The “Question” About Keeping The Commandments
“Since we’re Christians now, can you give us a list of the commandments we’re supposed to keep?”
It was about 30 years ago. I was sitting across from a young couple who, a few days before, had believed in Jesus as their Savior. It was the first time I’d been asked that question. It wouldn’t be the last. I’m going to tell you the answer but before I do let me give you the biblical background for my response.
Most of us have heard the statement, “That’s a great question!” In this case I can’t say that. It isn’t that it was a bad question, the problem is it’s the wrong question.
We become the children of God by faith. It isn’t by baptism or going to church or any other good works we do. It’s a gift of God in response to our faith in Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection to pay for our sins. No one earns salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9
When we first become a Christian it’s wonderful to have the peace of God flood our hearts! We feel God’s love and presence and are filled with gratitude. Then very quickly our old human nature that’s still with us kicks in. We’re so used to thinking we earn what we deserve that we forget we didn’t earn our salvation. We think, “I need to earn God’s favor.” It seems logical that the way to do that is to keep His commandments. So we ask what they are.
That idea isn’t completely off base. In the Old Testament the Jews had an agreement with God that stipulated what each party would do. The Jews were obligated to keep the 613 commandments of the Law. If they did, God agreed to bless them physically, financially and spiritually. If they didn’t . . . well, I think you already know. Things didn’t go well for them.
When Jesus came He changed things. In particular, He ended the obligation of Christians to keep the law Romans 10:4. But He didn’t negate the reason for the law. The idea of the law was to legislate what people did so they would please God. It didn’t work. No one could keep it.
The Right Question
The right question the couple should have asked was, “What do I need to do to please God?” In fairness to them, I think that’s what they wanted to know.
Okay, here’s the answer according to Jesus.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 22:37-39 ESV
Yes, loving God and loving your neighbor are commandments. But they’re general, not specific. You have to figure out how they apply to your life. You may be thinking, “That’s hard! Can you just give me a list?” Nope! Remember, God tried that with the Jews and it didn’t work.
Today, as you go through the day, look into your heart and evaluate every action and thought as to whether you are loving God or others. If not, don’t do it. If so, go for it. It will please God! After all, isn’t that what you want?
What do you think? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment or question below.