Monday, September 1, 2014

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ Soul Questions For a Rest-promising Quarry

“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.”[1]
          After some delightful digging in the quarry of Matthew 11:25-30, I am now at the place of wondering what to do with all the treasures I have gathered. If the call of Jesus is that we come to him for soul-rest, what are the practical, experiential issues that connect us to him and his gift? And, what does it look like to do this as the church, bringing one another to Jesus in such ways that result in whole churches of people experiencing unified rest for our souls?
          First of all, we are talking about “rest for your souls,” so the practical issues surrounding this must be aimed at soul-rest. This means we can exclude any practical issues that aim to fix soul-needs with material solutions.[2] While there are sometimes ways to change things that are causing unnecessary stress and distress,[3] there are far too many things in life we cannot fix in physical ways, that we must avoid trying to address soul-weariness with material solutions.
          In other words, there are times we can help someone get out of an abusive relationship, but too many times abuse happens in secret, while we are young, and while the world around us doesn’t know what is going on. By the time we are ready to cry out for help, too much damage has been done to our souls, and the solution to what is wrong inside us cannot be to protect us from abuse (while we will obviously keep trying to do this as often as the need arises). The ultimate solution for those who “labor and are heavy laden” must be to fix what abuse has done to our souls.
          The same with sin. Sin takes place in our souls. Sin is a conspiracy of heart, soul, and mind, all agreeing to enter into some illicit experience that is both independent of God, and contrary to his holiness and righteousness. Sin does damage to the soul. It wearies us with its guilt, shame, and fear. It ruins us to the core of our inner being. While we may be able to do certain practical things to avoid temptation to sin, we cannot control the world around us that is always ready to tempt and allure us away from our “sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”[4] Therefore, the rest from sin has to be something that takes place in our inner-selves.[5] We must know Jesus in the reality of soul-rest. Salvation must impact our souls with the feeling that we are now at rest with God in the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ.
          Secondly, it is Jesus who gives us rest, so we must look to him for the rest we need. We cannot fabricate this rest ourselves, or create it with the proper environment. We must come to Jesus to discover what he gives us for our rest. This would include forgiveness of sins,[6] and it would include healing for the brokenhearted and the binding up of our wounds.[7] No matter what we do personally, or in fellowship with others, it must match Jesus’ invitation to look to him for the soul-rest we need.
          Thirdly, this is an “I/you” relationship. There is no intermediary between us and Jesus. Jesus has received all authority from the Father to reveal all these things to his little children, so Jesus now comes and personally offers this rest. While it is clear that we must factor in the church’s involvement as the body of Christ, we must still identify this as a relationship between Christ and his people. It should feel to us like we are encountering Jesus in our souls.
          Fourthly, the three things that are required of the little children are that they come to Jesus, they take his yoke upon them, and they learn from him. Again, no matter what practical steps are included, people must feel like they are coming to Jesus in answer to his call. They must know that they are uniting their lives to his in the way a yoke would bind two animals together. And, they must enter into relationship with him that feels like he is the Shepherd and they are the sheep, that he is the Teacher and they are the students, that he is the Master and they are the disciples.
          Fifthly, church life must feel like the body of Christ is now connecting people to Jesus for the soul-rest he continually provides. It is very interesting the way this part of the quarry parallels Jesus’ instructions to his disciples regarding the church age. He told them,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”[8]
          Coming to Jesus looks like the church making us into disciples. Taking Jesus’ yoke upon us includes submitting to baptism as our personal expression of coming under this yoke of Jesus Christ. And, learning from Jesus includes the church teaching us to put into practice all that Jesus has taught us. The greatest experience of soul rest will take place in such fellowships as Jesus’ instructed.[9]
          While this is a small sampling of thoughts regarding how to bring the treasures of the quarry into the personal life of the body of Christ, it has all been a helpful reminder that there really is soul-rest in Jesus, and it has always been intended as something to share. I have found that Jesus has ministered soul-rest to me on numerous occasions when I have sought him alone in his word and prayer. I am also thankful to be part of the body of Christ where God’s little children learn together to “understand and know” our Savior as the source of our soul-rest.[10]
          For a long time I have operated under the philosophy of ministry, “Bringing the Soul-Condition of the people to the Soul-Provision of Christ through the Soul-Care of the body of Christ.” This past week in the quarry has certainly helped me grow in this way of life. I am thankful for the treasures of God's word.
© 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 11:28-30
[2] I want to make it very clear that I am not suggesting there are no practical, material components to our experience of Christ and his people. I am only focusing on the way that the actual rest to our souls comes from personal encounter with Jesus himself, both personally, and in fellowship with his body, the church. Any time we rely on some material thing to give us the rest and relief we are looking for in our souls, we will miss out on what Jesus can do for us even when no material or circumstantial changes can be made at all.
[3] Isaiah 58:6-7 shows some ways God expected his people to respond to the practical, earthly needs of others. Matthew 25:31-40 shows Jesus commending his sheep for ways they did things for him when they took care of the physical needs of “one of the least of these my brothers.” And, James was clear that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27). All these things can be done while aiming ministry at bringing those “who labor and are heavy laden” to Jesus for soul-rest.
[4] II Corinthians 11:3
[5] Ephesians 3:16
[6] Matthew 9:2; Acts 2:38
[7] Psalm 147:3
[8] Matthew 28:18-20
[9] This does not discount the ways Jesus will minister to his children who are in isolation, in prison, fleeing from terrorists, or even facing martyrdom. Jesus said that we are not to fear those who can do harm to our bodies, or to our material and physical well-being. We are to fear the one who has power over our souls (Matthew 10:28). In the case of Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus clearly wants to exert his power over souls by granting soul-rest to all the weary and burdened little children who come to him.
[10] Jeremiah 9:23-24

No comments:

Post a Comment