A&D Biker Ministries "Growing the Kingdom of God . . . one Biker at a time"

DOC'S BLOG

September 24, 2018

 

“A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH”

Romans 6:1-11

 

Have you heard the story about the drunk who stumbled onto a baptismal service one Sunday afternoon, down by the lake?  He walked into the water and stood next to the minister.  The preacher turned and said, “Mister, are you ready to find Jesus?”

 

The drunk looked back and said, “Yes, preacher, I sure am.”

 

The minister then dunked the fellow under the water and pulled him right back up.  “Have you found Jesus?”, the preacher asked.

 

“No, I didn’t!”, replied the drunk.

 

The preacher then dunked him under again, for quite a bit longer this time, then brings him up and asked, “Now, brother, have you found Jesus?”

 

“No, preacher, I did not.”, was the reply.

 

Disgusted, the preacher dunks the man again, and holds him under the water for at least 30 seconds!

 

This time, the preacher brought the man out of the water, and said in a harsh tone, “Friend, are you sure you haven’t found Jesus yet?”

 

The old drunk coughed and spit and gasped for air, then said . . . “Are you sure this is where he fell in?”

 

THAT guy didn’t know what he had gotten himself into, when it came to baptism!   Really, a lot of people don’t understand what it’s all about.  Baptism is taught in the Bible, but people are still sometimes confused about it.

 

God’s Word is the final authority on this issue, so let’s look to the Bible for what God wants us to understand about Baptism. 

 

Here are the 3 basic, and most important, parts of the sacrament of Baptism:

 

1. THE MANDATE

 

A “mandate” is an order, or a command, that must be followed. 

 

Matthew 28:18-19 (NLT)

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.  19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus, the One who has all authority, gave the command for the Church to practice the sacrament of baptism.

 

After Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension back to heaven, his disciples were told to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  When the Holy Spirit came, on the day of Pentecost, Peter preached the first gospel (Good News about Jesus) sermon!  Pete told the people about what Jesus had done and why he did it.  Feeling convicted, the people cried out, “What should we do?”

 

Acts 2:38 (NLT)

Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

 

Remember, Jesus himself was baptized when he began his public ministry. In Matthew, chapter 3, Jesus came from Galilee to be baptized by John.  But, John said that he was not worthy to baptize Jesus . . . and that Jesus should be baptizing him!  Christ said:

 

Matthew 3:15 (NIV)

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”  Then John consented.

 

Christians call baptism sacramentum (a sacrament) - the Latin word for ‘an oath of absolute devotion, allegiance and obedience to one’s commander.’

 

Jesus was saying that he was being baptized, because it was what was right to do . . . literally!

 

A mandate / a command requires obedience!

 

John 14:23 (NIV)

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.”

 

 

2. THE METHOD

 

The method of baptism is one of the most argued over issues in the Church.

 

Some say that the correct method of baptizing is sprinkling or making the sign of the cross.  You know, take some water and shake it over someone’s head.  I’ve baptized people with that method.  (It’s usually someone who is ill or who is bedfast.)

 

Some say that the correct method of baptizing is pouring.  You know, take a pitcher of water and pour it over someone’s head.  I’ve baptized people with that method.  (It’s usually someone who is handicapped or who is elderly.)

 

Some say that the correct method of baptizing is total immersion.  You know, take someone into a lake, or pool of water, and dunk them completely under.  I’ve baptized people with that method.    

What’s the common factor in each of those methods of baptism?  WATER!  AND, doing this sacrament in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 

3. THE MEANING

 

The Mandate to be baptized is important, and the method of baptism is important, but, the most important of all is the meaning of baptism.

 

The meaning of baptism is this:  It is the complete surrender of everything you are and everything you have to follow Jesus Christ and be one with him.

 

The water is not magical.  The pronouncement of “. . . in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” is not magical.  And, the person performing the baptism is not magical.

