Rev. Nathan Buchanan

Rev. Nathan Buchanan of First Baptist Church of Mineral Wells.

Making lists seem to be something we do quite regularly in life. We make to-do-lists, grocery lists, top 10 lists, and random lists about this and that and then post them on Facebook.

Why do we like making lists? I believe lists help us to remember things, create order out of the chaos happening all round us, and are just fun to do on occasion. However, lists can also be exhausting and burdensome when one seeks to complete one’s list.

The Bible is full of lists. In the Old Testament no list stands out to me more than the Ten Commandments. These Ten Commandments were given to the Israelites by God through Moses. By the way, every one of those 10 is still valid for us today.

Did you know that on top of the “Big Ten” the Hebrews were given many more laws/commands? In total there are 613 individual statutes in the first five books of the Bible (The Torah). There are 365 commands written in the negative (thou shall nots) and 248 written in the positive (do these things). The Jewish rabbis further divided them into heavy laws, absolutely binding laws, and light laws that were less binding. What is interesting to me is that the rabbis never really came to a consensus as to which laws were heavy and which ones were light.

These 613 laws were a heavy burden placed upon people. That is why Jesus told his followers, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Jesus summed up these 613 laws by making a list of two commands: to “‘love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,’ and the second is ‘to love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mark 12:30-31).

Jesus took the idea of making lists further, and He turned the focus of the OT lists of commands (“dos and don’ts”) to NT lists of character traits. The Beatitudes from Jesus’s “Sermon on the Mount” describe some of these traits: blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who morn, blessed are the gentle, blessed who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the peacemakers, and blessed are those who have been persecuted.

The Apostle Paul described these character traits as the “Fruit of the Spirit.” In Galatians 2:22-23, Paul wrote, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Notice the focus of these two lists. They point not towards things to do or not do, but to things produced in us. 2 Corinthians 5:7 tells us that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

These new things that come are the list of godly character traits, and they come out of a relationship with Christ.  Jesus said, “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.” (Matthew 7:18).

Later in that same chapter, Jesus told His disciples “Not everyone who says to Me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of God.” Some, Jesus said who had even done great things in His name, will hear Him say, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:21-23).

We have a choice in this life, to practice lawlessness or to live in a relationship with Christ and allow His list of traits to be produced in us. The truth of the matter is the more we seek to “be” in Christ, the more He can “do” in us.

As we seek to live in a relationship with Jesus, He works out His list of traits in us. This is an awesome way to live and is a life of freedom in Christ.

Rev. Nathan Buchanan is pastor of First Baptist Church of Mineral Wells

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