Fruit From the Vine: Come to Me

Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV) “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.”

I have been burdened, ironically, with this verse lately. Burdened in a non-burdensome way, but in a freeing and restful kind of way. I have been mulling this over, chewing on it for a few days now and thinking about what it does mean and what it cannot mean.

There can be two very big misconceptions (at least) when we hear, “come to me” or “follow me” from Jesus. One misconception is that we have to clean ourselves up and be pretty close to sinless so that we can come to Him and follow Him without hypocrisy. Another misconception is that Jesus is okay with who you are what you are entrenched in and you can follow Him and carry along with you all of your blatant, unrepentant sin.

This verse cannot mean endorsement for sin. When Jesus was face to face with the woman caught in the very act of adultery, he said, “Go and sin no more.” He didn’t pass out condoms. He didn’t come face to face with drug users and give them clean needles. He never had a meeting with a drunk man, tax collector (thief), or a man who loved his money and stamped an endorsement on their lifestyle. Nope, he said “follow Me.” As in: leave it all, and be like me.

But it also cannot mean that we can’t struggle, sin, or even be entrenched in sin to come to Him. But in coming to Him, by necessity of following, we begin to do what he does. We begin to go and sin no more. It also isn’t a one time coming to Him, like the start line of a race and then the rest of the race we have to remain sinless and sin-managing. We don’t get saved by grace and then have to do all the sin-managing on our own by good effort and works. We all struggle with sin, some private, some very public. Some discreet, some loud. But in coming to Him, we choose daily, moment by moment to leave our sin and be like Him.

So, friend with an alcohol problem. It’s not really an alcohol problem, it’s a worship problem. Come to Him. You are looking for rest from life’s problems in a bottle, but you won’t find it there. You will find rest in Jesus. Friend with a food problem. You are looking to food to satisfy you and comfort you. But Jesus says, come to Me! You are heavy laden, you are weary because you are trying to find comfort outside of Me. Come to Me and you will find rest for your soul.

What does it mean to come to Jesus? Realize that everything you have been and are apart from Christ is sin. Repent of your desire to find rest in anything but Him. Leave your sin. Ask God for that grace to purpose to be in Him, to trust Him, to obey Him.

Don’t hold your sin in one arm like a dirty teddy bear and link arms with Jesus with the other arm. Jesus used the analogy of an ox with a yoke. When the oxen were yoked to each other, there was a bondage there. It was being tied to another and you were one in purpose and in the labor set before you. Jesus was saying, be bonded to me, be tied with me. Be one in purpose with me, do the job I have for you. But not alone! I will do it with you. Let me show you the kind of Master I am. Kind and comforting and giving of rest. Easy to be yoked to.

Jesus said you can’t serve two masters. You either love one or hate the other. You can’t serve both God and money. So, then, you can’t serve any sin and be yoked with Jesus. To continue the oxen analogy, you can’t be yoked to one ox (sin) and be yoked to a completely different ox (Jesus) at the same time. But don’t misread me. It’s not that you are to do something with your sin. Jesus has done something with your sin. At the Cross. And so, when you repent, you are just agreeing with Jesus. “Yes, I agree that you took my sin. This very sin that I am struggling with right now. Or this sin that I am taking such delight in and enjoying. This sin that I don’t even want to give up, that I love so much. This sin, I give to you and I agree that you have taken my sin and freed me.” In the simple act of coming to Jesus, over and over, we confess that He has taken our sin from us once and for all and has cast it as far as the east is from the west. As for the sin you struggle with today, he takes from us today as we confess and align ourselves, yoke ourselves to someone who promises to do a pretty great exchange: our sin for His righteousness. Our burden for His rest.

So, Christian struggling with a sin that has ensnared you, unless delight drives your efforts of disciplining yourself out of your sin, it won’t last. There will be much labor, much weariness, and not much rest from your sin. But come to Him, where there is rest for your labor and heaviness. Take delight in the easy Master and come to Him. Have your burden of sin replaced and take delight in the gentle yoke of One who, in love and by grace alone, not by anything you have done or can do, is calling out today, “come to Me.”

