Three Biblical Commands We often Treat as Suggestions
Glossing over some commands that scripture lays out for us can seem to be a natural byproduct of life. There are plenty of ways we fall short of many commands in scripture (even in my own life).
I often come across three categories of discipleship where I see a struggle for obedience in my own life and the lives of those around me: money, worship, and baptism.
Sometimes these commands can seem too demanding or outdated. Unfortunately, though, we can’t pick or choose which commands in scripture are to be obeyed.
Number 1: Our Money and Giving
But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also (2 Corinthians 8:7).
You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God (2 Corinthians 9:11).
Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper… (1 Corinthians 16:1-2)
How we use money can be inherited from culture as much as from the Scriptures. Many Christians consider a 10% tithe as the minimum giving we should uphold. Statistics tell us that we average less than 5% of our income going to ministry, though. If 10% is our “bare minimum,” and we don’t even do that, how much space do we have to grow here?
If you’re like me, you’re adept at making excuses, but ultimately I just don’t like the commands that infringe on my wallet. It’s easier for me to downplay them. A pastor once said, “Money is the closest thing to omnipotence we can hold in our hands.” We hate to surrender this false omnipotence.
Even if you only look at the New Testament, we are called to give generously, as it serves as a reflection of the gospel and the grace we have experienced (2 Corinthians 8,9). We are also told to give for the mission of God and the benefit of others. 1 Corinthians tells us that we should be in the habit of giving regularly so that way we are prepared to serve others with the resources God has given us.
As hard as it is for my brain to believe, life would be far better with an open hand on my resources as opposed to the clenched, white-knuckled fist I normally maintain. God has the ultimate claim to all of our money. He owns it all. Commands about money might be inconvenient, unpleasant, or unpopular, but they are commands to obey nonetheless.
Number 2: Our Corporate Worship
Worship is far more than being at church for the singing portion of Sunday services, but it also isn’t less than that. While worship encompasses our whole lives (Romans 12:1-2), the Bible is clear that corporate worship, the gathering of God’s people together for singing, praying, and preaching the word, is important.
The early Christians in the book of Acts devoted themselves, not just to worship, prayer, and the scriptures, but to walking through all of those things together. Living without godly peer pressure in our lives is a great way to drift away from the truth and mission of God (Heb. 13:35).
In His love, God reminds us not to forsake meeting together so that we can stir one another up to good works and help each other hold fast to the faith. (Hebrews 10:20-25). God commands us to sing together, take communion together, and bind together under the mutual authority and encouragement as elders and church members (Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 5:18, 1 Corinthians 11, Titus 1:5-9).
This doesn’t mean we can’t ever go on vacation or miss a church service. It doesn’t mean that we can’t have family things come up a few times here or there. It’s really easy, however, to be as present at work, softball, or basketball as we are at worship (if not more).
I am capable of “not neglecting the gathering of the travel teams” without being concerned of “neglecting the gathering of the saints.”
My true priorities are the pursuits that I sacrifice other pursuits for—and family or corporate worship is often the first thing I sacrifice. We often fail to consider what priorities we are modeling to our neighbors and children in the time commitments we make.
Number 3: Our Baptism
Depending on your upbringing, the command to be baptized might be a surprising inclusion. For many, baptism remains a meaningful and important part of discipleship.
For myself, in the general evangelical/non-denominational pool, it always seemed to be optional. Baptism was less an imperative as it was a suggestion for someone to take once they really committed their lives to Christ.
Meanwhile, the book of Acts models how important baptism was for the early Church. Beyond that, John the Baptist and Jesus Himself modeled the importance of it in their ministries. We didn’t seem to hold the perspective of the early Christians, asking questions like, “Since I believe in Jesus, why haven’t I been baptized yet?” (Acts 8:38, paraphrase.)
Even in the great commission, Jesus Himself tells us to baptize His followers as part of discipleship. For whatever reason, we can simply downplay this commandment, as I did for a long time.
Challenging Commands Are Still Commands
Our hearts have been slow to obey since Genesis 3. The reality is that when obedience is inconvenient, it’s easier for us to be nonchalant in our following.
I have to preach to myself constantly that none of God’s commands are arbitrary or spiteful. His commands lead us to greater joy as they lead us to pursue Him more and more. They aren’t burdensome, but loving. Don’t let busyness or distraction bring about drift. If your obedience comes up short (like my own does), then be intentional about pursuing it even more.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:8).