Jesus was only Joshin

1 11 2013


I was having a discussion recently with a brother about my ministry in Africa. (Joshing is a term implying that someone is kidding).  This brother announced I was teaching a heresy.  He went and read a blog post where I mention that we teach obeying the teachings of Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount.  He said that teaching we were to obey Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, was a heresy.  And though we did not mention it, I also teach obeying, the Sermon on the Plain and I suspect if the bible included everything Jesus ever said, we would find the Sermon on the River, in the City and near the Lake.  My brother announced he could no longer support my ministry since I was teaching this heresy.  Why such drama over teaching to obey Jesus?  Well first let me defend his position, a bit.  Most people hold this view whether they admit it or not.  So don’t be hard on him.  More on that later.  Many people say it is impossible to obey the Sermon on the Mount.  Now this sounds  alarming.  First of all, let’s look at some of the words of Jesus about obeying His commands and teachings.  By the way that includes the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 28:18-20, Go ahead look it up.  It is known as the Great Commission and specifically commands the disciples to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all the Jesus commanded.   I know of few that do not think this is one of the most significant verses in the NT and in fact one of the most important aspects of Christianity.  Are we to believe that Jesus meant the first part but not the last?

John 14:21, tells us that if we love Jesus and keep His commands, we love Him.  If we don’t, we don’t love Him. Do you love Him? You do if you keep His commandments.  He says so.

John 12:47- Says the teaching of Jesus came straight from the Father and that on judgment day we will be judged by how we obeyed them.  These are Jesus words.  Don’t get mad at me!

Matthew 12:46-50 Jesus was told one time that His mother, brothers and sisters were at the door looking for him. Jesus said His family are those, who obey Him.  Are you a member of His family? Only if you obey. At least, according to Jesus.

John 15:14 Jesus also said His friends obey Him. Does that mean you are not His friend if you don’t obey?  Jesus seems to imply that, doesn’t He.

In John 15 Jesus teaches that we must abide on the vine to bear fruit or be cut off and thrown in the fire.  Then He says that He who remains in Me, bears much fruit. He then goes on to command us to remain in Him and remain in His love.  And then says, if you obey me you will remain in my love.  Fruit is obedience, according to Jesus.

Luke 6:46 And finally, He ask why do you call me Lord and do not do what I am saying.

It seems pretty clear that Jesus meant to be obeyed by scripture.  But you will find theologians trying to negate the plain teachings of Jesus at every turn.  You see, the Kingdom of God, and yes the Sermon on the Mount as well as ALL the teachings of Jesus, comprise the most radical proposition ever offered to man.  And make no mistake, the teachings of Jesus and yes, the Sermon on the Mount, are the teachings of the Kingdom of God.  First, let’s look at a few of the theological opinions for NOT following the teachings of Jesus.  I will list them briefly you can study them for yourself.  (Special thanks to Greg Herrick on compiling this list.  You can find him at  I have paraphrased and altered some of the text).

