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Should We Ignore the Teachings of Jesus?

Jesus the Teacher

By Dennis Pollock

I have been posting “video devos” on what I call my “Bible Channel” on YouTube for several years now. Under each video there is a place for the viewers to comment on the video, and it is always interesting to read what people think of the teaching I shared. I have seen all kinds of comments, from the highly complementary to the scathingly critical. I hear from Christians of all kinds, and sometimes from people of a different religion will leave a comment, telling me what a fool I am for believing that Jesus Christ is God, Savior, and our only hope of heaven.

The other day I read a comment that really floored me. Until then I felt I had seen it all, but this one was so brazen and so radically opposed to what Christians have always believed that it nearly took my breath away, especially considering it came from someone who obviously thought of himself as a Christian. Here is what the man had to say: “The teachings of Jesus have nothing to do with modern Christianity. Wake up!”

I knew where he was coming from. I had heard from his group before, quite a number of times. But until then no one had ever had the audacity to put it as boldly and as unapologetically as he did: “The teachings of Jesus have nothing to do with Christianity.” This ridiculous statement stirred up several simultaneous thoughts within me. One was that never, in the history of the church until this present day, would such a foolish, heretical, and anti-Christian statement been written or uttered by someone professing to be a Christian. Another thought I had was that the professing church of Jesus Christ must be in a terrible theological drought that such sentiments would be uttered, believed, and embraced by those supposing themselves to be evangelical Christians.

So where was this guy coming from? In this brief study I don’t have time to go into all the details, but a brief summary is this: There are groups of professing Christians these days who have decided that Jesus preached the law and Paul preached grace. Since Christianity is a grace religion, they have decided that Paul must be followed (theologically) and Jesus essentially ignored. They will confess that they trust Jesus as their Savior, but they consider the teachings of Jesus irrelevant for us, believing that Jesus was speaking only to the Jews of His day, and not to us.

Ignore Christ’s Commands?

How this works out in practical terms is that these folks see any charge to people to forsake their sins and live godly lives, either Christians or those considering becoming Christians, as “legalistic” and not grace-oriented. And since Jesus was always calling people to live godly lives, this must mean that His teachings don’t mean a thing to those of us today who want to be saved and go to heaven. When Jesus said things like “love your enemies,” when He declared that those who do not keep His words are like a house built on a foundation of sand, and when He announced that those who are not willing to put Him above father, mother wife, and children are not worthy of heaven, this cannot apply to us today. After all, according to Paul (in their minds) all you have to do is believe on Jesus and you’ll be saved and have a secure passport to heaven, regardless of how you live or intended to live.

Since Jesus had so much to say about how we are to live, He must not be talking to us at all. He must be talking to the Jews of His day exclusively. Hence the comment: “The teachings of Jesus have nothing to do with modern Christianity.” This radically unbiblical idea is so riddled with error, so entirely out of left field, I hardly know where to begin to refute it. First, the gospels of Jesus are saturated with the teachings of Jesus. If these mean nothing to Christians, and only relate to the Jews of AD 30-33, the Holy Spirit sure wasted a lot of time and space in the Bible to move Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to faithfully record these words and instructions. The entire sermon on the mount would be meaningless, Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of heaven must be a waste of time to read, His strong statements about what it takes to be His disciple and follower are nonsense for us today, the commands to turn the other cheek, or even to love one another can be dismissed, His stern warning to those who will call Him Lord, Lord, on the day of judgment after having lived a lawless life – you can certainly ignore that! Apparently Jesus never got the memo from Paul that behavior means nothing. Jesus should have stuck to healing the sick and kept His mouth shut, and let Paul do all the talking.

A second glaring problem with this monstrous idea is that Paul himself could be just as tough and just as insistent that Christians live godly lives as Jesus. It was Paul who warned, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived.” Paul both preached grace through faith in Jesus and demanded godly living once that grace had been received.

Why Would Anyone Believe This?

I sometimes wonder, “What is the appeal of this teaching?” Why would men and women be so motivated and so eager to believe something that entirely contradicts both the Bible and two thousand years of Christianity? Imagine going to Martin Luther, or John Wesley, or George Whitefield, or D. L. Moody or any of the great reformers and revivalists and saying, “So if I receive Jesus by faith, then I can live any way I like, right? I mean, I’m not expected to give up my adulteries, or stop stealing from my employer, or no longer beat my wife – right? I mean if salvation is by faith, then what I do doesn’t even matter. So I can ignore Jesus’ teachings to forsake all and follow Him, to keep His commandments, and so forth? Those things don’t apply to me, right? You know what their answer would be!

So why do people believe a doctrine so entirely ridiculous and unbiblical? I’m sure there are numerous reasons for this, but let me put forth two:

First, many people love the idea that change is entirely unnecessary. It takes all the pressure off. They can carry on with their ungodly lives and still profess Jesus, still believe that heaven is in their future with no need to fight against their love for sexual immorality. If they have an ugly temper, no big deal, and there is certainly no need to fight it. After all, they’re just sinners saved by grace. No reason to feel guilty for their lying, their constant anger, their miserable marriage, their sexual indiscretions, their impatience, their stinginess, their lack of concern for the poor… Works don’t count, behavior doesn’t matter, and all those uncomfortable teachings of Jesus don’t apply to them. Life is good!

A second reason people fall for this lunacy is that many Christians are Biblically illiterate. They simply do not know what the Bible says, they never read it, and know very little about it, except for what they hear their pastor or their favorite TV preacher say about it. And if pastor says so, or their darling TV preacher says it with authority and persuasiveness, then of course it must be so. If they are told that Jesus and Paul preached two different gospels, and that Paul’s gospel is the one we must follow today, they blindly accept it, no questions asked or Biblical research necessary.

Grace That Saves and Transforms

Let me be clear that salvation is totally by faith, but the faith that saves us is a faith that changes us. The apostle James makes this clear, writing: “But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe–and tremble!” (James 2:18-19).

Are the teachings of Jesus Christ relevant to us today? You bet they are. It was not a waste for the Holy Spirit to include the precious teachings of Jesus in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And it is not a mistake for you to read and heed them. Indeed, you would be most foolish not to.



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