Come to Me

cometomeJesus says, not said, Jesus says today, “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

Come to Me.

Jesus does not say, “Come to religion.”

Jesus does not say, “Come to spirituality.”

Jesus does not say, “Come to church.”

He does not say, Come to the divine one.”  Raising the question of who he thinks he is!

Come to Me.

He calls us to himself.  The pronoun is all-important:

Christianity began on Palestinian soil, as a relationship with a person.

It moved to Greek soil and became a philosophy.

It moved on to Rome and became an Institution.

It moved on to British soil and became a Culture.

It moved on to American soil and became an Enterprise!

But Christianity is essentially a Person.

Come to Me all who are weary and overburdened.  In the English language verbs function in two voices:  active and passive.  You may know that in the Greek language verbs function in three voices:  active, passive and what is called the middle.

Active – “I wash.”

Passive – “I am washed.”

Middle – “I wash myself.”

“All who are overburdened” is in the middle voice – “overburdened themselves.”  Thus, “Come to Me all who have overburdened themselves.”  For the most part, excessive weariness is our own doing.

“Come. . . and I will give you rest.”  Literally, I will rest you.  “I will give you rest” could lead us to think that “rest” can be experienced apart from Jesus, as though rest was a thing Jesus places in our hands which we then can carry off on our own.

“I will rest you,” suggests the personal involvement of the Rester.

Take my yoke upon you. . . and your souls, your inner being, will find rest.

Jesus is telling us that we are weary because we are wearing the wrong yokes.  Refreshment for the soul comes by “a transfer of yokes.”

The question is never, “Will I wear a yoke?”

Every person wears a yoke; there are no yokeless human beings.

The question is never, “Will I be a disciple?”  The question is always, “Whose disciple will I be?”

The question is never, “Will I be pressured by a spirit?”  The question is always, “Of all the spirits of the age that pressure me, to which will I yield?”

The question is never, “Will I wear a yoke?”  The question is always, “Whose yoke will I wear?”

Jesus tells us to come to Him, to enter into His rest because we have overburdened ourselves with the wrong yoke.  We all need His yoke, a yoke that is easy, a burden that is light.

“Come to Me” says Jesus.

 

With thanks to Darrell  Johnson in The Glory of Preaching, p.248-255

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We don’t do grace too well

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We are in a bind are we not?  I mean, a church is a community of mixed people, at every conceivable stage of life and experience, but together never-the-les.  The bind though, is that we are in this community as individuals gathered to love and serve the Lord and each other – and by-and-large, we want to do that, yet not without the occasional burp of dysfunction.

It would be fair I think, to take the hit on the proverbial chin, that the church is where one finds more hypocrites than anywhere else on the planet.  I know I am a hypocrite and I’m the minister!  But that is also the very reason why I am a Christian.  I am a sinner, I do sinful things, I think sinful things, I desire sinful things.  But thanks be to God there is a cure for sin, and that is salvation, a Christ-won salvation!

Salvation of sinners, hypocrites, liars, murderers, God-deniers, and the like, is God’s direct and effective self-revelation….in Christ….always and only in Christ……that opens the eyes of sinners, that they see him as a loving Father who has invited them into the joy and fellowship of His own self, the God-head of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  And this should, I say should, set us free.

Most of the time, for many people, we respond to grace as we respond to a generous gift from a friend, “Oh you shouldn’t have.”  We take the gift and immediately the plotting starts on how we are to pay the person back for their gift.  That’s because we don’t do grace too well at all.  And this then leads to a fruit, a product, a worldview, a consequence of thinking about grace wrongly:  we become workers, doers, activists, organised, efficient.  In theological language we become nomians, law makers and law keepers and often law-seekers, the more laws the more po-faced we become, and the more po-faced the more righteous and religious -right?  It’s as if the whole book of Galatians was written for us, and we simply deflect verses such as 5:1 as being for others, them…out there….and certainly not us!!