  1. The Absolutist View. This is my view.  Jesus, says obey Him and in fact if we don’t we have built on the sand and great will be our fall. Matthew 7:24-27.  Amazingly this way is dismissed by most because it is a threat to society.  They are right.  It is a new society.  The Kingdom of God.
  2. The Modification View.  Most folks, whether they admit it or not, fall into this category.  It holds to the teachings of Jesus, but just modifies them so that they are not so radical.  Softens them, as it were, and thus leaves society and in fact most lives in no need of any change.
  3. The Hyperbole View.  In this view Jesus simply used hyperbole to make a point.
  4. The General Principle View, proposes that Jesus is laying out some good general principles but they must not be taken to the extreme.  For example turn the other cheek has it application but certainly it must also be ignored or society itself is at risk.  The risk of society and the risk to our capitalistic way of life in particular, is a common theme to ignore the teachings of Jesus.
  5. Another way is the Attitude Not Acts View.  In other words Jesus just wants you to be willing to turn the other cheek.  I heard this one a lot when I was young.  It is that willingness He admires.  He certainly does not expect you to do it in all situations.  Again, society and normal life is at risk if you do.
  6. The Catholics enjoyed using the Double Standard View.  Holding clergy and priest to these special standards but not the general public.  It’s okay for St. Francis of Assisi, but not expected out of Joe the Plumber.  Protestants modify this to mean, this is only for disciples, not believers.
  7. Martin Luther liked the Two Realms View.  The Sermon is practiced in church, but again society would fall if it is practiced outside the church.  Two moralities.
  8. Most reformers love the Analogy of Scripture View.  Taking the various teachings of Jesus and them combining them with other scriptures on similar topics and kind of averaging them out.  I am oversimplifying of course, but like in turning the other cheek one would apply it in a Sermon and explain that wonderful message of forgiveness and gentleness but then quickly turn to an OT verse or a NT verse, sometimes not even addressing the topic, and mitigate the plain teachings as being not necessary or practical.   A very popular view.
  9. In just in the last two years I began to hear of the Interim View.  A truly strange one.  The Sermon on the Mount only applied to the time from Jesus till He died on the cross.  Relegating everything Jesus taught to irrelevancy.  Some go a bit farther and say His teaching applied to the Jews only.  Of course this is an innovation unknown by the church ever in history until these innovators concocted it.  A very recent innovation.
  10. Then I have heard theologian and preachers like Vernon Magee and Hank Hanegraf relegate this to the someday coming millennium.  I think this is a Dispensationalist View.  This is interesting as it seems Jesus did not bother to share this view with anyone.  Neither did the apostles.  It is a position arrived at outside of scripture, from theologians.
  11. Then we have another view, that I think my brother holds that resulted in this post.  It states that Jesus was giving us impossible to follow teachings, so that we would trust in the saving grace of Jesus.  Like the law of the OT it is impossible to keep and drives us to Calvary.  Like the observation above, Jesus and the Apostles failed to contribute to this train of thought.  In fact from the verses listed above you will see that Jesus taught quite the opposite.  He took His teachings very seriously.  Hence my title, in light of this view, Jesus was only Joshin.

So is it impossible to obey Jesus?  Jesus certainly commands it.  We are not His family if we don’t obey, according to Him.  We don’t love Him, unless we obey.  At least that is what Jesus says.  In fact unless He is just “joshin”, Jesus says we will literally be judged by His teachings.

The writings of the first century shed some light on this dilemma.  The disciples of John, Paul and Peter all not only taught the teachings of Jesus were to be obeyed but they wrote about it extensively.  The Didacte, one of the earliest writings we have written around the time John died, perhaps well before, gives clear indication that this was the universal position of the church.  Now before you dismiss these guys as heretics too, let’s take a look at them.  Jesus handpicked the disciples to go into all the world and spread the Good News.  The great commission, as we have seen, told them to spread the teachings of Jesus, to be obeyed.  Paul and possibly Peter, commission such men as Clement and others mentioned in the bible.  Clement and others within one generation of the death of John were teaching obedience to the Sermon on the Mount.  These same men were burned alive, crucified, speared and tortured for Christ.  They are the same men that collected and passed down the documents that make up your bible.  The only reason you know that Gospel of Mathew came from Matthew is because these early leaders recorded that is who wrote it.  History records the early church living the Sermon on the Mount, literally. If they were lying about this, then how can we believe them about the bible you have on your desk?

History records believers like St. Francis and others living the Sermon on the Mount, literally.  The Anabaptist were persecuted for teaching and living this way.  It is a historical fact.  But I am told it is impossible.  I have brothers that have sold all or much of what  they had, given to the poor and changed their entire lifestyles to live this Sermon.  They turn the other cheek and give radically to the Kingdom.  They make no vow and forgive even their enemies.  I am learning from them as they modeling this way of life to me.  I am sincerely trying to follow this model.

Why can’t we live the sermon?  Let’s take a quick look.  Most of the teachings of Jesus, not surprisingly, we all teach to obey.

Repent and be baptized.

Let your light shine, to be great in the Kingdom, be least.

If you are even angry you commit murder,  Well we don’t like that one.

A radical value of relationships even above religion.  I think we all aspire to that and I see it preached often.

Lust is adultery.  I think most everyone agrees this is the case and even one as immature as me can testify to victory in this area.

