How to Keep the Commandments of Christ
“And his commands are not burdensome…”
See 1 John 5:3
There are 613 commandments, not just ten. The modern church has turned what was meant to funnel people through a narrow gate of reliance on God’s grace alone, into a buffet line. They’ve got their plates in hand, they scan the Scriptures, “Hmmmmm…let’s see…I’ll take this one, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ that looks good. Oh, and ‘Do not steal,’ I like that one.”
Another walks up, “‘Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy,’ are you going to put that on your plate? If you’re not a Seventh Day Adventist, like me, you are fooling yourself, because the Sabbath is from Friday to Saturday, not Sunday morning.”
“Really? I didn’t know that. My pastor told me to be in church on Sunday morning if I didn’t want to end up in hell. So nah, I’ll leave it. But I’ll tell you what, since I’m not going to be obeying that commandment, I’ll just substitute it with the tithe…there we go. Look at that! Ten! Viola! I’m going to go sit down and eat!”
If the apostle James was in line with these people, he’d give them a quick rebuke, “Hey! There’s not just ten! There are 613! You gotta take all of them or leave all of them! You can’t pick and choose–or replace!” Here’s what James had to say about cherry-pickers of the Law:
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10)
The Law is an all or nothing proposition. The 10 Commandments in the Law are the same. God does not grade us on a curve when it comes to a person attempting to be justified through the Law–YOU HAVE TO EAT ALL 613. James’ colleague, Paul, backs him up:
For all who rely on the works of the Law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” (Galatians 3:10)
Everything means everything. Continue means continue. And I’m about to hit you with a major shocker, are you ready for this?…Unless you are Jewish, you weren’t even invited to attempt to eat 613 laws and commands–you are a Gentile, an outsider. You have no papers to prove you belong, therefore you’d be deported. Only Jesus has brought you in. You are only allowed to live by the New Covenant, not the Old. Here’s proof:
“There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
A Gentile is simply anyone who isn’t Jewish. So when a Gentile attempts to eat from the buffet line of Law, they are infringing on a family meal in which they don’t belong. “Who are you and what are you doing trying to be like us?!” they’d say.
But even they couldn’t eat all 613! That’s why Jesus came to give us a new agreement with God and to make the old agreement obsolete! The writer to the Hebrews–to the Jews–let them know about this Changing of the Guard:
By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete (see Hebrews 8:13)
The Old Covenant is obsolete, just like the pay-phone is obsolete. It’s not needed because it’s useless and something better is here! Further, as non-Jews, the only Covenant we ever had is the New one! When we read about the Law and the prophets–all of the Jewish patriarchs, matriarchs, events, and lineage–we are reading history books! As Gentiles, that was not written to us! It is all true and good, it belongs in the Bible, but it is not our mail. Our inbox begins after Jesus died–not when He was born–but when He died. Look:
“because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living” (Hebrews 9:17)
A will is a covenant, an agreement. We could not inherit anything from God in regard to the New Covenant until Jesus died. Why did He need to die? Because the entire sin of the world was on Him, and sin needed to be dealt with once and for all (see John 1:29, 2 Corinthians 5:21).
For the Jews of today who still attempt to live by the 613–less the bloody ones (cherry-pickers!)–they too are fooling themselves. Standing by, waiting on the Messiah to come, they are in limbo because they don’t believe Jesus was He. They want to continue reading obsolete paperwork and wail at a wall! The internet is here, but they enjoy toting around a library of encyclopedias! It’s silly! It’s useless! WE HAVE A NEW COVENANT OF GRACE! We have a New Covenant of God making His home inside of us for good! Not coming and going based on our performance and prayers!
So! If you read the four gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John–with these glasses on (New Covenant glasses), you will be able to decipher the crazy talk of Jesus when it comes to obeying Mosaic Law. For the legalist reading this, I’m here to tell you that you are right. Jesus didn’t come to get rid of the Law but to make sure we knew the standard of it: perfection.
If you want to follow Law, you must do it flawlessly. The self-righteous Jews who thought they actually were following every single command, Christ upped the ante by showing them Law 2.0:
“You have heard, ‘Do not murder,’ but I tell you, if you even get angry with someone it is the same.” (See Matthew 5:21-22)
“You have heard, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ but I tell you, if you even lust after a woman it is the same.” (See Matthew 5:27-28)
“If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out! If your hand makes you stumble, cut it off!” (See Matthew 5:29-30)
Every person listening to Jesus who thought they were following all of God’s laws and commandments got a lump in their throat. They began to sweat, loosen up their collar, and gulp…they were beginning to realize it was impossible to crest the great Mountain of Law. All who attempted to do so, would die. Either that, or His listeners became angry and started to plot against Him because of their inability to realize living by the Law was not possible.
Jesus was making the “well behaved” folk look like complete failures by lifting the bar up so high nobody could vault over it. These religious people refused to see that there had to be another way. They hated the grace Jesus brought, even to the point of murdering Him. “That’s too much grace! He is giving people a license to sin! We will put an end to that!”
