Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pastoral Ponderings ~ The Living Attachment That Gives Rest to Souls

          I continue to be overwhelmed by my consideration of the very familiar Scripture revealing the way Jesus calls the weary and burdened to come to him for rest.[1]
          My morning began with great appreciation for a weekend break. This particular long weekend holiday[2] gives me much more time to spend alone with God in his word and prayer, a highlight of my year. With all this enjoyment of an interlude from my regular activities, I had plenty of time to enjoy the amazing connections between so many thoughts of Scripture.
          For starters, I became intrigued with this partnership between, I will give you rest,” and you will find rest for your souls.”[3] At first, it was the consciousness that Jesus was telling little children what he would do, and what we would experience. He will give rest, and we will find it, know it, live it.
          From there, it began to settle into my soul that Jesus wants to give an experience of rest that is far beyond what many of us know. He wants us to have rest inside our souls. The kind of rest he gives us produces this soul-rest the little children are looking for.
          What I realized was that, anything my sarky-soul wishes would happen for my happiness or satisfaction, is wearisome. It doesn’t matter whether I feel a need for a certain response to something I am doing, or for certain people to be in my life, or for certain things to happen in the world around me. Neither does it matter if I am trying to make sure that particular responses, people, and experiences stay out of my life. The very fact that I need those things to happen in those particular ways makes life exhausting.
          It is in such lives as this that Jesus speaks about a kind of rest he gives that causes us to find the rest we long for. He wants us to have rest for our souls. He gives us this rest. We find this rest in him. It is his gift to little children.
          Suddenly this connected to something else that had already blessed me this week, and that is the expression of God’s will that we understand and know him.[4] He does not want us boasting in our wisdom, strength, or wealth, but in this experiential reality that we understand and know him. He does not want us trying to deal with him and his Father through our own ingenuity, the ignorance of the wise and understanding, but by coming to truly understand and know him.
          This means that God wants us to understand that Jesus gives rest to little children in such a way that those little children find rest for their souls. But, it also means that Jesus wants us to know this by experience. He wants more for us than that we understand the doctrines of soul-rest in Jesus Christ. He wants us to know that soul-rest, and to know him as our soul-rest.
          This is a monumental expression of interaction between those who are dead in their trespasses and sins, and the holy and righteous God who could damn us to hell. This is the gift of God’s grace, where the Savior comes into the world, expressing holy and righteous living in the flesh of man. He comes with mercy, and justice. He stands against the wicked and evil doers, who are a different group of people than the general populace would have imagined. He treats sinners as sinners, and calls them to himself. He does not condone prostitution, or adultery, or drunkenness, or thievery, but calls sinners to repent and enter his kingdom.[5]
          I find that this whole thing about God giving us rest stands against things our sarks think we need, things we strive for, long for, wish for, and hope for. These are things that are contrary to God’s plans for us because they are an expression of our flesh, not of our new hearts in fellowship with the Spirit. There are unmet needs from childhood that will not be met by trying to relive our childhoods, or have just the right people in our lives, or fabricate a relationship with people who don’t really want to be in our lives. We cannot go back and recreate things that we lost a long time ago.
          Instead, there is this thing called, “take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.”[6] There is a way in which repentance is breaking our ties to every other yoke so that we can replace it with the yoke of Jesus Christ. Other yokes enslave us, because they create an impossible burden of trying to satisfy ourselves.
          In fact, the message to the little children is that every other yoke we have tried leaves us laboring and heavy laden. We are weary and burdened. We are overwhelmed with the incessant demand to keep doing things to make ourselves feel good, even to make ourselves feel good in relationship to God.
          The little children are weary and burdened because they are yoked to the world, the flesh, and the devil. The option is to take Jesus’ yoke upon us, replacing all other yokes, repenting of and renouncing all other yokes, and settling into a lifetime of learning from Jesus.
          It is interesting that it does not tell us to learn lessons, or learn knowledge, or learn information, but to learn from Jesus. This is a yoke-relationship in which little children learn from their Big Brother because they are attached to him in faith.
          Here is the problem for the wise and understanding. They cannot let go of the yoke of their own righteousness and achievement, and so they would never bear the yoke of Christ. They would never admit that they are not wise and understanding, and so they would never be able to learn from Jesus.
          Case in point is Saul, the Pharisee.[7] He saw the Church as a sect, a cult, a false religion he had to extinguish. He was filled with his own wisdom and understanding, and could not see that he was yoked to his own pride, and his own self-dependence.[8]
          When God confronted Saul on the road to Damascus,[9] Saul was on his way to express his angry and violent character upon innocent disciples of Jesus Christ.[10] He was doing what his own wisdom and understanding dictated. He had already approved of Stephen’s murder,[11] and was quite willing to participate in many more, whatever it would take for his own wisdom and understanding to be satisfied with the extinction of the Way.
          Saul was yoked to his own righteousness, and all his beliefs about righteousness, so that the only way he could feel rest was if he obliterated  Christians. It is similar to the anger and violence of present-day terrorists who want to see Christians wiped off the face of the earth. They think they would be happy if they took over this world. They are so yoked to their own wisdom and understanding that they will only be happy if they get their way, and get rid of someone, and have the government the way they want, and the rules the way they want.
          When we yoke ourselves to ourselves, which means we are yoked to something of the world, the flesh, and the devil, we can only feel rest when we get full satisfaction from whatever we are yoked to. If we are yoked to approval from peers, we can only be happy when we are doing things of which our peers approve. When we are yoked to sinful pleasures, we can only be happy when we derive all the pleasure from sin we can imagine. Prostitutes, drunks, and tax collectors were all yoked to variations of sin that gave them pleasure.
          However, there is a way in which repentance is breaking this yoke, denouncing and renouncing our yoke to sin. We cannot yoke ourselves to Christ and to sinful passions at the same time. It simply doesn’t work. We repent of whatever yokes make us weary and burdened, and welcome the yoke of Jesus Christ that gives rest to our souls.
          While the wise and understanding yoke themselves to whatever makes them feel good, whatever they decide is best for them, the little children are those who know that they are sinners in the hands of a wrathful God.[12] They are the ones who want to repent and enter Jesus’ kingdom. They want Jesus’ yoke instead of whatever they have yoked to themselves.
          The conclusion for me is simple: in whatever ways God reveals that I am not at rest because of my sarky goals and desires, I must repent of these things, renounce any yoke I have to those experiences, and yoke myself to Jesus Christ my Lord so that I can learn from him. It is that relationship that gives rest to my soul, so it is the one relationship I must have working and growing in my life.

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] Matthew 11:25-30
[2] Labour Day weekend here in Canada
[3] Matthew 11:28-29
[4] Jeremiah 9:23-24
[5] Matthew 4:17
[6] Matthew 11:29
[7] Acts 9 shows how Saul became the apostle Paul after his conversion to Jesus Christ.
[8] Philippians 3:1-11 shows Paul’s contrast between his old desires and his new desires.
[9] Acts 9:1-2
[10] I Timothy 1:12-17 is Paul’s testimony of the kind of man he was before Christ, and what Jesus did in his life.
[11] Acts 7
[12] Hebrews 10:31

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