Live a life of sexual purity, “if you eye causes you to sin pluck it out”.  We teach this to our children.   Marriage and divorce, a very hot topic in the NT and clearly a stumbling block in the church today.  We DON’T want to follow this one. Period.

Turn the other cheek and love our enemy is one Americans struggle with mightily.  We imagine ridiculous scenarios where serial rapist might enter our homes and we need to be able to dispatch them with extreme prejudice to protect our family. We DON’T want to obey this one. However, even secular society has adherents to this type of teaching.  Pacifist, Anabaptist and many other groups are historically documented to be obeying this literally.  So it can be obeyed and was for centuries in the church.

Be perfect.  AHA!  It’s impossible so “let’s call the whole thing off”.  You know potato, potato, tomato, tomato.  Okay, if you don’t know the song you won’t get the pun.  The problem is Jesus never called it off and neither did any of His disciples.

Give unto God, not as unto man, check. (We agree).

Pray for the Lord and not mans benefit.  Check.

The Lords prayer.  No problem here.

Forgive to be forgiven.  We don’t like it always, but hey we’ll let this one go.

Fast for God not man.  No worries there, we say, since we are not commanded to fast, so, we don’t.  This is looked at as just another irrelevant teaching of Jesus anyway.  As for me and my house? check.

Lay treasures up in heaven NOT on earth.  WAIT A MINUTE!  Houston, we have a problem.  We all know that God has ordained America and that means He chose capitalism.  Capitalism requires me to accumulate capital to invest and make more capital.  But Jesus says here and elsewhere that where your treasure is there is your heart.  Sorry, we reject this, hands down.  In fact let’s stop right here.

We really have just a few problems.  We are Americans.  We want our money, our stuff, our big houses our vacations , 60 inch TV’s and we want to be able to get divorced and remarry as many times as we want.    We want to kill the bad guys because that is what brave Americans do. We can’t be perfect anyway so this is just an object lesson.  This is too radical and yes, if everyone did this society as we know if might would be transformed.  But lets face it.  We are worried about ourselves, not society as a whole.  Imagine if we turned the other cheek.  What about Hitler?  I need my IRA, my stocks, bonds and my cool car and I make all this money and lay up all this treasure, um I mean, I am a steward over all this stuff for the glory of God.  The problem is we don’t understand the teaching of the early church on the Two Kingdoms, a principle scattered all through the NT.  More on that another time.

Frankly, you can be a great American.  A great American Christian, tithes, goes to church, reads his bible and may even teach Sunday school.  He prays and every now and then he “might” tell someone about Jesus but most likely will invite them to church.  Great American Christians, vote republican.  They try to raise their kid’s right.  They do many wonderful and Godly things.  I know, that is how I viewed Christianity.

I am not writing this to condemn anyone.  I want to tell you about an amazing way to live.  I want to tell you that the Sermon on the Mount is the abundant Life.  You can obey Jesus. I want to invite you to step outside and beyond being a great American Christian.  I want to invite you on a journey to become a loyal citizen of the Kingdom of God.  You may not be there yet.  That’s okay.  You may want to cut me off for being a heretic.  That’s okay too.  But listen to what I am saying.  One day I discovered something new.  I met men and women that lived the sermon.   They gave radically of their time and recourses, yes money, to extend the Kingdom. They believed that if they invested in the Kingdom, to the determent even their personal comfort, their world, they would have reward in heaven.  Just like Jesus said.  Some reduced their personal work load to spend more time in the Kingdom.  They sacrificed the American dream and replaced it with a new dream.  A Kingdom Dream.  They served the poor and the orphan, they turned the other cheek.

Stop right there Glenn!!!!! This is just radical stuff!  You are crazy!  Heresy!  Yeah, I get that sometimes.  I actually got called a heretic for quoting Jesus one time on Facebook.   But if you don’t believe you are to obey Him, then none of this matter does it?  However, if you do believe Jesus meant what He says, then you know, it matters, oh so much.  So I admit it.  I teach obeying the commands of Jesus, just like the Great Commission says to do.  I am trying to obey my Lord and Master.  He is not only worthy of worship in church on Sunday, but He is worthy of believing and obeying.  And as I am so often seen as quoting Dietrich Bonheoffer, only the obedient believe; only believers obey.  Am I obedient all the time?  Of course not.  But by His grace, the power of His blood, the help of His body and the Holy Spirit, we can be transformed from glory to glory.




