This was preached at New Wine Christian Fellowship [9/1/2013]
When I spoke last, “on Undisclosed Spiritual Pride”, I never got to the important point that needs to made with any warning: awareness of the problem is good, focusing on the problem creates more problems and solves little. The gospel is a very simple answer to all problems great or small. It all begins with the call of Jesus.
Matthew 11:28-30 ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
“and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal” (Luke 9:2). We at New Wine have been emphasizing the second part of that statement “and to heal”, but it is fair to say that healing is enveloped in the first “the kingdom of God”. For the kingdom of God is likened unto the relationship of man and his bride (Matthew 25:1-13), or a branch grafted into a tree (John 5:1-9). When a man asks a woman to be his wife, this is not a casual request, would you like to come over to my house for a while, it is a deep desire calling for a lasting union. The groom will do everything in his power to make the bride as splendid as possible on the wedding day. That means the most beautiful wedding hall, the most beautiful dress, the nicest car, but it also means total healing, total deliverance, total freedom from the weight that binds.
When Jesus says, ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden”, come expecting the riches of God's Kingdom, come leaving behind all that this world has to offer, come and I will make you the most beautiful bride on the planet. Jesus call to come is a call full of passionate desire.
Jesus is indignant when the disciples attempt to prevent children from coming to him:
Mark 10:13-15 And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’
Jesus jealously guards those who come to him. It is in the nature of who he is and the destiny placed on him by Father God.
John 6:37-40 “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Greater indignation is reserved for those who “search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40). But the greatest indignation is reserved for the shepherds who attempted to stop people from coming to Jesus. “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.” (Matthew 23:13).
Psalm 145:14-17 The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.
“The LORD is just in all his actions, and exhibits love in all he does”, this is the reading of verse 17 in the NET (New English Translation) Bible. That is the one I want to hang out with, especially when I know He is all powerful and all knowing. I especially wouldn't want to practice injustice or evil against anyone under the covering of the hand of God. An echo of the opening line (verse 14), “The LORD upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down” appears in an interesting place, Jesus' circumcision in the temple. In the second chapter of Luke's gospel, we know the story, Simeon “came in the Spirit into the temple” and taking the eight day old child, Jesus, Simeon prophesied:
Luke 2:34-35 Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.
On the face of it, Simeon's prophecy sounds foreboding, but it rests on a truly glorious passage from a truly glorious psalm. Simeon may well have been holding Jesus still, when the prophetess Anna comes into the temple and seeing Jesus, “began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38).
The late David Wilkerson prophesied wonderful outpouring for the church and great economic and political turmoil. Others are picking up this theme. When God moves, the sword cuts two ways. At the time of the First Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards stated it well:
“It is abundantly evident by the Scripture, that as a time of great outpouring of the Spirit is a time of great favour to those who are partakers of the blessing, so it is always a time of remarkable vengeance to others. So in Isa. lxi. 2. what is called ‘the acceptable year of the Lord,’ is call also ‘the day of vengeance of our God.’ So it was amongst the Jews, in the apostles days. The Apostle, in 2 Cor. vi. 2. says of that time, that it was ‘the acceptable time, and day of salvation’ and Christ says of the same time, Luke xxi. 22. ’These are the days of vengeance.’ While the blessings of the kingdom of heaven were given to some, there was an ‘axe laid to the root of the trees, that those that didn't bear fruit, might be hewn down, and cast into the fire,’ Matt. iii. 9-11.” (Jonathan Edwards, Thoughts on the Revival of Religion in New England, 1742. Pages 468-469.)
We also see this tension in the third chapter of Luke, where John the Baptist quotes Isaiah 40, “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:6), and immediately follows with, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Luke 3:7). God the Father, from the depths of His love, has laid an invitation before us. This is not a languid ‘come if you like’ invitation, it is an urgent invitation with the most stark contrast: joyous transformation or miserable, fearful darkness, forever.
