Monthly Archives: November 2016

I Will Give You Rest – Not More Burdens!

Many people believe that Jesus came in order to establish an even tighter set of Rules on believers (in His day, that would be the Jews) who were already struggling to keep the Law. More Rules like (to paraphrase): Thou shalt not look at a woman lustfully (Mt 5:28); Thou shalt forgive thy brother seventy times seven times (Mt 18:21-22); Thou shalt be pure in heart, or else thou shalt not be able to see God (Mt 5:8) (although that’s not actually what it says!). The list goes on. Usually, these sayings of Jesus that are translated as modern-day ‘new’ commandments are simply blessings that humans have turned into Rules. In actuality, Jesus gave only two commands: Love God, and Love your neighbour as yourself (Mk 12:30-31; Jn 13:34). Other supposed ‘commandments’ were either blessings that have been turned into conditional blessings (and therefore Rules) by modern-day Pharisees – like the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-12), or they are things Jesus was saying to those around Him at the time who were dependent on their own works of righteousness for their justification before God. So, when Jesus said that ‘Your righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees’ (Mt 5:20), and all these other things like the ‘lustful commandment’ above,  He was meaning precisely that failing on one point of the Law (James 2:10) (which the Pharisees must have done regularly, as nobody is perfect) then you might as well fail on the whole Law. In other words, righteousness through the Law is unattainable – as we already know! (Rom 3:20). Therefore in these passages Jesus is calling attention to our inability to make ourselves righteous by fulfilling God’s impossible Law, whether we are Pharisee or ‘sinner’! So actually Jesus came not only to fulfil the Law, but to show us why He needed to fulfil the Law on our behalf. Genius!

In the article below, my friend Tim reveals the heart of the Gospel in one of his early blog articles – this one’s from 2013 – that it really is Good News, and not simply more Rules to follow, which would be simply Bad News. Jesus came to give us Rest!

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

– Mt 11:28-30 (Message)

Over to you, Tim:


I Will Give You Rest—Not More Burdens

Many say the foundational passage of the New Testament is John 3:16. Even young children can quote it:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Yet I believe the passage that reveals the heart of the New Testament is in Matthew 11:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Both passages touch my heart and draw me toward Jesus, yet the first (as used by many believers) seems almost doctrinal—describing what God did, while the second is invitational—inviting me to accept what Jesus offers. In introducing Jesus to those who might be interested in him, I prefer to use Jesus’ own invitation; I believe it is applicable to all people at all times. Practically everyone desires relief from inner weariness and the burdens of life. Almost all of us want rest.

In his report, Matthew does not leave out the Father and his relationship to Jesus because the statement is preceded by:

All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

 

Jesus Does not Attach Conditions to His Invitation

In the invitation, Jesus offers us rest for our ‘souls’ and begins to introduce us to the Father. We are pleased to learn that Jesus is gentle and humble in heart; he is no tyrant or overlord who has something we need but who will exact a price from us for it. His motives are pure. He is approachable. We do not need be on our guard with him. We need not grovel. He is gentle; he is accepting; he is safe.

To whom does Jesus make this invitation? It is to everyone. ‘Come to me, ALL you who are weary and burdened’—unless, I suppose, one is not weary or burdened. There are no preconditions. There is no creed or doctrinal statement mentioned. There is no screening out of certain types of people. There is not even a sinner’s prayer.

There is only Jesus and his invitation: ‘I will give you rest.’

Jesus adds that those coming to him should take his yoke upon them and learn from him to find rest for their souls, but he goes on to say that his yoke is easy and his burden light.

Once we accept Jesus’ invitation, we will begin to learn of him, and he does tell us important things that affect our lives, but they are not onerous requirements. This is no trick. We will not discover that accepting Jesus’ invitation ultimately involves lists of rules or demands. We will not have to accept beliefs that are contrary to our own reason. In fact, there are no belief requirements at all—only rest from weariness and burdens, and learning from Jesus.

Jesus Does not Load Us with Burdens as Some Suppose

Jesus promises to relieve our burdens, not to increase them. Much of the problem with traditional Christianity is the burden it puts on its members—from requirements of specific behavior to requirements of doctrinal creeds. These are all baggage; they are not the requirements of Jesus.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Consider Jesus’ invitation. We explore the wonderful ramifications of this invitation on this blog. Do you find Jesus’ invitation appealing? I do.