8 responses

1 11 2013

This was thrilling and refreshing to read. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts and I hope the truth in these words reach the hearts of many a “white washed tomb” and bring life back into many a dry bone.

“Obedience is better than sacrifice”. We *can* live holy lives. We just can’t do it without the Holy Spirit.

So happy I stumbled upon this post. Be blessed!

1 11 2013
Bill Bramer

Thanks Glenn. Obedience is required. First faith, then listen, then go do. We are saved only by the blood, love God for that, we cannot be perfect, recognize that, but strive for the prize. See my post today from Matthew Henry (Luke 18:8) about how the world is streaking toward it’s demise and how the various characters will perform. I also note that many times theologians (pharisees?) can overthink what they study. Matthew Henry seems to be a very faithful theologian. Hope you get to meet up with my son Jake Bramer next year.

1 11 2013

You do know the teachings of Jesus that American Christians try to ignore or explain away. There is one teaching you mention that might need further discussion (not explaining away), namely, your reference to Mt. 5:22 (“if you are even angry you commit murder”). Because the larger context of the New Testament shows Jesus getting angry and has Eph. 4:26 saying, “Be angry but do not sin,” a closer look at the surrounding context of Mt. 5:22 might help. The anger Jesus targets is anger against one’s “brother” and Mt. 12:46-50 (which you mention) defines Jesus’ brother (and mother and sister) as the one who does the will of God. Then Mt. 5:22 portrays this anger as being expressed through calling a brother names like “fool.” In Mt. 7:24-27 (which you note is about obeying Jesus’ words), the fool (foolish man) is the one who hears Jesus’ words but does not do them. So to call a (true) brother a “fool,” is to condemn (and “murder”) that brother, perhaps because of a momentary lapse or uncharacteristic sin. This would be similar then to Mt. 7:1-5 where one condemns a brother due to a small “speck” (sin), not realizing the much greater sin of condemning a (true) brother (who usually does the will of God). Both Mt. 5:22 and 7:1 warn that such condemnation can lead the one condemning to be judged by God and “liable to hell.”

As far as dealing with those outside the family, while we of course love our enemies (Mt. 5:44), sometimes this love means confronting them with their sin and with the truth of their dangerous position before (the judgment of) God. Thus in Mt. 23:17 Jesus calls the scribes and Pharisees “blind fools.” This and other angry statements in Mt. 23 are not murder because these scribes and Pharisees were in fact not “brothers,” and were in fact “blind fools.”

2 11 2013

Thanks for the comments. Yes there are many many points I could have made and commands I did not include as well as observations I did not make. I like yours. I had to cut it down as it was because it was approaching 3000 words and I am painfully aware that most readers give you about 5 minutes on a topic and that includes searching and loading, as well as reading. I hope I at least made the point that Jesus taught obeying His commands. I wish I had added, His yoke is easy, His burden is light. It seems like a huge burden and many call obeying legalism. I have found, however, that Jesus’ teachings to be life simplifying and putrefying. I have a feeling it will be more so all the time.thank you for reading and commenting. God bless you as you obey Him.

2 11 2013

Have you read Shane Claiborne? You’d really like him I think. He takes Jesus literally and many consider him a heretic as well. Love it!

3 11 2013
Brett Hancock

Awesome brother. The Holy Spirit at work here. Thanks for your submission. I will be reading this a few times, God willing. Peace

3 11 2013
Charlton Sweazy

Amen my brother, continue preaching the Kingdom of God and living in obediance to the King Jesus and teaching others to do so as well!! I love you brother and can’t wait to be over there with you!
Love is Obediance

3 11 2013

Great post, Glenn. Enjoyed it.
I think people should start to wonder whether something is wrong with their theology, when they call someone “heretic” simply for quoting Christ…wow…Upside down.

God bless you and your ministry brother. I´ll keep you and the others in prayer. Appreciate your work a lot.

David Gonzalez Lopez

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