Jesus Didn't Tell People to be Christians
A lady once asked me, "Edwin, what would you say is the most significant difference between you 'plain people Christians' and other mainline Christians?" Hmmm... this could be a little touchy. It's definitely more comfortable to find common ground than to explain differences. But she does have a legitimate question. We plain people are different. It's one of the first things people notice about us. Some people even say we are strange. That feels a bit subjective, but then, our people are counterculture. We do march to a different drummer. And we certainly are not politically correct. So yeah, I guess we ARE strangers to the popular culture around us. And by the way, I'm pretty sure that's not a bad thing. So, I guess if I'm going to be true to my commitment of answering honest questions about our faith, I'd better not shy away from this elephant in the room of "What makes you different?" Let me start this way: Did you know that Jesus didn't tell people to be Christians?* In fact, he didn't even preach about Christianity. And not only that, Jesus didn't tell his disciples to preach about Christianity after he was gone either. So, what did Jesus preach about? What was His main message? Was it how to be born again? Was it about God's love for mankind. Or maybe it was our need of a savior? For sure, Jesus did teach about all of these things. And they are essential truths, every one of them. But... none of these truths was Jesus' main theme. The Kingdom of God was the main Theme of Jesus' Teaching. Jesus didn't tell people to be Christians but he did urge them to seek and enter the Kingdom of God. He preached about the kingdom everywhere he went. (Matthew 9:35) In fact, Jesus said that to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God is why he was sent to this earth. (Luke 4:43) John the Baptist announced the coming of Jesus and, sure enough, he also announced the kingdom and what it would take to enter it. "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Matthew 3:1-2) After John was cast into prison, Jesus himself came with the same message. "Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God." (Mark 1:14) Jesus announced that the kingdom was nigh at hand... he urged the people to "seek ye first the kingdom of God" above all else. He explained clearly to Nicodemus how to enter this kingdom. "Ye must be born again." Jesus acknowledged the seeming mysteriousness of the Kingdom. He explained that the kingdom seemed hard to comprehend until a person is born again spiritually. In fact, he taught Nicodemus that if a person is not born spiritually that the kingdom will not seem real... one cannot even see the kingdom. "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3) There is much more... but you get the point. Jesus' main message was the establishment of His Kingdom. That's what he talked about constantly and consistently right up to the day of his crucifixion. Pilate therefore said unto him, “Art thou a king then?” Jesus answered, “Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world...” (John 18:37) So how does this explain why the plain people are different? The point is that we are different because we are serious about the real Kingdom of God that Jesus founded. You might need to read that again to let it sink in. Because after all, isn't that what most Christians say? "The Kingdom of God! Yes! That's what we are all about." But think about what I said. We believe in a REAL Kingdom. A Kingdom that has a King that we are loyal to. A Kingdom that has citizens. A Kingdom that has a pledge of allegiance. This Kingdom of God has a constitution and laws that its citizens uphold. This Kingdom has a domain now and into eternity. This Kingdom of heaven has ambassadors that live in other earthly kingdoms but whose primary allegiance is to their heavenly King and Kingdom. We believe in a REAL Kingdom of God and our King Jesus and pledge our full allegiance to obey, support and be loyal to this King and Kingdom above any and all other national kingdoms of this world. Our people believe and emphasize that there are Two Kingdoms.
One is the Kingdom of God, God's people, the Church, the family of God, or Christ's Kingdom.
The second is the Kingdom of this World, the nations, the political spectrum, the secular society, or popular culture system.
Q: But I don't get it... Why exactly does this "Allegiance to the Heavenly Kingdom" make plain people different?
A: It makes us different because our King is different. His commands are different. His world-view is different. His code of ethics seems upside down.
The commandments of the Kingdom of God often seem backwards to human thinking. They seem different, or even at odds with the code of ethics that are the norm in the other Kingdom.
So, it follows that those who have pledged intense, undivided loyalty to this King, loyalty even unto death, will also be different. People might even call them strange. They might think they are revolutionary. That's ok. The people in Jesus' day thought he was revolutionary.