 

The Bible teaches us that only the blood of Jesus can wash away our sins.  Baptism is an outward sign of our inward surrender to Jesus.  It is a testimony to God, and to the Church, and to the world, that you no longer want to live under the power of sin but under the Lordship of Jesus Christ!

 

Baptism is a symbol of being buried with Jesus:

 

Romans 6:4a (NLV)

We were buried in baptism as Christ was buried in death. As Christ was raised from the dead by the great power of God, so we will have new life also.

 

Colossians 2:12a (NLV)

When you were baptized, you were buried as Christ was buried.  When you were raised up in baptism, you were raised as Christ was raised. You were raised to a new life by putting your trust in God. It was God Who raised Jesus from the dead.

 

Baptism is also symbol of being resurrected with Jesus:

 

Romans 6:4b (NLV)

We were buried in baptism as Christ was buried in death. As Christ was raised from the dead by the great power of God, so we will have new life also.

 

Colossians 2:12b (NLV)

When you were baptized, you were buried as Christ was buried.  When you were raised up in baptism, you were raised as Christ was raised. You were raised to a new life by putting your trust in God. It was God Who raised Jesus from the dead.

 

Who should be baptized?

 

EVERYONE who has made the decision to commit their life to Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

 

The Bible teaches that baptism is only a part of being a Christian. A certificate of being baptized is NOT a ticket into heaven.  Baptism by itself is NOT effective for salvation.  There are several things that must come in one’s life, before one is baptized: Faith / Repentance / Confession.

 

WhY IS baptiSM EFFECTIVE?

 

Baptism is not effective because you get wet . . . it’s effective because it’s part of the process of pledging your complete devotion to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

 

And, baptism is only effective if it makes a real difference in the way that you live your life in Christ.  There are lots of people in lots of churches who believe that they got eternity taken care of simply because they got wet (got baptized).  If you have not accepted Jesus as your Savior, all that happens in baptism is that you go into the water a dry sinner . . . and you come out of the water a wet sinner!

 

Your baptism certificate does not impress Jesus.  His only concern is the relationship you have with him, and the change you allow him to make in your life.

 

THE SYMBOLISM IN BAPTISM . . .

 

There is the symbolism of my body being washed clean by the water . . . just as the blood of Jesus has washed clean my soul (forgiven my sins).

 

There is the symbolism of me dying to my sins, and being buried in a water grave . . . just as Jesus was crucified dead and buried for my sins!

 

There is the symbolism of me being resurrected in new life in Christ (as I come out of the water) . . . just as Jesus was resurrected in new life, with all power and authority, 3 days after his death & burial!

 

Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Savior?

 

Have you surrendered completely to Him?

 

Is he making a difference in your life?

 

THEN . . .

 

Acts 2:38

“. . . repent of your sins, and

be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ

for the forgiveness of your sins.”

 

 
September 17, 2018

 

“HEART TROUBLE”

Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23

 

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to embrace the good news of salvation and others don’t?  Have you ever wondered why God sends people to hell?  Or, why people send themselves there . . . because they reject God & his free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

 

Jesus uses a parable, a picture story, in our scripture today, to talk about the various ways that people receive God’s word / the good news of salvation.  A parable has been described as ‘an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.’  As the Master Teacher, Jesus knew that people pay attention to illustrations!

 

Sometimes when I’m preaching, I can tell that I’m losing you.  You get that glazed over look, that thousand-yard stare!  But, if I start telling a story, suddenly everyone tunes back in!  Why is that?  Because, stories are powerful!  Stories grab our attention.  It was the same way, in Jesus’ day.

 

Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23 (NIV)

1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.  2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore.  3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed.  4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil.  It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.  8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop - a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.  9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

 

18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart.  This is the seed sown along the path.  20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time.  When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.  22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.  23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it.  This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

 

A lot of Jesus’ stories in the Gospels have to do with farming.  That’s because he lived in an agricultural society, where much of the economy was based in farming.  In our story today, Jesus talks about seed and four different soils.  Remember, back then farmers would throw out seed, by hand, from a little pouch - and hope that some of it would grow.

