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Rest: Life in the Easy Yoke of Jesus (Week 5)

“Jesus, the Master Teacher!”

Matthew 11:28-30

How would you answer this question: Who is the smartest person who ever lived?

 

I wonder why so many Christians don’t naturally think first and foremost the answer is Jesus Christ. What is it about our own understanding of who Jesus is that causes us to think of others, like Albert Einstein? What does this say about our view of Christian discipleship and what we believe about the body of knowledge passed on to us in the Bible? I hear so many people talk about how they don’t want to compartmentalize their faith or have an artificial sacred-secular divide in their mind or heart. Before we make the mistake of separating our spiritual life from our academic or work life, we start by keeping Jesus and the Bible separated from what it means to be an intelligent, educated, and knowledgeable person. It is my goal today, to invite you to get rid of this false dichotomy by getting to the root of our own modern biases to be able to say simply, conclusively, and without hesitation: Jesus Christ is the smartest person who ever lived and the Bible is a reliable source of knowledge and wisdom for my everyday life!

 

Now imagine this: Imagine if you could take the smartest person who ever lived into every circumstance, exam, job interview, relationship struggle, life circumstance as your personal tutor.

 

From the New American Standard Bible, listen for the dual command found in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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.”[1]

 

For any person who calls Christ their Lord and King, Jesus is their Master Teacher, but more than a teacher, Jesus is their personal tutor (like the master to the apprentice), as witnessed by the image of first taking on the yoke of Christ and then learning from Him. This is the 1-2 command of Matthew 11:28-30, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.” Do you want rest? Then come into an apprenticeship relationship (master-apprentice) or tutoring relationship (tutor-student) with Jesus Christ. A.T Robertson emphasizes that Jesus was speaking to His original audience the way any rabbi of His time would have: “The rabbis used yoke for school as many pupils find it now a yoke.”[2] Do the school of life with Jesus and you will find rest for your soul.

Christian discipleship leads to a life of rest because it draw us deeper into the life of Jesus who is our rest. Rest is found in joining with Jesus in the God-ordained process of becoming who God has designed you to be and in becoming this person from the inside-out, “for good works which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”[3] Rest is found as you learn to trust God and His Holy Spirit to “make you become” the best version of you to the glory of God and to the good of our community.[4] This happens by submitting yourself to the yoke of Jesus and learning from Him. Paul described it as being “transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”[5]

The Apostle Paul, in a great teaching about the wisdom of God in 1 Corinthians 2, says of spiritually-discerning Christians, “we have the mind of Christ.”[6] This is Jesus’ teaching, who stated in John 15:15, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”[7] Again, Jesus said in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”[8]

The telos of the Christian life is to, “attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”[9] In short, we are to become like Jesus! Jesus knows this is the ultimate purpose of God for each of our lives so He invites us to yoke with Him and learn from Him.

 

How are we to do this—take Jesus’ yoke and learn from Him?

 

Jan Johnson starts our discussion on this question:

People often say they have questions to ask God when they get to heaven: “What causes cancer?” “How can the moon so far away create tides in the ocean right here?” “Why did you make my brother (or sister) so good-looking, and me so plain?” Making such a list is not a silly idea, I think, because it shows we view God as someone who knows things and wants to communicate with us. Here on earth, we can cultivate such a relationship with God by continually asking God questions.[10]

 

Listen again to Jesus’ dual command in Matthew 11:29, “take My yoke upon you and learn from Me”. The early church knew the answer to this question because there was not a false dichotomy in the church between being smart and being wise or between the sciences and faith because the God who made all things is the author of both science and faith. Near the end of the 2nd century one of the Apostolic Fathers, Clement of Alexandria, wrote,

 

As the general directs the phalanx, consulting the safety of his soldiers, and the pilot steers the vessel, desiring to save the passengers; so also the Instructor [i.e., Jesus] guides the children to a saving course of conduct through his concern for us. Wafted on by the favoring breeze of the Spirit of truth, he stoutly holds on to the child’s helm—his ears, I mean—until he brings him safely to anchor in the haven of heaven.[11] (emphasis added)

 

We will not reach maturity in Christ and experience the fullness of joy Jesus promised us in this life until we allow Jesus Christ to be our tutor, our instructor, our teacher, in everyday life. We start doing this by giving Jesus access to all of our questions now and not just when our “soul” gets to Heaven. Rest for our “soul” is for this life, not just the next.[12] We are to pose all of our questions along the way throughout this life to Jesus and not just store them up for Heaven.
 

