more consumed by this passion than for Jesus?'
Beyond that, i struggle imensely with the ideas of a: repenting for other's sins (i don't appologize to every African American i meet for the ways whites used to use the Bible to justify lyching their ancestors); b: asking those who don't either read the Bible or know Jesus to tell me how they think i can more closely follow Jesus - a better question in that light would be, "how can i live up to your sterotypical vision of what you think a Christian should look like?" that's just silly! and c: look deeper than the Muslim response and truly ask, 'why does anyone reject the Bible?' There will be a thousand reasons including the 'Crusade' response you listed but, in the end, people reject the Bible because their eyes are darkened and they can't see the truth of it; in fact, the Bible tells us they hate that truth b/c it exposes their sinfulness so they exchange that truth for a lie.

Honestly man, love the passion for the lost and the desire to see Muslims know and be known by Jesus, but it seem to be affecting your overall vision.
God's peace-
W.

Arthur Sido said...

Good post Seth. There are a lot of commands, clear and specific, that Christ gives in the Bible that have been more or less explained away or ignored in the church by those who claim to follow Him. This should certainly not be.

kprochas said...

Seth – While your post has some very valid points, I have witnessed professing Christians who say "Lord" but don't follow the commandments of the Lord, it is missing something very crucial and it supports an idea I find rather disturbing. I have some questions:

1. Why is there no mention of the role that regeneration by the Lord in the life of a true believer plays in your post?
2. Do we become believers in the Lord through our own efforts or does the Lord makes us into believers?
3. Is the Muslim religion basing their faith in their idea of God through regeneration or on human effort and works?
4. Do you recognise that at the time that the Emperor Constantine made the religion of the followers of Jesus Christ into a legal religion of the Roman Empire that is became a political body rather than a spiritual body? Weren't the crusades a result of political desires that had nothing to do with the true faithful followers of Jesus Christ?

As far as my reading of scripture and life experiences since the Lord made me a believer has shown a person who tries to follow what Jesus the Christ commands w/o spiritual regeneration is dead in their trespasses and will never succeed except maybe outwardly. When a person is regenerated by the Lord they are given the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and this gives that person the capability to follow the Lords commandments; a capability that is not perfect. We still have the flesh to contend with and this will often cause a believer to fail in following the Lord’s commands perfectly until the day we go to join Him in Heaven; if we are true we will get better at following His perfect will but not perfect. The Muslim religion is a religion of legalism and works so of course a person of that faith will try their hardest, if they want to be judged righteous and good, to follow the commandments in the Qur’an; they are encouraged to be perfect in following their faith. I have witnessed this same behaviour with Mormon’s, Jehovah’s Witnesses, fundamentalist professing Christians, etc. The Lord by His grace changes us from within to do His will and we have to surrender ourselves to Him to enable the Holy Spirit to do this. I thank the Lord He has made this so as I know that I can’t perfect myself on my own; it makes me humble myself before others and the Lord. Matt 7:21-23 – 21 "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’"

Tam said...

yup. i fail at those too often.

oh, but for his grace....

ZSB said...

Wait... I don't get it. What do MUSLIMS have to do with the topic at hand? And when did Jesus or any of the apostles command us to seek correction, rebuke, accountability, and spiritual instruction from the heathen? Isn't that what he gave us the CHURCH for?

Contend Earnestly said...

Wesley:

Not sure what to say to you...sorry you don't want to read the blog anymore. I have always written what I have personally been learning about on the blog. I have people in my life that I go to that hold me accountable. As far as repenting for another, I didn't ask you to, I was doing that on my own.

Kerry:

Not sure why you wanted me to put regeneration in this post. It wasn't it's intended purpose and I don't deny regeneration in this post. I think you are getting off topic. I also never said that the follower of Jesus has to be perfect, far from that. We should strive to be perfect, because He is perfect. But, we know we will fall short, and that is where God's grace, mercy and forgiveness comes in.

Zach.
I personally believe that if I can ask others how I have failed them in following the commands of Jesus it is a good thing. We should learn from many different people and cultures, but always knowing that if they say anything contrary to the Word, we are to follow the Word. But, to deny learning from others on how we can imitate Jesus more for them, is a mistake.

kprochas said...

Seth - Regeneration is always a part of the process of being obedient to the Lords commands. It is interesting that you want to define it as "off topic" when it is not. How can you live according to the Lord's commands w/o being regenerated? Otherwise you are simply a spiritually dead human being who can't possibly live the life of a true believer. It is interesting how you dodge such concepts and disturbing.

Contend Earnestly said...

Kerry.
It is off topic because my point wasn't to speak about regeneration, in regards to systematics, which in systematics is very important. You have to realize that this post was not a systematic post, but one focusing on the point of ignoring commands by Jesus.