 

 

 

Also in today’s scripture, Jesus does something he didn’t often do with his parables.  Jesus interprets the hidden meaning of the parable for his followers.  He tells us in Matthew 13 (and also in Mark 4 and Luke 8) that:

 

  • The seed is the Word of God. 

 

  • The soil is the condition of our hearts (our inner life).  The soil represents our receptivity to the gospel / the good news of God’s forgiveness.

 

In three out of four of the “soil examples”, the people definitely have heart trouble. Let’s look briefly at those three examples, and then let’s consider the implications for us.

 

Example 1 - The seed sown along the path was eaten up by birds, which represent Satan / the evil one / the enemy of our soul.  In New Testament times, fields were surrounded by walking paths that had been baked and hardened by the sun.  Birds could easily find the seed and eat it up.

 

Jesus says, in verse 19, these are people who have hardened hearts.  The gospel never has a chance to penetrate below surface understanding, so Satan easily snatches it away.  Here’s v.19 from The Living Bible:

 

19 The hard path where some of the seeds fell represents the heart of a person who hears the Good News about the Kingdom and doesn’t understand it; then Satan comes and snatches away the seeds from his heart. (TLB)

 

Example 2 - Then Jesus talks about seed that falls on rocky places.  There’s a little bit of soil present, and sprouting of the seed happens.  But, the soil is so shallow that the plant cannot grow.  Jesus says, in verses 20 and 21, this seed represents people who outwardly embrace the gospel, but their emotional / superficial commitment quickly withers away at the first sign of trouble . . . because it has no depth.

 

20 The shallow, rocky soil represents the heart of a man who hears the message and receives it with real joy, 21 but he doesn’t have much depth in his life, and the seeds don’t root very deeply, and after a while when trouble comes, or persecution begins because of his beliefs, his enthusiasm fades, and he drops out. (TLB)

 

Example 3 - The third kind of person with heart trouble is represented by the seed sown among thorns.  In verse 22, Jesus says thorns represent the distractions of this world: peer pressure, status, anything that comes in and chokes out our spiritual growth.  This type of person never really breaks free from their past.  Worldliness, and the love of material things, choke out the Word of God . . . and nothing changes in their life.

 

22 The ground covered with thorns represents a man who hears the message, but the cares of this life and his longing for money choke out God’s Word, and he does less and less for God. (TLB)

 

This kind of person is like the young lady who received this proposal from her boyfriend.  He said, “Baby, I want you to know that I love you more than anything else in the world.  I want to spend the rest of my life with you.  I’m not rich.  I don’t have a yacht or a Porsche like Tommy Smith, but I love you with all my heart.”  She thought for a minute and then said, “I love you too.  But, tell me more about Tommy Smith.”

 

There was just bit of worldly distraction going on there, huh?!

 

Example 4 - And then, without much description or explanation, Jesus says that some people have very fertile soil in their hearts and they embrace the Word of God and see amazing growth: some 100-fold, some 60-fold, and some 30-fold.  (Again, this is an agricultural illustration, referring to producing a crop many times greater than the amount seed planted - thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much.)

 

23 The good ground represents the heart of a man who listens to the message and understands it and goes out and brings thirty, sixty, or even a hundred others into the Kingdom. (TLB)

 

So, what are the lessons for us, as we think about those with and without heart trouble today?  Here are some take-aways, from Jesus’ parable, that grabbed me.

 

1. We need to share the good NEWS of salvation in Jesus
     with everyone.

 

Remember, in the parable, the farmer throws the seed everywhere . . . not knowing in advance where it may take root and grow.  In the same way, God calls us to share the good news of his love and forgiveness with everyone that we encounter - sometimes with deeds and sometimes with words! 