To get at the heart of this, we will go one level deeper and look at the Greek word translated “learn,” which is μανθάνω.[13] BDAG describes its meaning as, “to gain knowledge or skill by instruction, learn” with another lexicon defining it as, “to acquire information as the result of instruction, whether in an informal or formal context—‘to learn, to be instructed, to be taught.”[14]

Here is a brief survey of the 25 usages:[15]

  • In John 6:45b, Jesus states of His disciples, “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.”[16] (emphasis added)
  • In Ephesians 4:20, Paul admonishes believers, “But you did not learn Christ in this way.”[17] (emphasis added)
  • In Philippians 4:11, Paul testifies from the school of life, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”[18] (emphasis added)
  • Paul to Timothy uses the word twice in 2 Timothy 3:14, “You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them.”[19] (emphasis added)
  • Concerning Jesus, Hebrews 5:8 describes, “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.”[20] (emphasis added)

 

The bottom line of Jesus’ dual commands is that He is inviting all who are worn out from living in a fallen world and are exhausted from being under the heavy yoke of religious performance expectations to earn God’s approval and acceptance, that they should take off the yoke of the Law and take on the yoke of grace.[21] In fact, Jesus’ invitation to “take My yoke and learn from Me” is united to Jesus’ other major commands to be a disciple and to make disciples: 1) “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny Himself, and take up His Cross and follow Me”[22] and 2) “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”[23]

 

We once again hear Jesus’ invitation to walk with Him (do life together). This motif is found in both verses, overtly with the “come after Me” of Matthew 16:24 and the “Go” or more accurately “As you are going” of Matthew 28:19. Jesus is inviting us to welcome Him as our tutor in everyday life—to invite the God-man, the smartest person who ever lived to be our own personal guide in living right and living with a purpose that makes sense of our existence. The yoke we are to take on ourselves is connected to the Cross we are to take up to follow Jesus by the Greek command of αἴρω (which we studied last week) and related to the Greek word used to “make disciples” (μαθητεύω) creating a direct lexical connection to Jesus’ command to His disciples in Matthew 11:28-30. To take His yoke is to take up our cross! To come to Him is to come after Him! It is to live a life as a learner of Jesus and as such, follow His example by inviting others to hear Jesus’ invitation for themselves.

 

Donald Hagner in the Word Biblical Commentary makes this valuable conclusion:

The invitation to come to Jesus is an invitation to discipleship, that is, to follow him and his teaching. “Yoke” (ζυγόν) is a common metaphor for the law, both in Judaism (m ʾAbot 3:5; M Ber. 2:2; cf. 1QH 6:19) and in the NT (Acts 15:10; Gal 5:1). When Jesus invites people with the words ἄρατε τὸν ζυγόν μου ἐφʼ ὑμᾶς, “take my yoke upon you,” he invites them to follow his own teaching as the definitive interpretation of the law (see on 5:17–20.). The same point is stressed in the next clause, μάθετε ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ, “learn from me.” As Wisdom calls to obedience of Torah (cf. Sir 24:23; 6:37), so Jesus similarly calls to a discipleship of obedience to Torah but, as always in Matthew, the Torah as mediated through his teaching—hence, “my yoke” (cf. 23:8, 10). The cognate verb μαθητεύειν occurs in 28:19 together with the emphasis on keeping true to the teaching of Jesus. A dimension of personal commitment to Jesus is clearly implied (Maher, 103).[24]

 

This is where our understanding of Jesus is very important to understand why taking His yoke upon ourselves and learning from Him does bring rest for our soul. Jesus is the smartest person who ever lived because Jesus is God. As Christians, we only worship one God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who exists in one substance as three unique persons mutually submitted in perfect unity. If you have a question about any aspect of creation (visible or invisible, natural or supernatural) who better to be able to answer it then Immanuel, the God who took on flesh and dwelt amongst us. Jesus is the wisdom of God incarnate, Torah (God’s Law) in flesh! [25] Listen to Hebrews 11:1-3, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”[26]

 

Essentially what Jesus was doing in His earthly ministry was teaching us that, “Jesus was Wisdom (Torah), the means of salvation. In fact, Jesus asserts that He is the fulfillment of Torah (Matt 5:17–20).”[27] Craig Keener emphasizes, “By speaking of God’s law as Jesus’ own, Jesus implicitly claims authority from the Father greater than that of Moses himself (11:27).[28] This is in fact the very context of Jesus’ great invitation. Before Jesus invites, “Come to Me…”, He says in Matthew 11:25-27, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”[29]

 

God has established that to find Him you must first hear the invitation to come to Him. Do you hear Jesus saying to you, “Come to Me…”? This is God’s grace to you and to me and to all on whom God’s peace will rest. Apart from grace there is no rest, in this life or in the life to come.

