Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” ESV
This morning I was thinking about an article I’d read by Billy Grahama that referenced this verse from Matthew. It was only one part of the big truth the article contained but it was the catalyst that opened my eyes to a new idea about that one last word…”rest.”
It’s such a simple revelation but I think it’s a meaningful one. Life, even a privileged one involves labor. The good life certainly has moments that are heavy laden. We know the Word is a reliable place we come to find rest in Jesus. The daily reading of the Word is a blessing. We plan to read daily and we’re frustrated with ourselves when we don’t do it. We know that devotional time seems to be impacted by…well…everything!
There will be circumstances when your “daily” devotion may fail you but your rest is not dependent on that circumstance. Rest is a relationship with Jesus and His devotion never fails you. THAT dear friend is His perfect provision that overcomes circumstances that interrupt best-laid plans. Jesus’s relationship with you is what makes it possible for you to enjoy the “rest” of your day…today, everyday and forever.
Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery…16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh…22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. [NIV]
I try to find ways to read Scripture to experience it’s meaning for my life. That one word “freedom” and the association Paul made to the fruit reminded me of a study method I’d learned from William Barclay’s commentary. Jewish Rabbis would study Scripture based on these four words that formed the consonants of PaRaDiSe:
1. Peshat – literal
2. Remaz – suggested
3. Derush – investigative
4. Sod – allegorical
That idea of reading Scripture as a connection to paradise seems helpful and right. Here are my cliff notes if you want to try this method of studying the Bible for yourself.
1. What is the simplest possible meaning?
2. Is there a sub-text meaning?
3. What can I learn from references, footnotes & commentaries
And finally the bottom line…
4. Can I see how to make these truths a part of my daily life?
1. Paul tells us our freedom was the whole point of what Christ did to free us from the “law.” We have within us a willful desire to identify freedom with being satisfied that what we are doing is right if we meet certain requirements. √
2. Relying on what we think God requires of us instead of Christ changing us is an invisible barrier that distracts us from the real freedom God means us to experience. √
3. New thoughts from Rev. Bruce Puckett at Duke University. “We are a society and a culture that loves (and I mean loves) to talk about freedom… we’ve looked for the wrong fruit within a community and called it freedom. We see…desire for more and more and more — and call it ambition and success. We see strife, dissensions, and factions…and call it our right to individual opinion, and options from which to choose.” √
And finally the bottom line…
4. Pay attention to the distractions of daily life. Don’t let them become an invisible barrier that settles for “fake” fruit. “Walk by the Spirit…” and choose a serving from the fruit of freedom: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. It’s a daily thing.
I noticed and interesting thing after I’d finished my list of word ideas to pursue in these next few weeks. The first word of each combination was capitalized but the second was not. It was only a function of digital grammar but it made me think about those combinations differently. The capitalized word became an attribute of God to be practiced and for sure the lower case one the challenge of practicing them. If I looked at them that way, how were they related? Where is it written?
Zephaniah 3:17 For the Lord your God has arrived to live among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will give you victory. He will rejoice over you with great gladness; he will love you and not accuse you.” Is that a joyous choir I hear? No, it is the Lord himself exulting over you in happy song. Living Bible [TLB]
It’s a fact! “He will love you and not accuse you.” YOU are the object of God’s Affection! Ponder what walking in that Affection might mean.
It’s the definition of that next word that’s the challenge of our daily life. God looked at the male and female he’d created and because they were the completed image of himself, they were by definition Perfect [with a capital P], weren’t they? Our definition of perfection has taken a turn for the worse and lost it’s capital “P.” Rather than being focused on practicing the Affection of God and who he’s created us to be our focus has become skewed by the complication our own ideas of perfection. God is determined to simplify our lives and change our ideas too. Here’s where it’s written.
Micah 6:6 With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. [NIV]
Our possessions and offerings are different now but they’re still what confuse our perfection. It’s much harder to give the simplest of things – ourself. He knows firsthand our possessions and our wealth are not the answer to our perfection because He personally experienced everything we struggle with. The substitution of Jesus Christ “for the sin of [our] soul” has made the capital “P” part of the picture again for us. It takes time and it’s not easy but it’s simple: Perfection will come with the practice of walking daily in his Affection for you.
“He [God] has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
2 Peter 1:1-12 Read these verses first in your favorite Bible. Today’s post is from the [SCV] Shirle’s Condensed Version. “Quotes” are from the NIV.
FYI: You have received a faith as precious as that of a disciple. It came with a core of knowledge about God and Jesus that promises abundant grace and peace as you learn to live it daily. What you’ve already received is everything needed for a godly life but there’s more to learn of Jesus’ glory and goodness that will protect you from “corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith” these qualities: goodness, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and finally love. Your faith doesn’t need anything more but these qualities help you learn to live what you know about Jesus and make you effective and productive, right here and now. Don’t be nearsighted, remember how your past sins have been wiped away? How you live your life of faith confirms that.