 

As the famous saying goes, “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”

 

Now this was an unbelievable message for those who heard Jesus tell this parable!  They thought God’s Word was reserved exclusively for the Jews.  But, Jesus says in his parable that the seed goes out to everyone indiscriminately! 

 

If we’re honest, that is a challenging message for us today.  I mean, I have trouble believing God truly loves some people.  Yet he does!  That one person you despise the most - perhaps the face of a Muslim extremist that has turned terrorist; or maybe just the face of your next-door neighbor - Jesus loves that person just as much as he loves you!  When we remember that, everything changes.  We need to share the good news with everyone we meet.

 

2. We need to trust God to bring the growth.

 

Today’s medical knowledge allows wonders to be done with physical heart surgery, but only God can do spiritual heart surgery.  Sometimes we may grow frustrated with those who don’t embrace the gospel message, like we have, but that is between them and God.  Unfortunately, not everyone will come to Jesus.  Sadly, most won’t.  In today’s story, only 25% do! 

 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clearly tells us:

Matthew 7:13-14 (NLT)

13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate.  The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.  14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”

 

As we allow the soil of our heart to be open to God’s planting the seed of salvation, we enter the narrow road to life.  For those who are not on that road, we must pray that they wake up before it’s too late.  And, we must continue to love them unconditionally - just like God does.

 

We need to share the good news with everyone; we need to trust God to bring the growth;  and . . .

 

3. We need to cooperate with God in the growth that he  

     brings in us.

 

Notice that even for those with fertile hearts, God’s Word doesn’t grow at the same level in each of us.  Some will see 30-fold results, some 60-fold, and some even 100-fold.  That’s OK, because all of those results indicate amazing growth!  We can keep the soil of our heart fertile by regularly adding necessary nutrients, such as: conversational prayer with God, scripture reading, worship, small groups, and time with other Christians.  All these activities are ways to cultivate our spiritual life - not to just stay busy, but - to connect with Jesus Christ, the living Word, who is at work in us.

 

And as we connect, we allow ourselves to be transformed by God.  The Word of God takes root in our life and begins producing fruit.  We see God do things in and through us to bring himself glory.  We see prayers answered.  We notice God giving us more love, more kindness, more patience, more boldness, more grace for others, more forgiveness - as he conducts spiritual heart surgery in us.

 

Max Lucado, in his book, Just Like Jesus, writes these words: “God loves to decorate.  God has to decorate.  Let him live long enough in a heart, and that heart will begin to change.  Portraits of hurt will be replaced by landscapes of grace.  Walls of anger will be demolished and shaky foundations restored.  God can no more leave a life unchanged than a mother can leave her child’s tear untouched.  It’s not enough for him to own you; he wants to change you.  He won’t stop until he is finished.  And he won’t be finished until we have been shaped ‘along the lines of his Son.’”   (see Romans 8:29-30)

 

Folks, we need to share the good news of Jesus with everyone.  We need to trust God to bring the growth.  And, we need to cooperate with God in the growth that he wants to bring in us. 

 

Then . . . we can simply marvel, as God brings in his amazing harvest!

 

 

September 10, 2018

 

POSER or AUTHENTIC?

 

Romans 12:2 (CEV)

1 Dear friends, God is good.  So, I beg you to offer your bodies to him as a living sacrifice, pure and pleasing.  That’s the most sensible way to serve God.  2 Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think.  Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him.

 

Poser [poh-zer] n. - A slang term for someone who pretends to be something they are not.

 

We spent a couple of days in Milwaukee recently, at different venues of Harley-Davidson’s 115th Anniversary.  As I people watched, for hours on end, I had some interesting insights.

 

I noticed a difference between all people who ride motorcycles.  Some appeared that they just ride occasionally, enjoying the experience and camaraderie along with others who ride big dressers (like Gold Wings) that have all of the latest ‘extras and gadgets.’  For them, that’s what riding is all about, period.  