 

Let’s close with application and relevance for our everyday lives. I hear so many people saying, “So what?” and “How does any of this apply to my everyday life?”

 

Jan Johnson insightfully diagnosis our human predicament with Jesus as our Master Teacher:

Jesus said we could do nothing apart from Him (see John 15:5), but that does not stop us from trying. The whole point of asking, seeking, and knocking in order to inquire of God (see Matthew 7:7) is to interrupt our constant pull toward independence from Him. Without the discipline of inquiring after God, we often follow the normal human method of doing things, which is to size things up from our own perspective and make decisions on our own, with little thought of asking God’s direction. Asking invites God into our situations, great and small.[30]

 

Jesus is inviting us into a very practical apprenticeship relationship. Ulrich Luz bridges the gap between our understanding of Jesus’ invitation to the practical applications of Jesus’ commands: “As in Judaism, μανθάνω means something practical, the learning of a behavior.”[31] To illustrate this, last week, Bill Imel was describing to me about what it meant to be an apprentice. When he was a young tool maker, he was assigned at different times to different master tool makers and as long as you worked under a certain master you did it his way and only his way. Bill was assigned to numerous masters and he learned valuable lessons from each of them, but he always did it the way of the one to whom he was apprenticed. The apprentice was told that to learn how to do his job he simply had to imitate the behavior of the master. Bill testified to the process of apprenticeship.

 

Jesus is inviting us to this kind of relationship with Himself—He is the Master and we are invited to take His yoke and learn from Him as His apprentice. Bill further emphasized that when a dog sled team is being brought together, a younger dog is placed in the yoke next to a more experienced dog. Why? So that the older dog can very practically train the younger dog. As the Apostle Paul said to the early church in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”[32] Again, Paul said in Philippians 4:9, “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”[33]

 

There is a practical purpose of the yoke; it is designed that one can teach and another can learn. When we yoke with Jesus, we are yoking with the very wisdom of God. We are invited to have him right there beside us through our everyday life ups and downs, home life and workplace, school and sports experiences, and learn from Him!

 

There are a lot of ways to get things done in this world, but I have one question for you: Who is your master? If you say Jesus is my master, then is He your master in every area of your life or just matters of faith or just on Sunday mornings?

 

Do you believe that Jesus is the smartest person who ever lived? Then, why not listen to Him in every matter of your life? Will we do what the Master tells us to do? Will we ask for His advice throughout the day?

 

Remaining in the yoke is about the posture of our hearts to learn from Jesus, to trust and obey His words to us in the Word and in prayer, and then we will find rest for our souls.

 

Not feeling rested? Now you know why…
 
Rest Week 5:  Listen to it here
 
You can watch the video series by clicking HERE.
 
 
If you are interested in further study click on the following link:  ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
 
 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 11:28–30. All caps in this reference is part of NASB formatting to indicate that Jesus is quoting the Old Testament. In this case, it is Jeremiah 6:16 which is relevant to today’s teaching, but will be further discussed in message #7.

[2] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), Mt 11:29.

 

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Eph 2:10.

[4] In Mark 1:17 Jesus invited His first disciples with this invitation to discipleship that came with the promise of making us into something: “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (emphasis added)

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Ro 12:1-2.

 

[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, 1 Co 2:16.

 

[7] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 15:15.

 

[8] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 14:26.

 

[9] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Eph 4:13. Cf. Phil 3:15; Heb 5:14; 6:1.

 

[10] Jan Johnson, When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer, ed. Dallas Willard and David Hazard (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1999), 99.

 

[11] Thomas C. Oden and Cindy Crosby, eds., Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings: Lectionary Cycle A (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2007), 128–129. This is from Clement of Alexandria’s Paedagogus, which is translated “The Instructor” or “The Tutor” (Ken Penner and Michael S. Heiser, “Old Testament Greek Pseudepigrapha with Morphology” [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2008]).

 

[12] I am alluding to a larger concept and major misunderstanding about the soul in this sentence. In message #7 I will teach on the Hebrew word nephesh commonly translated soul. This is where we will see the importance of Jesus quoting from Jeremiah 6:16, as well as ensuring we understand words from a biblical perspective.

