Posts Tagged ‘Jesus as demanding’

When you read the Gospels there are two things that stand out in how they present Jesus to us. First, Jesus is supremely giving. He is full of compassion and love. You constantly see his concern and care for people as he serves and blesses others; as he teaches, heals and delivers.

Second, Jesus is clearly demanding. He speaks the truth with clarity; he speaks radically and absolutely in terms of what God requires. He makes bold claims on every part of everyone’s lives.

This is an interesting mix of qualities – he is fully giving and he is fully demanding. Sometimes we get ourselves in trouble and misunderstand and distort Jesus when we emphasize just the one side or the other – Jesus is only giving or Jesus is only demanding. But Jesus is both, at the same time. This is who Jesus is. He is fully giving and at the same time he is fully demanding.

I want us to look at this and we begin with –

What Jesus gives

1. He gives freedom from our old lives. This includes forgiveness for our sins – all the self-centered, hurtful and even shameful things that we have done. Through his death on the cross Jesus provides for our forgiveness. As he said in Matthew 26:28, “my blood . . . is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Our sins can all be wiped away! We can be clean and pure! We can leave our shameful past behind!

Freedom from our past also includes deliverance. Jesus sets us free from all the powers of Sin and Satan and anything that would seek to keep us back in our old lives and away from God. As he said in John 8:34, 36, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.  . . . (But) if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Jesus frees us from our old lives so that we can start fresh with a new beginning.

2. He gives us new life – even now. Jesus said in John 7:37-39, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit . . ..” The Spirit is the life, power and presence of God. Jesus gives us the Spirit so that we can have new life.

We only have to ask, as he said in Luke 11:13, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

And we are not just made new within:

  • He gives us a new identity and purpose. We are now followers of Jesus, who are gifted to serve him (Matthew 25:14-30).
  • He gives us a new community, the church, which is his new family (Mark 3:34-35). A community where we love, care for and support each other.

Jesus gives us the gift of new life.

3. He gives us life in the age to come. Jesus said in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” He gives us the gift of eternal life with him in the kingdom of God forever.

Jesus is full of love and compassion. And gives us everything that is good; he gives us new life.

Now we look at –

What Jesus demands

1. He demands our total allegiance. “Jesus said to them, ‘. . . who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’” – Matthew 16:15-16. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Messiah, the one anointed by God to rule and have all authority.

And Jesus wants all of us to acknowledge him as the Messiah. As he said in Matthew 10:32, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven . . ..” If we acknowledge him now as the true Lord over all, he will acknowledge us then before the Father on the final day.

Jesus demands our full and complete allegiance to him as Lord of all.

2. He demands our total obedience. We are to do God’s will just as Jesus teaches us what this is. As he often said, “You have heard that it was said, that is by Moses, but I say to you.” (Matthew 5). And he also said in Matthew 23:1, “You have one instructor, the Messiah.” Jesus guides us into God’s perfect will.

By way of summary he said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” -Matthew 22:37-39. We are to love God and love and serve others.

Here a just a few specific examples:

  • only worship God – Matthew 6:24
  • love your enemies  – Matthew 5:43-48
  • remain faithful in marriage – Matthew 19:3-9
  • be generous with the poor – Luke 12:13-34
  • don’t condemn others as beyond God’s mercy – Luke 6:37-38
  • accept social lowliness – Luke 14:11
  • serve God in the work of the kingdom – Matthew 25:14-30

We are to give our complete and total obedience to Jesus.

3. He demands that we put him above all else. Our allegiance and obedience to him is to be above even what we give to our family. Jesus said in Matthew 10:37, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

And our allegiance and obedience to him is to be above even regard for our own lives. As Jesus said in Mark 8:34, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” To take up a cross is to die.

As we saw before, Jesus gives everything, but as we see here, Jesus also demands everything.

Several observations before I give you a chance to respond. First, notice how –

This is a summary of the whole message of Jesus

Mark 1:15 tells us that Jesus preached, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” “The kingdom of God” is a way of talking about God’s coming salvation.  Jesus is saying that it has begun; the time is fulfilled. The kingdom then, is what Jesus gives – freedom from our old lives, new life now, and life everlasting in the resurrection.

To “repent” is to have a change of heart and mind that leads you to do God’s will from now on. This then, is what Jesus demands – our total allegiance, our total obedience, and our putting him above all else. What Jesus gives and what Jesus demands summarizes the message of Jesus to us.

Notice also that –

This explains the place of Jesus’ cross and also our cross

Jesus said in Mark 8:31, “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be . . . killed” speaking of his cross. Jesus’ cross is what provides all that Jesus gives us – freedom from our past, new life now and the resurrection

But Jesus also said in Mark 8:34, “take up (your) cross and follow me.” Our cross is all that Jesus demands from us – our total allegiance and obedience to him above all else.

And then finally,

Mark 8:35 brings this all together

– and shows the relationship between what Jesus gives and what Jesus demands. “For whoever would save his life will lose it . . .” If we refuse Jesus’ demands, we will lose our lives in the coming judgment of this world and its evil.

“ . . . but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” If we lose our lives, that is, give Jesus all that he demands, which is everything, then we will save our lives. We will receive all that Jesus has come to give us.

Where do you stand this morning in relation to what Jesus gives? Have you received his gifts to you? Where do you stand in relation to what Jesus demands? Have you given him everything?

William Higgins

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