 

Then there were those riders who looked like they were trying too hard to look and act like a hardcore Biker.  They’d ride up on Harley’s, wearing a leather jacket (which they probably bought pre-worn) or a “Sons of Anarchy” t-shirt.  They looked “brave” and “bad” as they rode up on their bikes, but I wondered how quickly they’d head for their garage - at even a hint of rain.  (After all, if their bike got dirty they’d have to clean it . . . and, who wants to get wet?)

 

And then there were those who looked like they ride a cycle just because that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  You know, when the stress and strains of life get heavy they jump on their scooter and just head out on the road!  Soon, their mental chaos begins to disappear and their inner peace begins to return.  Their leather vest is so worn and sun-faded, but they wear it as a badge of honor (rather than thinking, “I need to buy a new vest.”)

 

You’ve seen these real deal Bikers.  You see them riding in good weather; in the scorching heat; in the rain; in the freezing cold; and a few even in the snow!


Being a Biker isn’t about riding a Harley, or being wild, or acting like a maniac.  It isn’t what you wear, or what colors and patches you wear.  It’s a mindset!  It’s a spirit of freedom that comes from riding a bike and enjoying life to its fullest.


What makes you a Christian?  Is it the church you attend?  Is it how nice you dress and the size of your bible?  Or, is it the Spirit of freedom from your salvation in Christ and enjoying every day to its fullest in your new life with Jesus?


Why do posers pretend to be bikers?  Because, they want to be like them.  Because, they feel bikers have something that they are missing in their life.  Similarly, people ought to look at us as Christians and see that we have something in our life that is missing in theirs.  And, they should want to obtain what we have!

Just like riders that put on their leather jacket and a dew rag and jump on their weekend Harley so they can feel like they are a Biker, a lot of people think they are a Christian . . . but deep down they know they aren’t living any different than anyone else.  They are just being a poser.

 

We know this is a fact, and most of us have probably even fallen into this trap.


Being a Christian is like being a true Biker.  It’s not what you wear or where you go to church.  It’s how you live your life!  This includes your public life and your private life . . . because God sees both, and, he has promised in the Bible that he will judge both.  (By the way, that’s a favorite saying of Bikers - as seen on tattoos and t-shirts - “ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE ME!”)

 

Too often we say we’re a Christian, but when we’re caught up in pleasures (money, sex, pride, greed, etc.), our testimony is tarnished . . . even if we don’t think anyone notices.  If we aren’t any different than the next guy, how is it that we are a witness for Christ?


Mohandas Gandhi said, “To believe in something, and not live it, is dishonest.”  

 

So, if you are a Christian . . . then live it!

 

 

September 3, 2018

 

“LABOR AND REST”

Matthew 11:28-30

 

In the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, who was your favorite dwarf?  (Mine is “DOC!”)  Remember the song they’d sing, while balancing picks and shovels on their shoulders?  “Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It’s Off To Work We Go.” 

 

We’ve changed that song, a little bit, over the years, haven’t we?  I bet that many of us have sung it like this - “I Owe, I Owe, So It’s Off To Work I Go.”  (Maybe if we had a diamond mine, like the dwarfs did, we would enjoy our work a little bit more!)

 

When I think about it, I almost feel like people my age got a double music whammy!  The same year that I graduated high school, when I stepped into the adult work-a-day-world of responsibility, Johnny Paycheck had a hit country song titled, Take This Job And Shove It.  It was a song about the hardships of work & life.  When I read the lyrics of that song now, over 40 years later, it seems that old Johnny Paycheck was just tired . . . wasn’t he?

 

Let’s talk today about “LABOR AND REST.”

 

Today is Labor Day.  You know, the holiday when we celebrate LABOR, by not working.  That never made sense to me, as I was growing up.

 

Labor Day actually has its roots in Canada, back in the 1800’s.  Some American men involved in the labor movement, here in the U.S., observed the holiday in Canada and pushed for the holiday here. 

