Holy Days: The religious issue which came up most frequently with Jesus was that of the sabbath day ('sabbath' means 'rest'). The Old Testament contained many health rules, but the rule about keeping the rest day holy was one of the sacred Ten Commandments, along with 'Don't kill' and 'Don't steal'. Surely this elevated it to a level above that of tradition. But Jesus showed how even a rule as important as this one, must be understood in the spirit in which it was given. It was basically a rule against greed. Greedy employers might force their employees to work too long without a rest. And greedy employees might push themselves for too long without a rest. So God set aside the seventh day of the week as the day when all of Israel would take a rest. Enforcement was simpler when everyone rested on the same day.
But now Jesus says, "Come and work for me and I will give you sabbath ('rest')." (Mt 11:28-30) He goes on to say that his Father 'works seven days a week and so does he. (Jn 5:16-17) And he says the law about rests may be broken under certain circumstances. (Mk 2:23-28) If neither the employer (God) nor the employee are greedy, then rests will come as they are needed, and not according to a dogma. But of course this could only work if people could be freed from working for money to work for God. (See section headed A Unique Teaching.)Prayer and Fasting: Nothing could be more universally encouraged for people who have faith in God than prayer (and on occasions, fasting). In fact, if it is a personal relationship with God that is the measure of a person's spiritual worth now, prayer is almost synonymous with such a relationship. But Christ put the emphasis on the word personal. Personal communication with God is the life-blood of any true Christian. But Christ makes the shocking statement that public prayer (especially in houses of worship) is a tradition of hypocrites! And he commands his followers: "When you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray secretly to your Father. Then your Father, who sees you secretly, will reward you openly." (Mt 6:6) He says much the same about fasting: "When you fast, do not put on a sad face as the hypocrites do. When you fast, wash your face and comb your hair, so that others cannot know that you are fasting only your Father, who Himself is unseen, will see what you are doing in private and he will reward you openly." (Mt 6:16-18)
MiraclesThere can be no dispute about the fact that Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, and cast devils out of people. And he instructed his followers to do the same. (Mt 10:8) But over and over again he told people not to tell others when he healed them. (Mt 8:4; Mk 8:26; Lk 8:56) His miracles were not done as publicity gimmicks. They were acts of love. And he wants us to perform similar acts of love, whether or not anyone sees something miraculous in it. (For more on this subject, please send for our essay 'Heal the Sick' in which we examine the relationship between science and the supernatural in healing.)
Jesus said that an evil and adulterous world demands miracles (Mt 12:39) but the only 'sign' they will get will be the miracle of Jonah. (Mt 16:4) The people of Nineveh repented when they heard the truth in what Jonah was saying. And Jonah's authority came from the life-threatening experience he had just had for three days in the stomach of a whale, something which the people of Nineveh never saw. Similarly, God expects you to repent at the truth in what you are reading right now, and the authority behind it comes from Christ's victory over death. Do you want eternal life or don't you? Only Christ himself can give eternal life. Without him, the best you will be able to manage is a religious discussion group, marking time until the end comes. Even your miracles will be disappointing frauds. Do you have faith in God or is your faith in your religious organisation?One day you'll stand before God and answer for what you did with the truths from the teachings of Christ that you are reading in this pamphlet. You can argue that you followed the Pope or you followed St. Paul, or that you trusted your pastor or you trusted a religious experience. You can say that you were told that the teachings of Jesus Christ do not apply to us any more. You can even argue that you did miracles, casting out evil spirits and healing the sick. But God is going to ask you what you did with the teachings of his Son. If we are guilty of taking Jesus Christ too seriously, we honestly think we can convince God that our error was justified. But if you are taking Christ's teachings too lighty and God really did intend for you to curse Peter, Paul, Billy Graham, and anyone else who might be used as an excuse to de-emphasise the teachings of his Son (Gal 1:8), how do you think you will go in arguing your case before him? Jesus said, "Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, and in your name have cast out devils, and in your name done many wonderful works? And then I will say to them, 'I never knew you. Depart from me, you doers of evil!' " (Mt 7:22-23)
Virtually all religions claim to believe in God; most religions have founders who claim to be speaking on behalf of God; and a few even claim divinity for their founders. But Jesus alone gives us the ultimatum: either choose to work for God or choose to work for money. (Mt 6:24) Jesus alone made the incredible claim that God, his Father, would feed and clothe anyone who would work for him in building this new government he talked of, called the kingdom of God. (Mt 6:33) This teaching means that his talk about an invisible kingdom is much more than a vague philosophy. A visible and revolutionary lifestyle change will result if anyone actually believes what he is saying. And that lifestyle change will serve as a powerful sample to the rest of the world of what God had in mind when he first put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Let us look at some of Christ's teachings on this subject.
