Jesus said, “. . . why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Professing Christians by the millions call Jesus Lord but refuse to do what He said. Why? Because most do not know what He taught. It would behoove us, therefore, to examine the New Testament to see what Jesus really taught. Are there things we should be doing we may not be aware of? The Bible warns, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine . . .” (1 Tim. 4:16). It is one thing to have a knowledge of doctrine but equally important to live up to it. The foremost thing we should be doing is to see if we are practicing what Jesus taught. This is one of the most important requirements for gaining eternal life. If we wish to enter into the Kingdom of God, we need to know the things we should do.
The very first things Jesus taught are found in Matthew, chapter four. Just before Jesus began His public ministry, He was put to the test. We read, “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil” (Matt. 4:1). Satan opened this assault by attacking Jesus’ divinity. Notice the “if” in verses three and six. “And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread” (Matt. 4:3). If Satan could influence Christ to prove His divinity by obeying him, he could destroy the relationship Jesus had with the Father. Satan was attempting to gain the allegiance of Christ and to take the place of the Father.
Notice the events here. “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread” (Matt. 4:1-3). Satisfying hunger is one of the strongest human drives. After fasting forty days Jesus was intensely hungry. Starving people will eat almost anything. So, Satan knew the weaknesses of the flesh and tried to take advantage. Jesus’ answer is one of His first teachings. He said, “. . . It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). The true practice of Christianity requires one to live by all of God’s Word. This means we must endeavor to live by the examples, commandments, and principles found in both the Old and New Testaments!
In the Old Testament we read, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2). It is just as bad to add to God’s Word as it is to take away from it. Jesus said we are to live by every Word of God, not that which has been added or subtracted by men. When we have confidence and trust in that revealed word-both in the Old and New Testaments-we can be assured we have the totality of God’s instruction to man. This is the word Jesus said we should live by. Had Jesus listened to Satan and turned the stones into bread, His allegiance with the Father would have been broken and Satan would have become His god!
Jesus said we must live by every Word of God. The Bible is God’s instruction book for man. What does the Bible-the Word of God-do for man? “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Psa. 119:9). By heeding the Bible instruction one is put on the right path, able to avoid the sin and debasement so prevalent in today’s society. How valuable are God’s commandments? “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward” (Psa. 19:7-11). When Jesus spoke of “every word of God,” He was referring to the sacred Scriptures. And what is the value of these Scriptures? “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). These profitable Scriptures are found in both the Old and New Testaments.
The Word of God changes a man’s life, cleans him up, and gives him a proper perspective. But, the problem that existed in Jesus’ day is the same problem found today. “And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” (Mark 7:9). By adding man-made traditions and teachings, which add to or contradict the Bible, many professing Christians fail to live up to what Jesus taught. They fail to do the things that should be done. Human tradition has been substituted for the commandments and Law of God just as it was in the days of Christ. When we follow the traditions of men rather than the teachings of Jesus, we fail to live by every Word of God. When Jesus said, “. . . blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it” (Luke 11:28), He meant the benefits derived from obedience to the Law of God would far exceed what may be necessary to give up in this world. More than hearing the word is required. What is required is hearing it and living by it. Living by it means applying it in a practical manner in one’s daily life. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2). Applying the Word of God in our lives allows us to grow spiritually, to develop the character necessary for salvation.
Jesus gave us another important teaching in Matthew, chapter four. “Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Matt. 4:5-6). What was Jesus’ reply? “Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matt. 4:7). God’s deliverance from danger was a divinely pledged promise to Jesus, providing He did not foolishly tempt the Father. That is, He did not put the Father to a test. This promise could not be demanded by foolishly placing Himself in danger. Jesus knew this. This is why He countered Satan with His reply. God cannot be put to the test by anyone in order to prove what one thinks ought to be done. Had Christ obeyed Satan His allegiance with the Father would have been broken. By obeying Satan Jesus would have become subservient to him. This is why Jesus pointed out that we are never to put God to the test. We are never to place ourselves in a deliberately precarious position or make a foolish request and expect God to answer. This is an important teaching Jesus made plain in this encounter with Satan.
Satan, then, made another move. “Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4:8-9). Satan made no bones about his intention. He wanted Christ to worship him. He wanted Christ’s allegiance by means of worship while at the same time repudiating God, the Father-the true Lord and Master of the universe. Satan is the invisible ruler of all the kingdoms of this world. Jesus did not deny this. See John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11, and 2 Corinthians 4:4. Satan is the invisible god of this world.
What was Jesus’ reply?
“. . . Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10). This is the third teaching Christ gave us in Matthew, chapter four. God alone is worthy of worship. No man, no angelic being, no political or religious figure deserves that honor. Only God does. The Scriptures tell us, “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Psa. 29:2). “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee . . .” (Rev. 15:4). Serving God means putting Him first in our lives. Those who serve idols or place their own desires ahead of God are not truly worshiping God. One should not fail to love his family, friends, and fellow man, but God should have the precedence. Jesus said, “If any man come to me, and [not love less by comparison] his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). Professing Christians who put family and friends ahead of obedience to God, or place their interests in the material things of this world before His law are not truly worshiping God. There are many ways by which people fail to worship God only. This is one of the most important principles Jesus taught.