 

In 1894 President Grover Cleveland proclaimed the first Monday in September as Labor Day.  At first, it was to recognize the labor unions and their commitment to the American worker.  However, today there is no special emphasis placed upon this holiday in honor of labor unions.

 

I don’t believe that I have heard anyone wish someone else a “Happy Labor Day.”  And, I know that I have never received a holiday card, text, GIF, or emoji - telling me, “Merry Labor Day!” 

 

Labor Day has devolved into nothing more than just a day off work.  But, we kind of like it, don’t we?  I mean, it’s been two months since the last holiday, (July 4).  And, we are tired, aren’t we?!

 

Did you read, or see, the story out of Tahoma, Washington, about Tattoo the basset hound?  (What a cool name, Tattoo!) 

 

Well, Tattoo didn’t intend to go for a run, but, when his owner accidently shut the dog’s leash in the car door - and took off for a drive with Tattoo still outside the vehicle - poor Tattoo had no choice!

 

A Motorcycle Cop, named Terry Filbert, noticed a passing vehicle with something dragging behind it.  He commented that the poor basset hound was, “picking them up and putting them down as fast as he could.”  He chased the car to a stop, and Tattoo was rescued!  (Poor Tattoo reached a top speed of 25 miles per hour, falling and rolling multiple times!)

 

I think that many of us live our lives like Tattoo.  You know, picking them up and putting them down as fast as we can . . . rolling around and sometimes feeling like we’re being dragged through life.

 

I read an article that said, back in the 1960’s, expert testimony was given to a Senate sub-committee on time management.  It was predicted that advances in technology would radically change how many hours a week people worked.  The forecast was that the average American would be working 22 hours a week within 20 years (by 1980).  “The great challenge,” the experts said, “would be figuring out what to do with all the excess time.”  Nearly 50 years later, after enormous advances in technology, how many of us are wonder what to do with all the excess time we now have?  Anyone?  Yeah . . . no.

 

I guess that the “experts” were wrong, huh?  I think that REST may be what so many of us desire the most in our life, right now.

 

When I ask people at church what they’re going to do, over any given holiday, the first answer I often get is:  “DOC, all I want to do is rest.” 

 

As I was preparing this Labor Day sermon, I asked myself this question:  How do we truly rest?

 

The Bible has a lot to say about rest!

 

The Jewish people were constantly seeking rest / refuge in God.  In Joshua Chapter 1, Moses had died and God has told Joshua to lead the Jewish nation across the Jordan River into The Promised Land.  Look at how this Promised Land is described by Joshua, as he talks to the tribes of Israel.

 

Joshua 1:13-15 (NLT)

13 “Remember what Moses, the servant of the LORD, commanded you: ‘The LORD your God is giving you a place of rest.  He has given you this land.’  14 Your wives, children, and livestock may remain here in the land Moses assigned to you on the east side of the Jordan River.  But your strong warriors, fully armed, must lead the other tribes across the Jordan to help them conquer their territory.  Stay with them 15 until the LORD gives them rest, as he has given you rest, and until they, too, possess the land the LORD your God is giving them.

 

True rest can only come through and from God.  (That is one of the ongoing themes throughout the Old Testament.)

 

Hebrews, chapter 4, talks about rest found in Jesus:

 

Hebrews 4:1-3 (NLT)

1 God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it.  2 For this good news -that God has prepared this rest - has been announced to us just as it was to them.  But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God.  3 For only we who believe can enter his rest. 

Only those who believe can truly rest.

 

In our scripture today, Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus tells us how we can have true rest.  Not just physical rest, but spiritual rest as well.  True rest can only come through peace with God!

 

Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  29 Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

 

Jesus says there are three things that we need to do in order to truly find rest:

 

  • we must Come To Him

 

  • We must let Him Carry Our Burdens

 

  • We must Commit to Him

 

1) Jesus says Come

 

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

 

Salvation comes, / TRUE REST comes; when we meet Jesus personally.  Notice that Jesus did NOT say, “Come to church.” 