The incredible cost to Jesus Christ the Son of God and to the Father which opens this invitation to us, ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden”. This should impress upon us the incredible significance of the invitation. In the days of Job, King David, Moses or Elijah this invitation did not exist. By the sacrifice of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is available to us. All we have to do is to believe enough to drop everything, everything, everything, and come to Jesus the King of Glory.
Genesis 2:9 And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The significance of this transaction is in two trees. In the book of beginnings these two trees appear. We don't know much about these trees except their names, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And we also know that the second tree is forbidden “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” Genesis 2:17.
We all know the story so I won't go into the detail… the serpent talks Eve into eating from the forbidden tree and she convinces Adam to eat from it as well (Genesis 3:1-7). When they eat of it, the life that they are blocked from is the life from the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22-24). In verse 6, it says that, “when the woman saw that the tree was good for food” she ate (Genesis 3:6). How did she know it was good for food? She listened to the serpent and believed his report. God had already said it was not to be eaten from, therefore it was not good for food. Right here in the garden Adam and Eve have decided to choose for themselves what is right and what is wrong. God's word is no longer the final say.
God became our advisor. He tells what is the good thing to do and what is the bad thing to do. He even tells us the consequences. And then we choose. That is the nature of the Law. If we do really well, then we come into the position of Job. God actually brags about how well Job keeps the Law (Job 1:8). After bragging on Job, God does something completely outside of the Law's reward-curse scenario, He places a curse on Job (through Satan). Job has done everything to deserve blessing, but he gets a curse. All of his friends are convinced that Job is hiding secret sin. There has to be a reason.There is a reason. God is bringing Job to the end of the Law, to the end of the knowledge of good and evil. For the Tree of Life is to walk with God in perfect trust, i.e. faith. At the end of it all, nothing has turned the curse upon Job, but Job really sees God and so he falls before him (Job 42:5-6). God instruct the three friends, “my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly.” (Job 42:8). Ignoring all that has gone before, ignoring the Law, Job blesses those who have cursed him (Job 42:9).
Jim Bakker was a popular if flawed servant of God. Like Job, God chose to stop him in his tracks, to do the most unexpected thing, to bring every bit of his work to ruin.
God had been showing me in many ways that the primary reason He had allowed me to be imprisoned was not to punish me, nor was it so I could minister to other prisoners; I was in prison so I could get to know Him. (Jim Bakker, I Was Wrong, 1996. Page 294.)
Nothing we do, no matter how noble, has any significance until we know God. In an instant, Job, who lived several hundred years before Moses, has his eyes opened, and he latches onto the heart of the gospel's law, “bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:28). This is not the knowledge of good and evil, of blessings and curses. This is total trust in the goodness of God, even when everything in your circumstance wars against it. When the devil comes and says, ‘Can't you see that God doesn't have your back. He is watching from a distance. He is testing you. He only loves those who are perfect, and you clearly are not.’ Only the one holding onto the hand of the man who walked on water, whose relationship with Jesus is real, only that one will say with confidence, ‘I know it looks bad, but devil, you just watch and see what love does.’ How can I be confident, he said it, ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden”. I dropped everything and I came. I have never been disappointed.
John 15:1,4 I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser… Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
You have access to the Tree of Life. “ Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life.” (Revelations 22:14). How do you wash your robes: ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden” ‘Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3).
There it is. The secret ingredient, hidden in broad daylight. ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden”.
Matthew 11:26-30 I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Blessed indeed is the rich man who sees his need. It is so easy for someone say, ‘I'm doing very well. Now, so-and-so, they need prayer. But, me, everything is going well for me.’. We met a lady out on treasure hunt the other night. She had no needs, but she was sure that her co-workers needed help. At the end of days will she wish she had said, ‘Please pray for me. I council others all day long, but I cannot bring the healing they need. I am weak, but the yoke is great.’
Is there a burden that you carry, that is greater than your power to resolve? Is there a cost you cannot pay? Is there an addiction you cannot break? Is there a word that has gone forth from you that you wish you could take back? Is someone or some thing lost to you, that you cannot recover? Come. Come and let the God of grace break that yoke. Come and know the love of God.
Ephesians 3:14-21 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.