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Fiona

This entry is part 1 of 38 in the series Fiona

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Today, I have to share the devastating news that my wonderful wife, Fiona, passed away peacefully last week at the age of 52. She’d been suffering from pancreatic cancer.

We’d been married for 32 years; I was 21 and she was 19 when we married. We always said how glad we were that we’d married young because we got to spend more of our lives together.

We had so many adventures together: exploring our lovely country and other parts of the world; raising three wonderful children and then our two lovely grandchildren whom Fiona doted upon; exploring our faith and worshipping Jesus together. Fiona had an amazing singing voice which complemented mine perfectly.

Fiona was a Special Needs teacher at a local Church of England primary school. Over the sixteen years she was there, she touched hundreds of childrens’ lives in such a positive way. Fe had the gift of being able to see the potential – she saw it as a ‘golden thread’ – in even the most difficult of children, and of being able to bring out the full potential of each and every one of them. With a warm, loving heart and a gentle spirit, she looked after her students as if they were her own children; being there for them when they were sad, sharing in their joys, taking them to hospital in her car if they injured themselves in the playground, or simply using my first-aid cure-all – the ‘cold compress’ – and gentle words for less severe injuries.

Fiona affected so many lives that her Memorial service is going to be packed to the doors*. I’ve never known a lady so loved by so many people, such was the effect she had on them, students and parents alike. So many people have commented on how they loved the way she believed in their children, and brought out the best in them. It was such a privilege for me to be married to such an amazing lady. Her selfless giving and gentle spirit, along with her loving forebearance of all my weird Aspie traits, and the devotion with which she loved me, will never cease to amaze me. I never really felt worthy of that kind of love, but she gave it to me in full measure.

Fiona’s aim in life was to be Jesus to everyone she met, and she did this so well, living in her simple, trusting faith and devoted love for her Saviour, with Whom she now walks in the most glorious paradise which is beyond our imagination. She always loved all the seasons, with their variety of colours, smells and weather; she loved flowers, laughter (with her wacky sense of humour) music, moors and mountains, valleys and woods, walking, horses and people and watching them going about their business with a deep fascination. She’s now in a place where she can ride horses again – she’d had an injury which has prevented this for some years – and where the mountains are beyond anything we have here and where the colours are more real and radiant. And she is with Jesus. Over the last week I have had a series of solid visions showing me just what Fiona has right now, and it’s been life-changing even at a time of my life where my life is already changing because I have lost her. Now, I look forward to being with her, and although I know God has things still for me to do here, I look forward with eager anticipation to the time when I will see her again.

Her last battle was over the last two and a half years. We fought this terrible disease hand in hand and side by side, each trying to spare the other the worst of the ravages of the chemotherapy, the disease symptoms and the side-effects. We gave it our best shot, but this disease defied everything we could throw at it; I have never seen an illness so resistant to healing prayer. And I don’t understand that, having as I do a deep faith in God’s ability and willingness to heal.

Typically of Fiona, with her self-giving nature, I am sure that she underwent all these treatments not so much to save her life – we always knew it was a remote hope – but to help those who loved her, by giving them the chance to see her actually doing something about the illness. Fiona was never in any doubt about her final destination – heaven – and death held no fear for her. She really was remarkable. In her last months, she had a real, solid, lucid waking vision of what heaven was going to be like for her, which, typically, she did not share with me until only recently, for fear of upsetting me. I can’t go into the details but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was certain of her reward and that she has indeed gone to receive it from Jesus.

I don’t know the spiritual mechanics of what happens when someone dies. But I know, utterly and completely beyond any doubt at all, that Fiona is ecstatically happy, knowing that we who are left will be fine. In so many ways, losing Fiona, even in the face of disappointed hope for healing, has actually strengthened my own faith. Odd, isn’t it?

Fiona, I will miss you so much. But I’ll see you again, and next time it will be without the ravages of that bloody disease on your lovely person. You’re whole now, healed and glorified, and out of suffering and indeed in such glorious, glorious joy.

And you deserve every bit of it, you brave, beautiful girl.


*Edit: Fiona’s memorial service was indeed packed; the church was almost full. So much good fruit came of Fiona’s service; there are more details here.

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