 

Just being a member of the church doesn’t make you a Christian.  Church membership, without that personal relationship with Jesus, only makes you a hypocrite. (That is, you are pretending to be someone you are not.)

 

I recently walked into the Cardiac Care unit of Froedtert Hospital; the primary teaching place for the Medical College of Wisconsin.  I went there to pray with someone who was about to have a surgical procedure.  Just because the patient, and nurses, and an Anesthesiologist, and the Cardiac Surgeon saw me there - that doesn’t mean that I am a heart surgeon.  I was just there.

 

The same goes for church attendance and church membership.  Just because we are in the building doesn’t mean that we are Christians.

 

Gathering information about Jesus does not make you a Christian.

 

Joining a small group doesn’t make you a Christian.

 

Having parents who are / were Christian doesn’t make you a Christian.

 

We must first Come to Jesus if we are to truly be at rest in who we are in this life.

 

Harrison Ford - of Indiana Jones, Star Wars, etc. - was asked in an interview about his success.  Ford said this, “A man only wants what he ain’t got.”  When asked what that was, he answered, “Peace.”

 

Everyone is searching for peace or rest for their soul.  Jesus said “Come to me” - and I will provide the rest that you are searching and longing for.

 

1) Jesus says Come TO ME

 

2) Jesus says LET ME CARRY YOUR BURDENS

 

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

 

Jesus is saying, “Let me carry all these burdens that are on your back, and are making you so tired and weary.”

 

In Judaism, the teachers of the law had placed 613 rules and regulations upon the Jewish people, in order for the people to be right with God.

 

No one could possibly keep all 613 of those rules!  The people were discouraged and despondent, because they were seeking rest and peace, in their man-made religion.

  

Jesus was saying, “If you are tired of trying to please God by keeping all these rules and regulations that man has put on you, come to me and let me carry your burden of sin and shame - and I will give you rest from all of this.  Let me carry this for you.  In me, you will find rest.”

 

So many people try hard to “be good enough” to have a relationship with God . . . and still, they carry the burden of their sins around all the time!

 

Jesus say is saying, “Let me carry those burdens for you.  Let me make you good enough.  Let me take your place in being punished for your sin.  I will carry all your sin to the cross with me so that you no longer have to carry your sin!”

 

We’re reading Matthew 11:28-30 AFTER Jesus’ death & resurrection.  The people Jesus said this to were hearing it BEFORE the crucifixion of Jesus ever happened!  They knew what a “works religion” Judaism had become.  They desperately needed the grace that Jesus was offering them.

 

And try as we might, sometimes we forget that we are saved by grace, not by works, as Paul tells said:

 

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)

8 God saved you by his grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

 

We try to place rules and regulations on ourselves, and others, in order to be saved.  Jesus says, “No, I will carry your baggage.”

Aren’t you tired of trying to be good enough?

 

 

1) Jesus says Come to me

  

2) Jesus says LET ME CARRY YOUR SIN

  

3) Jesus says COMMIT YOURSELF TO MY TEACHINGS

 

29Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

 

A yoke is made of wood, and was hand made to fit the specific shoulders of the animal that was to be yoked.  The yoke was used to control animals.

 

Jesus was using this as a metaphor for submission.  He knew that those listening would understand.  At that time, many used the term “yoke” to describe their allegiance to a particular teacher / rabbi. 

 

Jesus was saying, “Commit to MY yoke.  Commit to my teaching, because my yoke is easy.  What I expect from you is different from all you have been taught.  Your eternal destiny will no longer be determined by works and rules and regulations.  I have a new way to eternal life.  Just yoke yourself to me.  Commit to my yoke!”

 

Guess what Jesus’ yoke is.  LOVE! 