[13] “μάθετε aor2 impv μανθάνω learn” (Max Zerwick and Mary Grosvenor, A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament [Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1974], 35). “aorist act. impera. of μανθάνω (LN 27.12) (BAGD 1. p. 490): ‘to learn’ [BAGD, LN; all translations except NLT], ‘to be instructed, to be taught’ [LN]. The phrase μάθετε ἀπʼ ἐμοῦ ‘learn from me’ is translated ‘let me teach you’ [NLT]. This verb means to acquire information as the result of instruction, whether in an informal or formal context [LN]” (David Abernathy, An Exegetical Summary of Matthew 1–16, Exegetical Summaries [Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2013], 413).

[14] William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 615. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 326.

[15] Occurrences of μανθάνω in the NT: Matthew 24:32; Mark 13:28; John 6:45; 7:15; 1 Cor. 4:6; 14:31, 35; Galatians 3:2; Ephesians 4:20; Philippians 4:9, 11; Colossians 1:7; 1 Timothy 2:11; 5:4, 13; 2 Timothy 3:7, 14; Titus 3:14; and Hebrews 5:8. Michael Jones in the Lexham Theological Workbook describes the use of this word, “Although manthanō is sometimes used in the sense of coming to know something (e.g., Acts 23:27; Gal 3:2), it is often used in the sense of being taught something, such as knowledge (e.g., 1 Cor 14:35; Col 1:7; 2 Tim 3:7) or ethical or practical wisdom (e.g., Matt 9:13; 1 Cor 4:6; Eph 4:20). The word manthanō can also mean ‘to come to understand (something) by experience’ or ‘to realize (something)’ (e.g., Phil 4:11; Titus 3:14; Heb 5:8)” (Michael R. Jones, “Teaching,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014]).

[16] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 6:45.

[17] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Eph 4:20.

 

[18] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Php 4:11.

[19] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, 2 Ti 3:14.

 

[20] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Heb 5:8.

 

[21] “Jewish rabbis described the obligation to fulfill the law in terms of a yoke that must be taken upon oneself” (David Abernathy, An Exegetical Summary of Matthew 1–16, Exegetical Summaries [Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2013], 414).

 

[22] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 16:24. Cf. Lk 9:23–25. “It is also likely that the statements concerning taking up one’s cross are to be associated with the Jewish practice of reciting the Shema each day as the sign and symbol of God’s sovereignty. Indeed, the use of the term “daily” in association with this Christian concept would make this suggestion even more likely. When one realizes that the term for the cross beam which Jesus is pictured as having carried to the place of execution is the same term frequently used for the cross beam known as the yoke, and when one realizes that at least some of the early Christian interpreters of Jesus’ words saw a specific relationship between cross and yoke, the likelihood of there having been a daily assumption of the “Yoke of the Kingship of God” (the term used by the Jews with respect to the Shema/assumption of the Yoke of the Kingship of God) by Christians via some type of recitation becomes more likely. It would seem reasonable to associate such a ritual as including the recitation of the model prayer or some other liturgical formula. Perhaps, also, as the assumption of the yoke was symbolized in tefillin in Judaism, some religious object(s) or symbol(s) were used as a part of this personal worship among the Christians” (Charles L. Tyer, “Yoke,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary [New York: Doubleday, 1992], 1027.)

 

[23] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt. 28:29.

 

[24] Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1–13, vol. 33A, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 324.

[25] “He is, therefore, playing not only the part of Wisdom (see p. 264) but also the part of Torah; or, rather, he is Wisdom, he is Torah. How very significant this is should not be missed. For Judaism ‘Torah’ is ‘all that God has made known of his nature, character and purpose, and of what he would have man be and do’ (Moore 1, p. 263); it is the full revelation of God and of his will for man. So the identification of Jesus with Torah makes Jesus the full revelation of God and of his will for man. But this is precisely what 11:27 has already done, for there the Son declares that he knows the Father and has been given a complete revelation. Hence Jesus, in both 11:27 and 29, and in contrast to Moses, is the perfect embodiment of God’s purpose and demand and the functional equivalent of Torah. Law-giver and law are one” (W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison Jr., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, vol. 2, International Critical Commentary [London; New York: T&T Clark International, 2004], 289–290).

 

[26] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Heb 1:1–3.

 

[27] Cf. John 14:6. Michael S. Heiser, I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible, ed. John D. Barry and Rebecca Van Noord (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press; Bible Study Magazine, 2014), 188.

