Follow Instructions Explicitly – part 10

It is important that we do what we are told to do. It is also important that we do what we are told the way that we were told to do it. Do what you are told, and do as you are told. If you are told to paint a fence and are not told how then you can paint the fence however you like. Unless you want to be even more submissive and ask how they want it painted. But, if you are told to paint the fence using white paint, use white paint. If you are told to make the brush strokes up and down and not sideways, make the brush strokes up and down. Do what you are told to do and how you are told to do it.

Submission is one hundred percent or it is not submission. So many mistakes are made because we simply do not follow instructions explicitly. How many times have we opened a box and not followed instructions and later we are looking at the instructions. Obedience is one hundred percent. It is following through and doing a thing with the same spirit and attention to detail as the one who asked us would do it. Anything less is not full obedience, it is partial obedience which is not obedience at all. If Jesus says to do good to those who hate you, then do good to those who hate you (Luke 6:27).

Submission means following instructions explicitly

We follow instructions halfway when we have not learned obedience. Jesus gave us many instructions on how to be, but we do not obey them thoroughly. We obey them to a certain point and no more. It is as though the Christian way of life is something we learned at the church building and the scriptures are for someone holier or for some other time in history. The body of Christ is ineffective because we obey his commands halfway. The great commission is halfway done. The leadership is in crisis because it is halfway mature. We talk about Jesus being the answer but we follow his instructions halfway. We should be calling his instructions commands. That is what he calls them. He is our highest leader and he commands us to do things and to do them a certain way. What I am about to write requires much attention. It is important to know that what Jesus says in Matthew 5:19 refers to the commands he is about to give us in Matthew 5:27-48. He is not referring to the Old Testament law or the Ten Commandments. “These commands” he is referring to are the new commands he is about to give us. He has come to fulfill the law and Prophets and everything is about to be accomplished by his death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming. And he also changes the Ten Commandments. And he makes it clear that those who follow the Law of the Old Testament will need to surpass it and follow the new covenant law. Read the following verses closely.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven”.

(NIV, Matthew 5:17)

In order to surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees, you will have to obey more than the Old Testament law. You will have to obey the New Testament commands of Christ. The only way you can do this is with Christ inside you. When he says, “but whoever practices and teaches these commands” he is referring to these commands which he is about to give us. These new commands are explicit instructions. These new commands that he is about to give us are new, they are not the old commands Moses gave. These new commands are as follows: Anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. If you are offering your gift at the altar and remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do not look at a woman lustfully or you have already committed adultery with her in your heart. If your eyes or hands cause you to sin cut them off. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. Do not divorce except for marital unfaithfulness. Do not swear at all by heaven, or by the earth, or by your head. Simply let your yes be yes, and your no, be no. Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Do not do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. When you give to the needy, do not announce it. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. He continues to teach us how to pray not babbling on like the pagans etc. These are some of Jesus’s explicit instructions to us. He calls them commands and a command is something you must obey one hundred percent. Obeying commands doesn’t save us, Jesus saves us. Nothing we could ever do could make up for the sins we have committed against God. We have to be saved by his mercy and grace. These commands he is about to mention surpass those of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law and they surpass the old covenant law. Many people read the Bible and subconsciously believe that these things Christ taught were for that particular time in history. Others read the New Testament as if it were a book. Normally the New Testament is not read as though Jesus is alive and still speaking to his body today. But these commands are for us today.

Do these commands sound like they were only for the Christians of Jesus’s day, or do they sound like things we all need to be doing? If all Christians would just explicitly obey these instructions, we would not have the crisis of leadership that we have in the body today. We would also not have the division that we have today. These are things that we need to be doing right now in the 21st Century. These instructions, or commands, are for all Christians. They transcend all barriers of time. These are not the only instructions we were given. We were also given many others (Matthew 22:37-40; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 12:29, 30; John 14:15, 21; John 15:10-17; Acts 1:4; Acts 10:42; Romans 8:13-10; Galatians 5:14; Colossians 2:20-23; 1 John 2:3-5; 1 John 3:23, 24; 1 John 5:2-4). It is important to understand that we are no longer obligated to fulfill the old covenant law. Our righteousness and right standing before God rest in what Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the Cross and through his resurrection. He is our righteousness and we now live in him through faith. And because of his grace and forgiveness, we cannot live by works and this is so that no one can boast (John 6:28, 29; Romans 1:4-5; 3:27, 28; 4:16; 9:30-33; 11:5, 6; Ephesians 2:4-9).