 

Love God and Love Each Other

 

These are Jesus’ two commands to us:

 

Mark 12:28-31 (NLT)

28 One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate.  He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”     29 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel!  The Lord our God is the one and only Lord.  30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’  31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  No other commandment is greater than these.”

 

The yoke of the Pharisees was 613 rules and regulations!

 

Jesus’ yoke is two:  Love God, love each other.

 

It is when we do this, that we find true rest for ourselves!  If your soul isn’t able to rest, there’s no way you can find physical rest.

 

As we close, let me share some definitions of rest that the dictionary gives us, and how they parallel with the rest that Jesus offers.

1. REST - ceasing from action, motion, exertion, or labor.

 

To enter into God’s rest means to cease all efforts of self-help / trying to earn my salvation.

 

2. Rest - freedom from that which wearies or disturbs.

 

God’s rest gives us freedom from the cares and burdens that rob us of peace and rest.

 

3. Rest - Something that is fixed and settled.

 

God’s rest gives us an assurance that our salvation is settled in Jesus Christ!

 

As Christians, we have this assurance that eternity is fixed and settled for us through the shed blood of Jesus!

 

Jesus says, “Come to me.  I’ve got your baggage. All you have to do is love God and love each other.”

 

This Labor Day, we CAN rest in this promise from Jesus!

 

 

August 27, 2018

 

The Problem with

“What’s Best for Me”

(Part 2)

 

We said last week that when our starting point, in making decisions, is: What’s best for me?” - we end up looking through a self-centered lens at ALL of life. 

 

Jesus talked about the responsibility we do have to those around us.  Specifically, responsibility to those who are marginalized by society . . . those who are struggling; who are weak; who the world looks past. 

 

The question we need to ask is NOT, “What do I think we should do?” or “How do I want to handle this?”  The right question is, “What does God’s Word say about this?”  

 

Well, the Bible has a lot to say on this subject!  We began last week looking at Three Key Passages that speak about God’s concern for the weak and marginalized . . . and his expectations for us.

 

Three Key Passages:

 

The first passage, Luke 10:25-37, was the story of The Good Samaritan.  Today, let’s look at the other two . . .

 

Matthew 25:31-46

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  40 The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  44 They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’  45 He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  46 Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

 

Spoiler Alert:  However we treat people who are marginalized is how we treat Jesus.

 

Remember, it was Jesus himself who told this story of the “least of these.” 

 

There are three details I want you to see:

 

1) These actions are all toward marginalized people.

 

The descriptions of “the least of these” may not be exactly what we might think of today . . . but it is still the same people group:  the marginalized - those who are hungry, those who are thirsty, those who are strangers to us, those who are naked, those who are sick, and those who are prisoners - all fall in that category.

 

2) Jesus is NOT just vaguely interested in these people - he completely identifies himself with them.

 

Verse 4040 “. . . Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Jesus).” 

 

This means that Jesus is paying close attention to what we do for the marginalized, because Jesus identifies closely to these people!

 

3) How important is this? 

 

It’s so important that it’s how the sheep and goats get separated!

 

This is NOT a side issue.  This is NOT a “you can if you want to” issue.  This is NOT an optional issue for disciples of Jesus Christ.

 

Isn’t the dividing line (for our salvation) accepting Christ by faith?  YES!  The Bible does say that ‘salvation is by grace through faith.’  Why does Jesus say in this story that at the final judgment he will separate the faithful from the unfaithful . . . by what they did, or didn’t do, to the least of these?

 

Salvation is by grace, through faith in Jesus, period.  What Jesus is saying in this story is, “This type of compassion and mercy is such a natural part of living the true Christian life . . . I can use it to judge / divide the people.”

 

In other words, Christ-like compassion is a defining characteristic for a true Christian.

 

To sum up, this story highlights how central in our actions as Christians that compassion for others should be . . . AND, how much attention God pays to it!  We need to get this right!

 

Three K

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