Live to learn all that God has yet to teach you even though you’re “firmly established in the truth you now have.” That’s what ties every day of this life to the “rich welcome” of the forever ahead.
John 15:15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. ESV
“God saves a person, fills him with the Holy Spirit, and then says, in effect, “Now you work it out in your life, and be faithful to Me, even though the nature of everything around you is to cause you to be unfaithful.” My Utmost for His Highest – Oswald Chambers
Daily is pretty long and pretty regular. There are times I’d just like to do what I’m told…read the Word…and not have to think about why and how it works in my life. Those are my “servant” relationship days of obedience. They’re good but Jesus has something even better in mind. The best thing: his friendship.
I wonder if that change in our relationship with Jesus is one of the main issues we deal with as believers? Most of us enter into that relationship more or less like applying for an entry-level job. It seems much simpler to accept the role of servant. The servant has the easy out of saying “I didn’t know” that transfers a lot of responsibility to the Master in case we happen to screw up.
Reread John 15:15 and think about that change. Have you accepted that promotion from servant to friend? You need to know this amazing truth: at the very moment you committed yourself to serving Jesus he committed himself to helping you understand you are so much more than a servant to him. You’re his trusted friend. That’s worth thinking about!
Hebrews 3:12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” 16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
There’s a warning here about letting your heart be turned away from the living God. It becomes a matter of faith when we recognize our imperfection and our first thought is to cover it up. That’s how “a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” can happen.
Imperfect People aren’t a problem for God. He’s got a good handle on how to deal with them. What does deeply concern him is the ease with which we can make that wrong choice when confronted with our imperfection when the whole purpose of faith is to keep us connected and close to him.
That is a dismal reality that sometimes happens but there’s also hope “Today,” “so that none of [us] may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” I saved this quote from Richard Dahlstrom’s writing. http://stepbystepjourney.com/?p=1605 “All of us know our inadequacies pretty well – what we need is to be told how much we’re loved, where we’re gifted, where we can shine.”
“We have come to share in Christ” because that is how God has chosen to deal with our imperfection. We can choose to accept his anger and be left out or we can enter into our connection to him and be changed by choosing repentance. Repentance is often humiliating and painful, as pieces of that hardened heart are broken off for all to see.
What if humility and hurt are really the two halves of Grace? What if God chooses to show us “how much we’re loved, where we’re gifted, where we can shine” through the humility and pain of repentance? I know for sure that’s the kind of Grace that moves my heart from the pages of a great book to a life of faith connected to the “living” God.
John 19:28 Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
Jesus’ words “It is finished” are an important reality of our life in Christ. I thought about their importance to the personal drama of my own “first” Easter with Jesus. It felt so big, so dramatic, so epic…and so complete…but it had just barely begun.
I wonder why it’s so easy to look at epic moments in our life of faith as finales when beginning right there on that cross, our hope lies in exactly the opposite being true. That’s the truth of Jesus words “It is finished.” Easter was not an epic finale but The Crescendo of a New Beginning.
I Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known…13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
How in the world do you love as Jesus loved…when some people just seem to deserve our criticism or even contempt? It would be so good to have a manual for this. A book that would help us look at them with eyes that see past what they say and how they act and see them made in God’s image. Oh wait…we do.
Spoiler alert: You aren’t perfect either and one sin isn’t worse than another. We have all broken Jesus’ heart. Jesus came to you in a relationship of Potential rather than problems. Thank God for that kind of love. It seems the very least Jesus might expect is that we let our hearts be broken for the potential of others in his name.
2 Peter 1:12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.
I had to stop and remind myself to pay attention to what comes after verse 12 because that verse is such an important thought for me. I believe it with all my heart. I can be devout, I can be faithful…but…I am only “established in the truth [I] now have. I am still a learner.
There are so many controversies that rage in the world of faith; devout people blowing up abortion clinics, devout muslims killing themselves and others in the name of holiness. Devout Christians with polar opposite views on the very same subject. Christians, like me, wanting so much to do the right thing and have the right position on any topic. In the name of God, the temptation becomes picking a side to follow…rather than picking a Savior to follow.
That’s the Truth I need to be reminded of.
Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
Don’t live in the paralysis of self-analysis wondering about your every choice. Believe that God is in Every Moment, every thought, everything that happens; that His Spirit is guiding and interceding; that your behavior is being influenced by God…whether or not you’re consciously aware of it. That’s the “much more in my absence” part.
Be prepared to be dragged into the correction of conscious awareness sometimes; to have to admit you made the wrong choice, to have to repent, to have to forgive, and to have to ask for forgiveness. That’s the “fear and trembling” part.
Be prepared to have moments of grace and glory that warm you, change you, teach you, humble you…and surprise you with the conscious awareness of knowing that you did hear from God and responded. Remember it’s a joint effort, you are not in this alone. That’s the “working out” part.