2010-12-08 / Religion

The Gospel Truth

Are you willing to follow Christ as Lord?
Dr. Charles DeVane Jr.
First Baptist Church

Is it possible to call Jesus Christ a “rebel?” Jackson Browne did in his song, “The Rebel Jesus.” Is that blasphemous, or could it be true? The gospels paint a portrait of Jesus that offers an unmistakably rebellious side. That’s how we find him in Mark 2:23-28, as a rebel against certain rules in order to reach out to sinners and bring them into the reign of the king of kings and lord of lords.

Jesus rebelled against ridiculous rules.

The Pharisees were the most ridiculous rulers with the most ridiculous rules in Israel. They were essentially self-appointed religious authorities who claimed to be the spiritual conscience of the people of God. They had a gift for taking the simple and spiritual rules of God and turning them into a legalistic gymnastics meet. And Jesus would not play their game.

As a matter of fact, Jesus seemed to go out of his way to disappoint the disgruntled Pharisees. Their pet peeve was the keeping of the Sabbath, a good rule of God, but one in which they had perverted into a plethora of particular things not to do on a Lord’s Day. So in this passage, the first of many Sabbath controversies in the gospels, Jesus rebelled against their ridiculous rules.

God’s law forbid harvesting on the Sabbath. It would have been unauthorized work. Jesus didn’t harvest a field of grain. He simply took a few heads and ate them to satisfy some hungry souls. He didn’t break God’s law. But he did deliberately, even rebelliously, ignore the Pharisee’s law.

Do not live your life by the ridiculous rules of people who are selfappointed to speak for God. Jesus rebelled against them, and so can you. But, before you go out and make too much of eating, drinking, and being merry, consider this: there are some rules, Jesus’ rules, that are not ridiculous at all.

Jesus’ rules are not ridiculous at all.

Jesus did not keep the Pharisee’s ridiculous rules for the Sabbath, and even gave biblical reasons not to do so. But, he kept the Sabbath. For keeping the Sabbath was not some ridiculous rule made up by a bunch of Pharisees, but a blessed and important rule given by God.

God has decreed that we are saved by his grace to live by his rules. Therefore, his rules cannot be ridiculous. God’s grace and God’s rules (or laws or commandments) are not opposed to one another, but rather completely compatible with one another. His rules reveal to us more and more grace. They are not given to break us, but to bless us.

Take the Sabbath, for example. Jesus said God did not make man to obey the Sabbath, but made the Sabbath as a rule to give a gracerefreshing gift to man. God knows that if we pursue work and recreation at a seven-day-aweek pace, without time for rest and reflection, without time for private devotion and public worship, we will break down and/or break away from his grace and goodness. So, keeping the Sabbath or the Lord’s Day is a good and godly rule to bless you and refresh you with grace.

Consider all the rules forbidding immorality. Immorality is pleasurable and poisonous. So God gives rules that, when kept, divert you to deeper pleasures and prevent the poison from stinging your body and staining your soul.

Think about all the rules requiring giving and service to God and others. God knows we are selfish, even rebellious, at heart. We don’t feel like doing things for others, yet somehow when we follow the rule of God, feelings of grace and peace follow. God knows what he’s doing with his rules, and they are not ridiculous at all.

God’s rules are not ridiculous. Yet, at the end of the day, God really only has one rule.

Jesus ultimately has but one rule.

“The son of man is Lord [...] even of the Sabbath.

We should not keep the Sabbath or the Lord’s Day or any other of God’s commandments primarily because he told us to. Neither should we aim to keep them in exchange for the blessing that awaits us at the end of our obedience. And certainly we do not keep them to heap up weight on one end of the scale that will outweigh our sins on the other half of the scale come judgment day.

No, we should keep them for one reason and one rule: because Jesus Christ is Lord. Now if this is the ultimate rule, and we don’t want to rebel against it I assure you, then how can this one important rule be kept?

First of all, “... no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the holy spirit.” It is the work of the holy spirit of God to take the word of God to convict and convert sinners to the lordship of Christ. Have you experienced the grace that makes you hate your sin and rebellion against God? Have you experienced the faith that convinces you that everything this book says about God in Christ is true? Have you experienced the repentance that puts you on the straight and narrow path of following Jesus Christ as Lord? Obey this rule.

Secondly, you cannot keep this rule of Jesus and deliberately disregard his other rules. “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” Do not think for a moment that you have been converted to Christ if your lifestyle betrays obedience. Obedience does not earn your salvation, but it is living proof — not perfection, mind you, but a persistent, persevering desire to love and please Jesus Christ as Lord. Obey this rule.

And finally, when the Lord returns, he will not be coming to collect rule-keepers, like the Pharisees, but those who have truly lived by this one rule, that Jesus Christ is Lord.

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