When there is a law, what need of grace?  Grace language becomes a part of our religious discourse for sure, but its power, its truth, its vitality is simply not grasped.  Oh how we must nod sagely as we read in Ephesians 2 “…by grace you have been saved…” but inwardly shudder, maybe even mumbling something about the book of James balancing out all this nonsense about grace language with a works language.  After all, isn’t activism, busyness, practical-ness a contemporary virtue of our present day?  Now a works language we get, “Tell me what to do?”  It’s all a bit mixed up.  We don’t know what to do with Jesus’ own words about works:  “The work of God is this: believe the One He has sent…”  (John 6:29).

When we truly do get this kind of work, believing the God-man Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, the Word of God with skin on, the eternally begotten, the One who holds the universe in the palm of His hands and sustains it with the word of His power, this Jesus, is the One who offers salvation by grace to wayward sinners.  How on earth can that salvation offered by such a God ever be skewed to the degree that we think we’ve got to add to it or earn more favour (like what? What could we possibly add to that?).  Jesus died for you.  Your sins curse has been trumped and trashed by God’s salvation cure!  “Oh you shouldn’t have!  For me….really…..Oh I must pay you back….”

I’d like to end with a personal account from the 17th century of what I’m trying to say.  It’s about 1653 and a man named Humphrey Mills, who believed Christ – but under law, until one day he heard the sweet gospel preaching of the great Puritan Richard Sibbes.  Humphrey writes,

“I was for three years together wounded for sins, and under a sense of my corruptions, which were many; and I followed sermons, pursuing the means, and was constant in duties and doing; looking for Heaven that way.  And then I was so precise with outward formalities, that I censured all to be reprobates, that wore their hair anything long, and not short above their ears; or that wore great ruffs, and gorgets, or fashions, and follies.  But yet I was distracted in my mind, wounded in conscience, and wept often and bitterly, and prayed earnestly, but yet had no comfort, till I heard that sweet saint….Dr Sibbes, by whose means and ministry I was brought to peace and joy in my spirit.  His sweet soul melting gospel sermons won my heart and refreshed me much, for by him I saw and had much of God and was confident in Christ, and could overlook the world….and my heart held firm and resolved and my desires all heaven-ward.”

That’s what salvation does because salvation is from Jesus, the Saviour of the world.

Apocalyptic Imagination

The apocalyptic imagination Eugene Peterson talks of gives us a sense of ‘deep time’ – a sense of ‘ages’ that transcends the compulsion of time-management experts.  But the working environment of pastors erodes patience and rewards impatience.  People are uncomfortable with mystery (God) and mess (themselves).  They avoid both mystery and mess by devising programs and hiring pastors to manage them.  A program provides a defined structure with an achievable goal.  Mystery and mess are eliminated at a stroke.  This is appealing.  In the midst of the mysteries of grace and the complexities of human sin, it is nice to have something that you can evaluate every month or so and find out where you stand.  We don’t have to deal with ourselves or with God, but can use the vocabulary of religion and work in an environment that acknowledges God, and so be assured we are doing something significant…

…The secular mind is terrorized by mysteries.  Thus it makes lists, labels people, assigns roles, and solves problems.  But a solved life is a reduced life.  These tightly buttoned-up people never take great faith risks or make convincing love talk.  They deny or ignore the mysteries and diminish human existence to what can be managed, controlled and fixed.  We live in a cult of experts who explain and solve.  The vast technological apparatus around us gives us the impression that there is a tool for everything if only we can afford it.  Pastors cast in the role of spiritual technologists are hard put to keep that role from absorbing everything else, since there are so many things that need to be and can, in fact, be fixed.

Eugene Peterson in The Contemplative Pastor

You’re Too Busy To Read This

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If you’re busy and you know it clap your hands….Now get back to work you slacker!

We are all suffering from the disease – the dis-ease – of of what someone has called “hurry sickness.”  We glory in telling others how busy we are, we justify our Sabbaths and relaxation with movement and activity just so whoever may be spying on us can be reassured that even when we “rest” we do not slack off!

Hurry sickness is a perverse god of the modern age.  It demands and promises more and more whilst fulfilling and satisfying less and less.  Dude, get over yourself, how important do you really think you are to the turning of this world?  In order to prove ourselves to others (and to ourselves), we work through our coffee breaks often, take shorter lunch breaks – food is for losers; time is money – and slowly squeeze play and contemplation from our lives.  After all, what consumer driven society such as the Western world wants people to stop and think! Continue reading