 

[28] The quote continues quite extensively in Keener’s standard thoroughness, “other Jewish texts would have spoken only of God’s yoke here (Smith 1951: 153), or of the yoke of Torah (Davies and Allison 1991: 289). Jesus unquestionably models his words directly after the invitation of the sage Joshua ben Sira (Sir 51:23–27): Draw near to me, you who are uneducated … Why do you delay in these matters, when your souls thirst so much?… Place your neck under the yoke, and let your soul accept training—she is near if you wish to find her. Witness with your own eyes that I have labored little, yet have found much rest for myself. Yet the yoke in Matthew is not Ben Sira’s, but that of divine Wisdom, and Wisdom elsewhere invites the hearer, “Come to me, you who earnestly desire me,” and eat and drink of wisdom (Sir 24:19–21). John is not the only Gospel writer with a “wisdom christology” (Jn 1:1–18; 6:35; 7:37; cf. Hamerton-Kelly 1973: 68; Meier 1980: 127). Obeying God would bring his people “rest for your souls” (Jer 6:16 MT)” (Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary [Grand Rapids, MI;  Cambridge, U.K.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009], 348–349).

 

[29] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 11:25–27.

 

[30] Jan Johnson, When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer, ed. Dallas Willard and David Hazard (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1999), 100.

 

[31] Ulrich Luz, Matthew: A Commentary, ed. Helmut Koester, Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2001), 172.

[32] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, 1 Co 11:1.

 

[33] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Php 4:9.


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Rest: Life in the Easy Yoke of Jesus! (Week 4)

“Take the Yoke of Jesus!”

Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus is inviting each of us to come to Him, all of us who are tired simply from the strain of living everyday life in a fallen world and burned out on carrying what other people have placed on our shoulders, and He will give us rest. But how are we to find rest for our souls as Jesus promised? Jesus teaches us very specifically, but there are three things I want us to learn from the specific way Jesus is commanding.

 

From the New American Standard Bible, listen for the commands found in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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.”[1]

 

Take My Yoke

 

There are 2 commands (called ‘imperatives’) in our passage (Matthew 11:28-30) and they are both found in verse 29. Today we will emphasize the first, “Take My yoke upon you…” and next week we will focus on the second, “…and learn from Me…” (Mt 11:29a, b, emphasis added). Both are essential to understanding Jesus’ invitation and promise. If you want to experience the rest of God, then we have to understand what we are being invited to do.

 

Interesting enough the invitation to “Come to Me” (Mt. 11:28a) is being used in the adverbial form, which means that the invitation to come is modifying the indicative verb of “I will give you rest.” Simply, the giving of Jesus’ rest is found in coming to Him. As we saw last week, Jesus is that rest. That is the triumphant teaching of Jesus’ words in this next passage, Matthew 12:8, when Jesus declares, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath”[2] and in the commentary of Jesus’ teaching on sabbath in Hebrews 4:1-16, “For we who have believed enter that rest.”[3] Not to get ahead of myself, but entering into the rest of God is through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

To start the conversation, allow me to share this illustration with you:

A teacher read to her class the text, “My yoke is easy.”

“Who can tell me what a yoke is?” she asked.

A boy said, “A yoke is something they put on the necks of animals.”

Then the teacher asked, “What is the yoke God puts on us?”

A little girl said, “It is God putting His arms around our necks.”[4]

 

With this image in mind, let’s now begin to learn the ‘how’ of Jesus’ rest: Jesus is commanding us to take His yoke upon ourselves. Jesus uses the Greek verb αἴρω in this sentence as a plural 2nd person imperative in the active tense and aorist voice.[5] In this context, BDAG states that the word means, “to lift up and move from one place to another; to take/carry (along).”[6]

 

Jesus is literally telling us that in order to have rest from the weariness of living life in a broken and fallen world and in order to be delivered from the heavy load that others have put on our shoulders, that we must actively take on ourselves His yoke. This action, combined with the imperative of “learn from Me” is the way to rest. While eternal rest is available through the grace of faith, experiencing rest (abundance in this life) is through the grace of faithfulness; hence, the yoke as a living image of a grace-based relationship with God through Jesus Christ.[7]

 

What is the yoke of Jesus and will understanding this will we better understand what Jesus is inviting us to in this command? I believe so, it did for me. A lot! The Greek word for yoke is ζυγός (zygos) and it is only found six times in the NT. Five times it is translated “yoke” (Mt 11:29, 30; Acts 15:10; Gal 5:1; and 1 Tim 6:1) and once as “scales” (Rev 6:5) in the NASB. As we will discover, the NT usage of this word is grounded in its OT usage. In the OT, the word “yoke” is translated from five different Hebrew words and in the NASB is found 54 times.[8]

