One of the core values of the good news of Christ is grace. There are many places in the New Testament we could go to find the message of grace expressed but one of my favourites is in Ephesians 'For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.' (Ephesians 2:8-9). Paul makes it clear that our salvation is 100% the work of God in Christ and 0% our own effort. No amount of law keeping on our part will win us access to heaven. Another way of expressing this truth is 'Nothing I can do will make God love me more, nothing I can do will make God love me less!' This is indeed good news and something to celebrate! Christ not only offers us forgiveness but also the freedom from the tyranny of law.
Does this mean then that there are no longer commandments to obey? Absolutely not! Jesus said "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them". (Matthew 5:17). The difference is that our obedience now arises from a love response to the gift we have been given rather than an effort to win God's favour.
Have you noticed that Jesus actually gave us some new commandments? During the opening weeks of 2017 we will be looking at commands that Jesus gave his disciples and seeing how they apply to us. The first commandment is known as the Great Commandment and is found in both Matthew and Mark's gospels. Actually we get two commandments for the price of one!
Love God and Love One Another
Only those who know the forgiveness of Christ are able to love God and love people as God intends for us to do. It is a good place to start the year by allowing the Holy Spirit to illuminate again to us how to obey those 'buy one get one free' commandments.
The second (third?) commandment we shall look at is also found in Matthew and Mark but is usually known as the Great Commission. It is still very much a commandment because Jesus commands us to
Go and Make Disciples
Some people are inclined towards emphasising either the Great Commandment or the Great Commission but over the next few weeks I hope that we will see that these Commands of Jesus are inextricably combined. For people who have experienced the lavish grace, unlimited grace of God, obeying these commands is perfect freedom; a reciprocating demonstration of a love response to his love for us