The Three Precepts

Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders: Chicago

Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders: Chicago

Want to live the life Jesus Christ promised? Are you interested in a life of grace, not legalistic endeavor?

There are three things you must know and do—in the correct order. Then your desires can be realized.

As Jesus’ earthly ministry was concluding He established three precepts—rules, axioms—of the Christian life. Each is dependent upon the other and must not be adopted out of order lest you find yourself mired in legalism instead of the freedom of grace and abundance of life that Christ promised.

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Christ declared, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Mt. 22:34-40).


He wrote His laws on your mind so that your heart and soul would be in concert.


As if it was not enough that God first loved you, He humbled Himself to woo and romance and entice you toward a relationship with Him (Jn. 6:44). He loved you first and then made you aware of the deep desire you possess to love Him. He took your heart that was desperately sick (Jer. 17:9) and hard toward Him and His ways, removed the stony hardness, replaced it with a new and pliable heart inscribed and in tune with His desires, and cleansed it of all impurity (Ezek. 36:25-27; Heb. 10:16, 22). He wrote His laws on your mind so that your heart and soul would be in concert, and when asked what the greatest commandment was that God ever issued, Jesus replied it was that you should love in return.

In other words, God took you—rebellious by nature, ruined in desire, and irretrievably useless to Him—and poured out His heart as if He had nothing better to do. He came and found you when you were lost, descended into hell itself, and led you a captive of the enemy into the freedom of His resurrection life (Rom. 5:8; Eph. 4:7-10). You who were once far off because of your desperate condition were brought near to Him, transformed—heart, soul, and mind—by Him, and empowered by Him to love in return. Simply stated: You love because He first loved (1 Jn. 4:19).


He instructed that you should see yourself as He sees you.


This great commandment is demonstrated by a second and similar commandment: loving others as you love yourself. As one who is loved, you are to see yourself as loved, lovely, and capable of love. In agreeing with God, you love yourself like He loves you and replicate Him for others by loving them. It is imperative as God’s advocate that you not miss His perspective of you. The standard by which you love yourself will be the mode by which you attempt to love others.

God took you, possessing no merit or worth, lost in your sin, separated from Him by death, and treated you as a treasure worth expending Himself completely over in order to possess. He redeemed you, made you a sharer in His life, birthed you into His family, endued you with His nature, and prepared a place for you in His kingdom (Gal. 3:13; Rm. 5:10; Eph. 2:19; 2 Pt. 1:4; Jn. 14:1-3). He filled you with His Spirit, and declared that your new identity was the actual, absolute truth indicative of His finished work in you (Acts 4:31; 2 Cor. 5:17; Heb. 1:3, 10:12). Before concluding, He instructed that you should see yourself as He sees you and should not allow yourself to be subjected to slavery or the deception of the flesh (2 Cor. 5:16; Gal. 5:1).

God knew that if you see yourself as He sees you, you will see His hand of redemption and restoration in your life and will love others in the same fashion. In so doing, you will replicate His love in the lives of others and all men that you come in contact with will be drawn to Him who is the source of love and life in you.

God loved, laid down His life, picked it up again in you that you might love, lay your life down, and pick it up again in others who turn to God as the source of all that is great and hopeful and powerful for life and a life that emulates His desires (2 Pt. 1:3).


It would be permissible to put an exclamation point after “go,” just as it is after “make disciples.”


Since these are the two great commandments, it stands to reason that everything builds upon them. Therefore, it is no surprise that God—in Christ—demonstrated the second precept of the Christian life. Jesus stated it, “But the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Mt. 23:11-12). He further elaborated, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13).

Demonstrating the love of God, that is loving as He has loved, means offering yourself as a servant to others, not as hired help, but as one who compellingly facilitates their ability to encounter the love and person of God. And it is precisely this concept that leads to the third precept Christ stated.

The final words of Christ that Matthew records say, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:19-20).


You are able because all authority is His to command. You are confident because He has pledged to never leave you in your going.


We could spend a great deal of time considering all that Christ meant in this statement, but notice the first word: “Go.” It would be permissible to put an exclamation point after “go,” just as it is after “make disciples.” We are simply to go. The empowerment to go, the accomplishment of the goal, the progress toward the goal, the authority that dictated the goal, and the One who instructs us to go is the One who carries these responsibilities. To clarify, the above is not a list of our responsibilities to God.

Why is it that “go” catches my attention as I consider this verse? Because the ministry philosophy so many adhere to is centered around coming. We invite others to come to church, come to Jesus, come to Bible study, come to the ministry function, etc. It is true that Jesus invited us to come to Him, but He instructs us to go!

When and how are we to go? We go at all times and in all places. Wherever life takes you, you are going. And how do you go? Since He is your life, you go in His power. You live life. Every now and then you might have to say something, but most of the time, going in His power is all that is necessary for others to come to Him who is your life.

What happens if you get these three precepts backward?

You wind up going for God, serving out of duty, loving to repay, and valuing yourself based upon the world’s terms. This legalism will certainly break you, jade you, and inevitably convey an inaccurate portrait of your Heavenly Father.

You love because He loved. You think of yourself as He thinks of you. You serve because His life is your offer. You go because you cannot contain Him. You disciple others by giving your life—His life—so they can live. You are able because all authority is His to command (Mt. 28:18). You are confident because He has pledged to never leave you in your going (28:20b).

If you build your life upon these three precepts, and do so out of order, they will bankrupt you for they are founded upon Him, His work, and His power.

But if you build your life upon these three precepts as Christ presented them, and in the order He presented them, they will fill you with grace and abundant life—just as He promised—and you will lead others to your Father’s redemption. 

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