Friday Fruit from the Vine: Get Real

Have you ever really read Matthew 5? I know I have before, and was really paying attention. But for some reason, this time it was like looking into Lake Tahoe- I felt like I could see the bottom, the waters were so crystal clear!

In the past, I have noticed the different themes Jesus is touching on: Anger, Divorce, Lust, Oaths, Retaliation, Loving your enemies. But when you read it without creating sections and themes, when you read it as Jesus spoke it to His disciples with the backdrop of the Pharisees, you see that Jesus is really just talking about one thing. STOP THE RELIGIOSITY. STOP THE OUTWARD MORALITY. GET REAL!

We think, or at least I do sometimes, that we’re doing pretty good. We don’t do this or that. And we DO this good thing and that great thing. However, if we will allow this text to lead us to repentance, we will see that Jesus ups the ante enough to condemn each one of us. And then he tops it of with a demand of perfection: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” and “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

With these raised standards, who can attain? Who can be that perfect? Not me. Obviously not even the scribes and Pharisees, to which he referred. So who? NO ONE. NO ONE is justified in His sight.

I do lust sometimes. I certainly get angry. And I seldom can justify it as being “righteous anger.” I haven’t ever been divorced, but I’ve certainly wanted to. Lusted after it, in moments. Woahhh, killed two birds with one stone, there. I have taken oaths and broken oaths. I have retaliated. And I don’t love my enemies. I have a hard enough time loving my family and friends.

So how can I come before God?

Go from Matthew 5 to Romans 5.

“Therefore, since we have been JUSTIFIED by faith, we have peace with God THROUGH our Lord JESUS Christ.”

The only way I can stand perfect before a perfect Father is Jesus.

And today, I sing,

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
And to take Him at His word…

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!”

He who justified us, who we trust to present us as perfect before a holy God, is trustworthy for all things. So get real with others and get real with Him today. Not real good, or real moral, or real religious or real presentable. Just get real with Jesus! He presents you before the Father BLAMELESS!

Little Ones, Do Not Sin

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1

A while back, I handed my son something to drink and as he walked into our living room, with the drink in his clumsy toddler hands, I said, “Don’t spill.” I then realized that my son, who was 2 at the time, was probably going to spill. So I followed up my command of, “Don’t spill” with “But if you do, it’s okay. Mommy will clean it up.”

And I think that’s basically what we see here in John’s command to us! He says “Don’t sin.” And then it’s almost as if he remembers to whom he is writing.  He can guess that we are probably going to sin. So he follows it up with, “but if you do, don’t worry. Jesus cleaned it up.”

John issues an impossible command- speaking on behalf of a perfect God, instructing imperfect children to do something that is so against our fallen nature. Though, we do have a new nature. We do have the indwelling Holy Spirit to help us to overcome and be a master over sin. We are able to walk in the Spirit, possessing the fruits of the Spirit.  Love when we formerly couldn’t truly and sacrificially love one another, patience when we our own nerves are shot, kindness when we can’t think of a reason to be kind to that undeserving person but we can think of 1,000 reasons to let them have it, faithfulness when we feel like walking away, gentleness when we want to be harsh, and self-control when we really want to let go of all control and follow the desires of our flesh. So, we do have the Spiritual ability to not sin, by the gift of the Holy Spirit Himself. However, we are still in this body of death. We still have desires that we allow to give birth to sin.

So John, knowingly, lovingly says, “Jesus! Jesus is the answer. Don’t spill, but if you do… Jesus is your advocate. Jesus has already cleaned it up!”

God the Father looks down on us and only sees Jesus. His perfection in place of our imperfection. His sacrifice in place of our sin. He is before the Father, having cleaned up our sin. We spilled red wine on God’s brand-new white luxury carpet and Jesus cleaned it up. Not only cleaned it up, but replaced it, restored it, renewed it and made it so our red wine can never stain it again!  Our sins are forgiven for His name’s sake. God the Father sees us as perfect because of Jesus Christ the righteous!