A Unique Teaching
In the center of his famous Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7) Jesus commands us not to accumulate wealth (Mt 6:19-21). He says we cannot work for God and money at the same time, any more than an employee can work for two employers at the same time (Mt 6:24). And then he tells us not to worry about our material needs because our Father in heaven will take care of them if we will seek to build his kingdom first. (Mt 6:33) He says that no other religion trusts God to meet everyone's material needs; and he says that this teaching will make his followers unique from everyone else. (Mt 6:31-32)He says that birds don't have jobs, and yet God feeds them; and flowers don't have jobs, and yet God clothes them. (Mt 6:25-30) And he says that this issue is to the rest of his teachings like the eye is to the rest of the body if we get it right, then the whole body will benefit, but if we corrupt it, then the whole body will suffer. (Mt 6:22-23) That same sermon concludes with the story of a wise person and a foolish person. The wise person hears what Christ has said and then obeys him; but the foolish person hears it and then does not obey him. Jesus says, "Not everyone who calls me 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do." (Mt 7:21)This is pretty sobering stuff. It is backed up by everything else that Jesus did and said; and yet it has been left out of the teachings of every so-called Christian denomination in the world. Jesus said to those who rejected him after hearing what he taught, "Haven't you ever read what the Scriptures say? 'The stone which the builders rejected as worthless turned out to be the most important of all.' " Certainly the history of the Christian church has been one of foolish builders creating denominations on the sands of religious traditions while setting aside the solid rock of Christ's teachings.
PersecutionJesus was crucified after roughly three years of teaching these sort of things. Obviously he was hitting on a very sore spot, and it angered people. His teachings about money are not political statements about economic systems so much as they are spiritual statements about the hearts of people everywhere and in every age. St. Paul said, "The love of money is the root of all evil. While some have chased after it, they have turned away from faith and have brought much grief on themselves." (I Tim 6:10) You cannot point out the fundamental error in another person's life without getting one of two reactions: acceptance of the criticism and a dramatic change for the better; or rejection of the criticism and extreme anger against you for pointing out their sin. The second reaction is by far the most common. Jesus was called a devil for telling such uncomfortable truths, and he said that his followers would be called devils too. (Mt 10:24; 12:24) He said that we would be attacked in religious meetings and taken to court for following him. (Mt 10:17-18) He said our own parents and children would turn against us. (Mt 10:36-37) Jesus was virtually an outlaw a wanted man, hiding from the authorities of his day. (Jn 11:57) He would sneak into the Temple early in the morning and gather a crowd of supporters before the church leaders turned up (Lk 19:47-48), then slip away to one of his hideouts in the evening when they were not looking. This is why they had to pay Judas to show them where they could arrest Jesus away from the crowds. And all of this is predicted for anyone who chooses to follow him as well.