The New Testament is replete with the teachings of Jesus. Let us examine another important teaching in John, chapter three. If one were to ask what the most important overall teaching of Jesus is, it would be this: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). This absolute requirement is a must for salvation. Without believing in Jesus Christ one cannot be saved (Acts 4:12). But believing in Christ requires much more than accepting His person or professing His name.
What does it mean to believe in Christ?
Notice what Christ said in John 3:36. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” There is a vast difference between professing Christ and practicing what He taught. So important is understanding what belief in Christ really means that we are told, “. . . as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” (John 5:26). Eternal life comes as a result of belief in Christ. But again, what does it mean to believe? Believing in Christ means encompassing and putting into practice everything Christ stood for and taught. Accepting His name and having faith in His sacrifice is meaningless without works. “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (Jas. 2:14, 17-20). These works mean putting into practice the things Christ taught. This is what it means to believe in Christ.
Of those who have accepted Christ today, how many have really accepted Christ? How many have really accepted Him in His totality? Belief in Christ means much more than merely accepting His name. This is why Christ said, “. . . why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Many times Jesus emphasized the requirement to really believe in all He stood for and to practice what He taught. Believing in Christ means doing what He requires of us, doing what He expects us to do. The Christian world at large accepts the person of Christ, but few understand what He taught. The majority of professing Christians seldom read their Bibles in order to find out what they should be doing. Of all the major religions in the world, not one has a Savior except Christianity. This is why Acts 4:12 is so important. Referring to Christ, Peter said, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” The major religions of the world have a founder they admire, or even adore. They may regard him as a prophet, but they do not have a Savior. Only Christianity has a Savior. Accepting Christ as Savior means accepting all He stands for and encompasses. It means putting to practice everything He taught!
Another important teaching of Jesus is found in Mark 1:14-15. “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” Jesus taught we must repent and believe the gospel. What does it mean to repent, and what is the gospel? The gospel is the message Jesus brought-the Good News of the Kingdom of God. It was a message about God’s Kingdom. Much is found in the gospels about the Kingdom of God. One example is found in Luke 4:43. There are many others. “And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.” So, Jesus preached the Good News of the Kingdom of God. He talked about a literal kingdom that would be established on this Earth when He returns. He taught what we must do in order to gain entrance into that kingdom, that it was necessary to do more than accept His name and Person. He taught what was really required for salvation. He taught the things we should do.
Jesus said we must repent. What does it mean to repent, and what must we repent of? Our goal, Jesus said, is to do those things necessary to attain to the Kingdom of God. What is the first necessary thing? To repent! Repentance means we must be truly sorry for the things we have done that are wrong, and to turn around and go the other way by doing what is right. What we repent of is sin (Acts 3:19). But what is sin? According to the Bible, sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). Sin, is, therefore, breaking the Ten Commandments. To repent and believe the gospel means we must stop breaking the Law of God, to change the direction we have been going, to start doing right, and to direct our lives in a manner that will build the necessary character God requires for entrance into His kingdom.
There is much said in the Old Testament regarding repentance. Notice some examples: “If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land” (Lev. 26:40-42). God’s kindness is conditional, predicated upon repentance. “If” they confess their iniquity and “if” they humble themselves. Why is it so difficult for most people to admit their guilt? The answer: Most of us live in a constant state of denial. People simply refuse to face reality, to admit the mistakes and sins in their lives. They have a hostile attitude toward God and His Law. “. . . The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7). This is what repentance is all about. The first step in repentance is owning up to our faults and acknowledging this state of denial that enslaves us. But there is something else. “And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the Lord thy God hath driven thee. . . . If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul” (Deut. 30:1, 10). We must become aware of our sins in order to call them to mind. Our sorrow and regret must not be half-hearted. It must be total and complete.
The problem today is that millions of human beings have no real knowledge of right and wrong. They do not realize it is God who determines right and wrong, as defined by the Ten Commandments. Until one becomes aware of God’s standard of right and wrong and recognizes wickedness for what it is, there is no way to come to repentance. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14). True repentance is a painful, heart-rending experience. It is not pleasant, but it is necessary. It begins by facing up to this human proclivity of self-denial. David’s repentance after his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband is recorded in Psalm 51. Notice what he said, “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. . . . Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. . . . The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psa. 51:2-4, 10, 17). This is what Jesus meant when He said to repent. “Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning” (Joel 2:12). “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:6-7).
Repentance and believing the gospel leads to baptism. Peter commanded, “. . . Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy [Spirit]” (Acts 2:38). Baptism signifies the death and burial of the old man, then the resurrected new life as a child of God. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin” (Rom. 6:3-6). When one has truly repented, accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior, and has come to believe the message Jesus brought-the gospel of the Kingdom of God-then it is time to be baptized. It should not be put off.
Jesus spoke often of the Kingdom of God. The gospel of the kingdom was not a message about His Person. Jesus did not go about Galilee preaching about what He had done here and there. His deeds, while in the flesh, testified to His Messiahship. What He preached about was the government of God, a government that will be set up on Earth at His return (Rev. 19:11-16). He taught what we must do to enter this kingdom. This was the message taught by His disciples (Luke 9:2) and by the Apostle Paul (Acts 28:30-31).
We have seen in this short article some of the things Jesus taught as He began His public ministry. There is much yet to be revealed regarding the things we must do. Following articles will make these teachings plain. Don’t miss these important instructions!