Much to their frustration, Jesus never said, “Try your best and God will judge accordingly.” Nope. He said, be perfect like God is perfect (see Matthew 5:48). He said, “If you think Moses gave you some tough stuff to do, try this on for size.” Just look at how He talked to the rich, young ruler; a man who braggadociously claimed to follow all of the commandments for his entire life:
“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:20-21)
The man went away sad because he could not do it! Jesus pointed out that one thing which was keeping him from understanding grace! Grace is unearnable! Jesus wasn’t against this fellow having money, He was trying to say, “You need me alone! Your observance of the Law, good living, and charity work will never get you to heaven! You will never know me until you know my grace alone!”
He was telling him about the gospel. The gospel is very insulting to those who think they can add to it or maintain it with works. The gospel of grace, Paul called it (see Acts 20:24), is Jesus plus nothing else. The gospel kicks our ego in the pants, slaps it on the back of the neck, and says, “Get outta here! You’re not needed!”
The gospel isn’t believing in Jesus plus obeying 9 commandments. It isn’t a patch-job of 9 plus 1 to even them out. It’s just Him. As insulting as it may seem to some, faith in Christ alone is the undiluted grace of God. It is us becoming His kids. It is God’s commitment to us, not the other way around. It is us benefiting from the Father and Son’s agreement, with open hands. It is Jesus in us, for good, which is our only hope of eternal glory! (See John 1:12, Hebrews 6:19, 7:25, 2 Timothy 2:13, Colossians 1:27, 3:3, Romans 6:6).
Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law but to show how much you need him because of the Law. The only reason why the Law was brought into play was to increase our recognition of our need for grace. The Law was given by Moses just to point out our dirty faces even more! Why? So that grace could increase even more! Read what Paul told the Roman Christians:
“The Law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20)
God’s grace comes through our belief. For this reason, even before the Law was given by Moses, all relationships with God were built on faith alone–through belief! The animal sacrifices didn’t justify people, but instead, reminded them of how badly they messed up (see Hebrews 10:4). God has always been interested in just one main thing: do you believe Him? Abraham, who lived way before Moses was born, he was justified by believing God and nothing more. It’s in the first book of the Bible:
“Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)
Friend, God wants us to believe Him. He wanted the Jews to believe Him before and after the Law, and now, He wants us to believe Him about Jesus. Keeping the commandments of Christ is not the problem. The problem is, for so many, defining His commandments.
Belief and love are the two new commandments we live by according to the agreement with God Jesus brought in at the Cross. If we believe God, we’ll believe Jesus. That’s first. Second is love. If we love someone, we won’t kill them. If we love someone, we won’t commit adultery. If we love someone, we won’t be jealous of them. If we love someone, we’ll forgive them! Do you see it?! This is why Jesus said He is giving us a new command of love:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
To be clear, love is not helping us keep the Law. Love is not helping women stay in their houses during that time of the month. Love is not helping us resist pork-chops and shrimp fettuccine. We are dead to Law–all of it–so that we can be alive in Christ! We live by a new way of the Spirit leading us with wise counsel and love! (See Galatians 2:19, Romans 7:4-6).
The world will know that Jesus lives in us if we love! Sure, people will annoy us, and sure, we have to set healthy boundaries, but we still have a love inside our spirits which will never go away because we’ve been born of God by grace through faith! (See 1 John 5:4, Ephesians 2:8-9). The reason why our inherent love will not fade away is because love is a part of our supernatural DNA as reborn saints! The Spirit of love, God, lives in us and we in Him! (See 1 John 4:8, Colossians 3:3, 1 Corinthians 6:19).
So today, my friends, know this: To keep the commandments of Christ, be yourself. If you are a Christian, you already have love and belief intertwined with the fabric of your spiritual being. You are loving! You do believe! So be yourself today and let those who are around you enjoy Jesus Christ, who is in you!
A prayer for you: Heavenly Father, thank you for teaching me so much through your Spirit. For so long, I thought that I had to be at a geographical location to learn about you, which was wrong. I am your location, and you teach me everywhere I go. I also thought that if I didn’t constantly feel something, you had left me–that is a lie too. From your Holy Spirit, I’ve learned not to live my life from my feelings, but from my knowing. I KNOW that I am your child and nothing can change this fact! Not even me! In your Word, in 1 John, you tell us that your commands are not burdensome. The Law of Moses WAS burdensome. The Ten Commandments WERE burdensome. Thank you for the new commandments of belief and love! Thank you for freedom from the Law! Your Law is SO good and perfect, I had to turn to grace! Thank you. I am free. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. For those who think they need to sprinkle in some law with your grace, let them know it’s not needed. Let them know a drop of law is a drop of poison. Let them know it is your Spirit who teaches us how to live our lives according to your approval, and according to our identity. We are heaven-ready, right now, in our spirits. Therefore, our spirits will guide us into proper living and morality–not tablets of stone or words on a page. It is YOUR Spirit who makes OUR spirit holy! It is your Spirit who guides us into all truth and counsels us! Set legalistic mindsets free today as we begin to live by Jesus’ commandments of belief and love–only! In His name I pray, amen.
This devotional is from 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 3. Get your copy here!