What Does the Future Hold?Shortly before he was executed, Jesus Christ predicted a time when it would be so popular to be called a Christian that false teachers of every persuasion would claim to be speaking on his behalf. At the time, when it was against the law to even believe that Jesus was the Messiah, it sounded like the ravings of a madman. (Jn 9:22) But exactly what Jesus predicted is happening today. In America it would be political suicide for a presidential candidate to claim to be anything but a Christian. And it is becoming more and more important that they claim to be "born again" Christians as well. Even in Australia, which is about as unreligious as any country can get, people like Alan Bond and Joh Bjelke-Peterson claim to be born-againers. Jesus said that sin would destroy the love that once was in the church, and there would be many false teachers deceiving people. (Mt 24:11-12) He said they would especially major on doing miracles. (Mt 24:24) The word 'Christ' means 'God's anointed one', and Jesus said that many of these leaders would claim to have God's anointing, but they will be false 'anointed ones'. That too is happening in the churches today. He said that they'll say, "Go there or come here and you will find Christ," but that we should not go after them. And they will talk about Jesus coming again secretly, when in fact his coming will be seen from one end of heaven to the other, like the lightning across the sky. (Mt 24:26-27)
But before Jesus can return, his teachings ("this good news about God's kingdom") must be preached in all the world. (Mt 24:14) Missionaries have been in every country of the world for many years now. But they are not teaching people to obey the gospel. (Ro 10:16; II Th 1:8; I Pe 4:17) It is our job to take this gospel to all the world before Christ can return. But there will be great "Tribulation" ahead (probably precipitated by preaching this very gospel), which Christ taught John the Revelator about in the last book of the Bible. People will not be able to buy or sell without a "mark" on their hand or on their forehead (Rev 13:16-18), as the ruler of a new world empire attempts to gain allegiance from everyone on earth. Of course, if we can learn to trust God and live by faith now, it will not be so traumatic for us then. Most so-called Christians today will give very little resistance to receiving the mark even though the Bible gives a serious warning that anyone who does take it will be cursed. After all, Jesus said much the same thing about anyone who does not obey his teachings, and the false teachers and their false teachings are still prospering and popular. So, as it was in Noah's day, they have lost their hope in anything but the here and now. (Mt 24:38-39; II Pe 3:3-4) (If you'd like to read more about this subject, ask for a copy of our pamphlet "The Fall of America".)
The Cross of ChristNow we come to the end of Christ's life on earth. As he predicted, he was captured by the religious leaders and executed. His dead body was locked in a tomb, but three days later he returned to life and escaped. He visited his followers on several occasions after his resurrection, then ascended to heaven. The death of Christ was proof of his commitment. He died as a martyr for what he believed in. His love for the people he came to reach was sufficient that he was willing to lay down his life for them. (Jn 15:13-14) All that is very inspiring, but his death was more than that. He didn't just die. He also rose from the dead. And his resurrection is God's final stamp of approval on him as the Messiah, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. Of course you who are reading this cannot know for certain that this ever happened. All you can do is weigh up the authenticity of what he has said. But we are confident that God himself is speaking to you through these words. Like all of the other disciples, you need only respond to his teachings first. If he really is everything that we say he is, God will show you that himself. What you need to do in the meantime is to act on the truth of what he taught. We have sprayed a lot of his teachings over you with this booklet. We have 'baptised' you with his Spirit. But it means nothing unless you receive it and act upon it. Jesus said, "If anyone wants to know whether my teaching comes from God, just do it. (Jn 7:17; 13:17) When you do start practicing his teachings (and there are plenty more besides those mentioned in this booklet), you are going to find that you don't follow them perfectly. But that's the other beautiful thing about the cross of Christ. God has accepted it as a perfect sacrifice for all the sins of people who sincerely want to serve him. You don't 'say a little prayer' to get it, but you get it by believing in God. We're not talking about discussion group faith. We're talking about get-out-of-the-room-before-the-bomb-goes-off faith. Do you understand what that is? And anyone who has faith in God is going to hear God speaking through the teachings of his Son. But having faith that what Jesus said is true doesn't mean you are going to perfectly follow it; but that doesn't matter. God sees the hearts of every individual on earth. And those who are doing the best they know how to walk in truth, are covered for all their sins by the blood of Christ. Of course those who just want to argue religion and excuse themselves from obedience on the basis of some perverted teaching about forgiveness are going to be in for some terrible revelations when they stand before God too. Don't be part of that group.
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