To understand what I mean about revolutionary commands that run directly against any wisdom this World’s Kingdom has to offer... read one of the best recorded sermons of our King Jesus. It's called the Sermon on the Mount. It can be found in Matthew 5, 6 & 7. Every verse in these three chapters is spoken directly by Jesus.
Now try to envision a Kingdom of people, a community of believers who actually and sincerely do their best, by the help of God and the Holy Spirit to govern their personal lives, their families, their marriages, their schools, their churches, their businesses, in fact, all parts of their life and relationships by full, literal obedience to the commands of this King Jesus.
To assist study, below are a few excerpts from Jesus' Sermon in Matthew 5-7 to give you a sample. Remember all the commands and principles below are directly from King Jesus.
"But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and… whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
But I say unto you, Swear not at all…
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven… That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth:… But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven... For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them:
Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
And everyone that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:”
"And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." Matthew 7:28-29 ----------------------------------------------
Hmm... It's almost like Jesus thought He had authority as a King or something... Like as if he was setting up a new Kingdom... I wonder if He actually thought people would love him and respect Him enough to obey Him?
Think about it...
Let me know your thoughts...
Just don't be too hard on me. You asked to know about our faith. I told you. I know full well that I made myself and family and people vulnerable here because these plain commands of Jesus, teaching Kingdom truths, are often ignored, neglected and explained away today.
But please know that these 'Kingdom of God Christianity' values, and others like them in the scripture, are at the core of why our people are different. I will try to explain this in more detail in later posts. Enough for today.
If sometimes we seem like strangers... maybe we are. We are only ambassadors here.
Blessings until the next time.
Your Mennonite Christian friend, ~ Edwin Shank
* Jesus did not tell people to be Christians because the term 'Christian' means 'little Christs' and was only given to his followers years later. These early Kingdom Believers acted so much like little replicas of King Jesus Christ himself that people called them 'little Christs.' They were revolutionary just like he was. -Acts 11:26
P.S. Please remember, if you have questions or would like to talk more on this or any subject, you can always reach me by replying to this email. I'm here for you. I'd be glad to help if I can in some way.
Song of the Week
For maximum worship experience, read and contemplate on the lyrics while listening. Just let the message sink into your heart. Sing along if you wish. Remember... it's only the message of the words that feeds the soul!
Special note this week: Notice in this 'Lord's Prayer' song below how central the Kingdom is!
(Click on the title to hear the song. It may take a minute to open.)
Our Father, which art in Heaven,
Hollowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
In earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil,
For Thine is the Kingdom..
And the Power...
And the Glory...
Would you like to get free songs like this every morning? You can. Here's how. Dawn and I personally know a Mennonite bishop from a little congregation in Dublin Georgia. His name is Sim Yoder. Sim shares a new song every morning for the benefit of any and all who wish to listen, sing along and worship. He calls this ministry 'Morning Song.' The songs are always songs of God and faith, are often hymns and are always acapella with deeply meaningful, soul-feeding words. The songs are not always professional. They might be sung by a Mennonite family and recorded impromptu at a family gathering... But that is what makes them so authentic. It's what makes them a rare opportunity to listen in. Sometimes you can hear the voices of Dad and Mom and all the ranges of sweet immature voices of the children... just worshiping and praising God together. Below are three easy ways to receive 'Morning Song.'
WhatsApp: Simply send a WhatsApp message to Sim at 478-278-4646 asking to be on "Morning Song." CloudVeil / Telegram: Use this link to join the Morning Song Group: https://t.me/joinchat/zn44N7f6D9dmNWJh Or simply email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Put "Morning Song" in the subject line and Sim will understand to put you on the morning song email. And yes, I did personally check with Brother Sim before I posted this contact info. He assured me with pure southern hospitality that, "Of course all are welcome! I'll just be glad to bless and encourage more lives with song!" -----------------------------------------------------------------
P.S. Feel free to share our emails in any way you want. Food for the Soul posts are free for all. We do not copyright any of our material nor are we possessive of its use. Freely we have received so freely we give.