Leadership requires dying to your rights

Christians Don’t Have Rights: It’s not enough to die to yourself in order to obey Christ’s will. It’s not enough to die to yourself and submit and obey others. You also have to die to your rights. If you want to be a leader in Jesus’ estimation and by the spiritual standard of his kingdom, you must lose all your rights. You must die to the right to have rights. You are not entitled to anything. You are dead to your rights. A dead person has no rights. You can look at it this way; It’s as though you don’t count. You are not the important one here. You are not in the spotlight. Christ is in the spotlight! You are loved, and your value to God is worth his son dying on the cross for you. But, on this earth, you have no rights to your own wants and desires. Your life, which is not your own is given to you as a gift purely out of God’s grace and mercy. You are dead to yourself. You were purchased by his blood and his sacrifice (Acts 20:28; Romans 5:9; 1 Corinthians 6:20; Revelations 5:9; 14:4).

“For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men”.

(NIV, 1 Corinthians 7:22)

Now you are a slave to him and to righteousness. Slaves have no rights. What you do may be important but not any more important than all the other things that are being done to extend his kingdom. All slaves work the same fields and one is no more important than the other. All the parts of the body are equal and function together (1 Corinthians 12:22-25). The important one here is Jesus. If you start to become the important one, the educated one, the experienced one, the one with special rights, you are diminishing the ability for Jesus to exercise his authority. You are pointing the spotlight from Jesus onto yourself. You are pointing people to yourself and not to Jesus. You really don’t want to do that. Trust me, it will not go well with you. You will be lifting yourself into a perceived higher position. Having rights is means that you have importance. Slaves are not important. People say, “I have the right to my privacy.” “I have the right to my personal space.” “I have the right to fair and just treatment.” “I have the right to be respected and valued.” Jesus Christ was not recognized as the messiah and they hung him on a cross after almost beating him to death. There is no respect and fair and just treatment to be found there. But Christ hung there in our place. Is it so much to ask that we lose our rights for a while? Remember that this life is not very long and the rewards for those who follow Christ are great. This next verse is probably one of the most important in this teaching on leadership.

“Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty”.

(NIV, Luke 17:7-10)

This is one of the most important verses in the Bible regarding leadership. Jesus is telling the disciples how to be. He says “so you also.” He is speaking to his disciples and to us as well. We too are his disciples. He is telling all Christians how to be. Notice that he says “when you have done everything you were told to do.” Servants do everything they are told to do. They obey instructions explicitly. He is telling us to be like common unworthy servants. The definition of unworthy is not deserving effort, attention, or respect, and having little value or merit. Jesus is telling everyone everywhere that they are not deserving of attention or respect. They basically have no rights. After all “we have only done our duty.” Duty is a moral or legal obligation; a responsibility or a task or action that someone is required to perform. We are legally owned as slaves by Christ who purchased us with his obedience. We are morally obligated and required to bow face down on the ground, laid out totally flat at the feet of Jesus, and pledge our servanthood in slavery to him completely. He is the Son of the living God. We are not worthy and have no rights to anything. We are not fit to untie the sandals on his feet (Mark 1:7). If we were worthy, having the merit of worth, we would have the right to some things. We might have the right to a little privacy or maybe a little justice. But we are like servants who tend sheep or plow fields. We have no rights, especially not the right to boast.

