“If you keep My commands, you will stay in My love – just as I have kept My Father’s commands and stay in His love. I have said this to you so that My joy may be in you, and your joy be complete.” (Yochanan 15:10-11)
In this post, we will look at the commands of Yeshua from the perspective of Yeshua as Lord.
Introduction to Yeshua as Lord
“For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you. I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him.” John 13:15-16
If anyone fully understands the complexities, the purpose, the meaning, and the intricacies of life, Christ does. He created it. “All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:3-4). If you want to know the purpose of any particular object, the best person to ask is the one who created it. Many people never really stop to consider the deeper meaning of life, nor do they make time to interact with their Creator. Some have deluded themselves by thinking life is meaningless, purposeless, and temporary; none of which is true (Luke 18:30). Once you have understood how much God loves you, that He would even give up His one and only Son to die for your sins, the next step is to understand the role the risen Lord wants to play in your life here and now.
The commands that follow reflect the life Christ lived on the earth. He denied Himself, gave up His rights, submitted to His Father’s will, and lived by new and more rigid standards than any religious leader before Him. Essentially, He modeled for us what He expects of us. Following Him means walking in His footsteps, experiencing what He experienced, feeling what He felt. This is possible because He now lives in us. He walks with us, goes with us, guides our footsteps, our thoughts, our actions, and impacts our feelings and understandings as we abide in Him. There is no adequate way to describe this relationship; it must be experienced.
For the Christian, the follower of Christ, His lordship must be the overarching theme of life. Christ’s commands reveal that the requirements to be a disciple of His are demanding and require not only transformational thinking but a complete shift in one’s life direction, priorities, values, goals, and eternal destination. To neglect these commands essentially means you cannot legitimately claim that Christ is your Lord. He is the Lord, but He is only your Lord if you submit to His lordship. The most obvious indication that this has happened is if you follow His commands. His commands regarding His lordship are central to the Christian life. The truth of the matter is, if you cannot or will not submit to His lordship, you cannot have eternal life either.
1. Deny Yourself
- “The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Anyone finding his life will lose it, and anyone losing his life because of Me will find it” (Matt. 10:37-39; also Luke 14:26-27).
- “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me'” (Matt. 16:24).
- “Summoning the crowd along with His disciples, He said to them, ‘If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me'” (Mark 8:34).
- “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me'” (Luke 9:23).
This command is more of a requirement for each and every person who wishes to follow Christ. It is a prerequisite for discipleship. Unfortunately many people choose to see this as a suggestion, a goal, or something to aspire to when they become more mature as believers in Christ. But it is not a command that follows salvation or that comes after being born again; it is a command and a requirement that accompanies salvation and a decision that precedes your commitment to Christ. In other words, a person cannot truly be a disciple of Christ until he or she is willing to “deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow” Christ. Why is this command preached so seldom? It certainly is referenced in sermons, but it is rarely spoken of as Christ intended. It is as though church leaders realize the average church member is generally incapable of following this command, so we bring it up from time to time as a reminder to what we should aspire to do.
The import of this command is that those Christians sitting in the pews each week who do not daily deny themselves, take up their crosses, and follow Christ are self-deluded if they think they are disciples of Christ. Yet many churches seem comfortable with that. If we say,
- “I am not ready yet to take up my cross daily.”
- “I am too weak to deny myself anything.”
- “The Christian life is too hard to follow exactly as Christ commands.”
- “He loves me just the way I am.”
then we have changed His command from what He intends to what we are comfortable with.
In many countries today and throughout history, becoming a Christian was equivalent to a death sentence. Converting to Christianity, becoming a follower of Christ, was (and in some cases, still is) punishable by death or, at minimum, a lengthy prison sentence. To claim Christ as Lord during the days of the Roman Empire, was to deny Caesar was lord, which could literally mean facing death on a cross. To give your life to Christ was to take it away from other gods who previously held claim over you. To claim Christ as your Savior could mean to pack your bags and leave your family, friends, relatives, job, and security because you are rejecting their religious beliefs in other gods. Becoming a disciple of Christ means dying to an old way of life and living with a new Lord, in a new kingdom, with a new spiritual family, and separating from those things that are offensive to God. A father in the Middle East today, if found to be a Christian, can have his family taken from him, his job taken away, and be sent to prison until he recants his faith in Christ. Such is the cross many believers today must take up if they choose to be a disciple of Christ.
The Western church knows little about such sacrifice and commitment to Christ. We think we are mistreated if we have to give up a golf game on Sunday in order to go to church. We resent that we cannot sleep in on our only day off. We complain if the preacher goes fifteen minutes overtime in the service. We know little of true denial of self or sacrifice in order to accept the lordship of Christ.
Application: What did you give up when you became a disciple of Christ? What does it mean for you to deny self? Has God’s Spirit pinpointed anything in your life that you know He wants you to release so that your commitment to Him is not compromised or jeopardized in any way?
2. Take Up My Yoke and Learn from Me
“All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves” (Matt. 11:29).
I do not believe Christ gives suggestions for us to decide whether or not we will abide by them. Christ only tells us truth that He expects us to live by. In other words, we need to reorient our lives to come in line with whatever Christ teaches so that we can truly experience the life He means us to live. Here He tells us to take His yoke upon us and learn from Him.
This is an agricultural expression whereby one or two oxen or strong animals were guided by a wooden beam that went across the top of their necks and in front of their torso. A plow was connected to the beam, followed by the farmer who determined the direction and depth of the plow while holding the reins to guide the oxen. It was exhausting work, particularly if the ground was hard or full of stones or the weather was hot and humid. A yoke could also refer to a wooden beam carried across the shoulders of a person with pails attached to each end. The yoke was a guiding tool and a working tool. It also signified ownership of animals.
Biblically, the yoke has been symbolic of the bondage of slavery (Lev. 26:13; Deut.28:48), afflictions or crosses (Lam. 3:27), and the punishment of sin (Lam.1:14). Here, Christ offers us a new kind of yoke. His yoke is one of ownership; one of rest, peace, and joy; and one of submission to Him as Lord. He explains that His is not difficult or burdensome; and in fact, because He is gentle and humble in heart, we will actually not need to rest after our work is done, but the work itself will bring the much needed rest. Serving Christ will be a joy and a pleasure, not a burden or drudgery. Willingly allowing Christ to guide us and teach us brings the meaning and direction we are seeking in life.
Application: Submission to anyone in authority is always a challenge. Humbling ourselves before another takes great composure and courage. But knowing it is Christ to whom we are submitting, One that loves us deeply and always has our best interests in mind, makes it easier to do. Humbling ourselves before Christ gives Him the opportunity to lift us up, to give us strength, courage, and purpose, and help us fulfill our destiny.
Remember always the words of Yeshua: “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” (Yochanan 14:15)
In my next post, we will continue to examine additional commands of Yeshua in the category of Yeshua as Lord.