When one calls themself a follower of Jesus, I, as a finite human, automatically believe they have been regenerated, because it is not my call whether or not this has happened.

Not sure why you say I am "dodging" this concept or why you are disturbed. Again, you have to understand that even in systematics, when speaking on a particular subject, it isn't necessary to go through all the previous systematic subjects to pursue defining and describing another one.

I think you would have been better off by just asking, "what is your belief in regeneration with this matter of obedience?" It would have been a far quicker way to get your answer...which is, "totally dependant on."

But, I do like to play dodge ball if you ever want to start up a game ;)

Darlene said...

Seth,

First of all, I think all of the words of Christ that you have posted are good reminders of what we should be as followers of Christ. I find it comforting and convicting to be reminded of Jesus' words every time I attend Divine Liturgy. And, if we have encountered the Living God through Jesus Christ, then we have His divine nature abiding within us and are able to practice and follow His commands. So, as we mature in Christ, we are held Increasingly accountable to follow Christ's commands.

As far as apologizing to groups of people, I think there is a time to do so and a time not to. If I were in the public arena, there very well may come a time when I need to repent to a particular group of people (Blacks, Native Americans, etc.)for the wrongs done to them by "Christians." Of course, as a woman, I do not expect you to apologize for all the ways men have belittled women in the past and treated them as second class citizens. Perhaps it is because I harbor no ill will toward any particular person/s or group, men or otherwise. Yet, if I were personally talking with a Jew, a Hindu, a Muslim, etc. and they expressed anger or hurt over the way Christians have mistreated their people, I would do my best to represent the love of Christ to them, and explain that the wrong actions of Christians does not invalidate the truth of the gospel of Christ and their need to receive Him as Savior and Lord.

In all things there is a balance. Often times, when we find ourselves drawn to a particular area of study or focus, we may find ourselves looking at lifes' issues with that particular focus in mind to the exclusion of other focuses. Thus, we lose some of our objectivity. For example, if I found myself studying the history of the Native Americans, I could very well be so focused on that, that I would be reminding other white Christians how they need to repent of the wrongs they have done to the Native Americans. The subject of Native Americans and Christians' treatment of them would be included in many of my conversations. Thus, when other Christians would encounter me, they would be waiting for the topic of Native Americans to enter in at some point. Eventually, this sort of ethnic rhetoric would become irritating and provocative to others. And rightly so. If I kept reminding men how women have been mistreated, such repetition and redundancy would repel others away from me. I think that this is what you are doing when it comes to Muslims/Islam. It has become a sort of hobbyhorse for you. And others have come to expect it.

kessia reyne said...

I'm not sure which I'd more like to comment on: your blog or these comments!

Regarding the blog post, "YUP." I appreciate your straightforward appraisal of our culture-worship that's replaced our Jesus-worship. It's too easy to hear the words of Jesus and think we're going to try a little harder... but when we really hear what He's saying and if we do try to live that way, we realize that, as you say, we need a whole lotta grace! Grace to forgive and grace to re-make us. Reading this has challenged me to be more faithful to my Lord, and more dependent on Him for that faithfulness.

Regarding the comments, I've not read any more of your blog than this post, but I'll tell you that I'm glad you're interested in Muslim-Christian relations. Knowing that Jesus is the Way to the Father can keep us from engaging intellectually or relationally with people of other religions, and what a travesty that is! It's hard to be the light to a world that we dismiss or ignore. Regarding your apology to Muslims, I join my voice with yours. Evangelical culture has a lot to recommend it, but it is very individualistic and too easily misses the Scriptural testimony about sin and its relationship to the community. Our historical Christian community has sinned, and may we repent of it and learn from this history. Did God punish the nation for the sins of Achan? Yes. And didn't Daniel confess to God the sins of his people? Wouldn't we apologize for the messes our children make? What I'm trying to say is that it's legitimate to apologize on the behalf of your group. Muslims have a lot of reasons for not believing the Bible; let's not let our unChristian living be one of them.

Anyway, continue to contend earnestly :)

JS said...

Thanks for a great post and quite challenging reminder. It's a pity people tend to get hung up on the Muslim thing when the focus clearly is on following what Jesus said. I believe we want the focus to be elsewhere because the words of Jesus are hard to deal with--and we would rather deny them and hope that our own faith (i.e. the fact that we said the "right" prayer at some point in our life) excuses us from truly being a follower of Christ. Well said Bro.

Bobby said...

Christians should follow no man. Only the teaching of Jesus. THe universal compassion and love in His words should be taken as an inspiration for action, not an ideology of guilt.

Looking outside of the various dogmatic mindset of Christian churches to other ideologies reveal that there are many paths to the Creator. It is not for us to judge another's way.

We are all spokes in a universal wheel, connected, and seeking the same center.

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