Christians Do Not Have the Right to Boast: Even today, in this modern sophisticated age, we are to unequivocally think of ourselves as unworthy servants. If we are to consider ourselves as servants who plow fields and tend sheep, we have nothing to brag about. He is not talking about servants who live lavishly and who serve people all day long in nice air-conditioned ministry buildings with padded furniture and carpet on the floors. He is explicitly telling us that we are to think of ourselves as servants who plow fields or tend sheep. This is the teaching of Jesus on how to live our lives. He is saying the same thing to us today in the 21st Century. Even today, with manned missions going to Mars, sociopolitical globalization, and microcomputers that can swim in the human bloodstream, we are nothing but common servants who are to consider ourselves as ones who plow fields or tend sheep. Our obedience to his specific instruction here is part of our duty. We are morally obligated to serve unworthily because, he is who he is, and we are who we are. He saved us from the penalty of our sin by dying on a cross. We did nothing in comparison.

In light of who Christ is, we will not be able to boast in our works. You do not have the right to boast in your works or accomplishments. The more you do, the more you will convince people to follow you. You will put people in the place of being tempted to lean toward their fallen nature by following you. We should all be dead to the fallen nature if we are truly in Christ, but the fact is that most Christians are not. If you are not dead, put it to death by faith taking action. Don’t boast and don’t take pride in your accomplishments. Forget who you think you are. Next to the light of Christ, you are dim in comparison. You must be very careful not to take scripture out of context or fail to filter them through the teaching of Christ (Galatians 6:4). Because it is actually God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:13). He lives and acts in you. You are unworthy, not deserving effort. You are unworthy, not deserving attention. You are unworthy, not deserving respect. Think about this; undeserving is exactly what we all are. We do not deserve to take credit for our accomplishments because all good comes from God and not us. We are undeserving because we have all sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Paul goes on to say, “where then is boasting?” (Romans 3:27). An unworthy servant has no right to boast as if it were his doing. We do not have the right to boast about our status, position, or wealth. All boasting leads to a sense of entitlement (2 Timothy 3:2-5). The minute that someone becomes important, worthy of respect, having rights, the glory that should be going to God diminishes and the extension of the Gospel is limited.

“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

(NIV, James 4:6-10)

Christians Do Not Have the Right to Respect: So then, if we don’t have any right to boast, why would we have the right to respect? This may be hard to accept, but if they did not respect Jesus or the apostles, they will probably not respect you either. Respect is something that you probably weren’t going to get anyway. If you get it from others it will only make it harder for you to serve. When it comes down to it, you really do not have the right to respect. So you can stop looking for it or expecting it. People who expect respect, feel that they deserve it because of something they have done or a position they have ascended to. People also feel they deserve respect when they have reached a certain age, or when they have reached a high level of education, or after they have had many years of experience. You simply do not have any right to boast or expect respect for these things. If God decides to give you one more day of life it will be because of his great mercy. We all deserve death and punishment in hell and there is simply no respect for those who deserve such things. The definition of self-respect is pride and confidence in oneself; a feeling that one is behaving with honor and dignity. If all good that we do comes from God working in us, then we do not have the right to respect for ourselves.

When I turned fifty, I thought that I would finally get some respect. Occasionally I would mention my age as if that were going to make people realize that they should give me more respect. After all, I had just turned one entire half of a century old! Much to my surprise, people did not respect that fact. I was disappointed until I learned that I needed to die to get respect just like everything else. We must die to ourselves. Dying is a complete action. You cannot halfway die. When you die there is no more you. When you are dead, you are dead. A dead self includes being dead to self-respect and getting respect. I used to think that I deserved respect from my wife. We have been married for many years. I had earned that respect in my mind. But my mind was not the mind of Christ. If my wife respects me, she is respecting Christ in me and the good that comes from him. Either he gets all the glory or he doesn’t. All means one hundred percent. Do you want attention? Do you want admiration? Do you want respect? Then do your duty here and now, and look forward to heaven where all will be rewarded and revealed.

“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow”.

(NIV, 1 Corinthians 3:7)