 

There is three-fold understanding of the “yoke” of Jesus as He commands us to take on ourselves in Matthew 11:28-30: 1) cultural-historical, specifically an agricultural metaphor; 2) cultural,-religious, specifically a Jewish metaphor; and 3) with an understanding of the implications of both 1 & 2, as a “conceptual metaphor” calling people into Christian discipleship.[9]

 

 

Yoke as Agricultural Imagery

 

Jesus was talking to a Jewish audience whose livelihoods depended on their abilities to work the ground. Jesus often spoke in well-known and easily understood cultural references because His audience intuitively understood them. As we all know, a picture speaks a thousand words. Check this picture out.

 

Figure 1 below is a drawing capturing the historical context of how an ancient Israelite would have seen the yoke as a 6-day-a-week reality of their lives in community.[10] Jesus is capturing this picture with his invitation to come to Him and his command to take His yoke upon ourselves.

Figure 1: Plowing: “A Yoke of Oxen”

 

Listen to Ralph Gower share the historical reality of Jesus’ day with some insightful comments,

 

The plough itself was made of two wooden beams, jointed T-fashion. The horizontal stroke of the T formed the handle for guidance, and the spiked end was to break the surface of the ground. The vertical section of the T was attached to the yoke that went over the necks of the animals. The yoke itself was simply a rough beam tied across the necks of a pair of animals and held in place by two vertical sticks that came down each side of the neck and tied beneath (see Jeremiah 28:13). The law forbade a mixture of animals such as ox and donkey (see Deuteronomy 22:10), presumably because there would be an unequal pull that might cause suffering for the weaker animal.[11]

 

Tony Stoltzfus in his book on conversational prayer makes an insightful comment,

 

According to tradition, Jesus in his role as a tekton (Greek for carpenter or builder) made yokes and ploughs. Each yoke had to be custom-fitted to each animal. As one yoke-build notes: ‘Yokes for oxen are like shoes for children. One size does not fit all. A young team may need as many as five or six yokes before it reaches maturity. A well-fitted yoke will allow an ox team to pull to its full potential. A poor fitted yoke will cause discomfort, could injure the oxen, and will not allow the team to pull to its full potential.’[12]
 
 

Figure 2: A picture of a yoke as discussed by Stoltzfus.[13]

 

But, what is the full potential of an oxen team? In John 15, Jesus said in another conceptual metaphor based on a different agricultural image, that with Him we can do more than we can imagine, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain.”[14]

 

Just like in the vine and branch imagery, the yoke imagery puts Jesus in the dominant position to do great things in us and through our lives.[15] Janet Pope describes the power of the yoke, “Typically a young, untrained ox is yoked with an older, trained ox. The younger learns from the older. If a trained ox can pull 5,000 pounds and an untrained ox can pull 2,000 pounds, together they can pull 10,000 pounds—much more than the sum of the two. Over time, the untrained ox becomes trained and the two begin to walk in-step with each other. Then they can pull 15,000 pounds.”[16]

 

Apart from Jesus, you may be able to do a little bit in this life, but nothing of eternal value. But in the yoke of Jesus you can pull over seven times more.[17]

 

 

Yoke as a Vivid Old Testament Symbol

 

“Because the yoke was such a common agricultural implement, it became a vivid symbol with many nuances” in the Jewish mindset.[18] Jesus was unapologetically trying to reach a Jewish audience so He engaged existing metaphors.[19] Let’s not be confused then by how His language and imagery speaks directly to his target audience.

 

What would an every-day good religious Jewish person familiar with the Old Testament (the Jewish scriptures, Torah), living in first-century Palestine, have heard when Jesus invited them to take His yoke on them? The agricultural imagery would have already been grafted into this second image: the OT usage of the yoke as covenant faithfulness to the Torah (the commandment of God to His chosen people) as contrasted with apostasy through worship of pagan gods and foreign idols.[20]

 

Charles Tyer explains the depth of the yoke imagery to the Jewish religious mind,

 

The yoke concept within the Hebrew literary traditions is strongly related to the idea of the Sovereignty Covenant. God laid his yoke on his people. His people either bore the yoke (an obedient, proper relationship) or broke off the yoke (a relationship of rebellion). God’s people might choose to attempt to wear the yokes of other gods, which was the same as throwing off the yoke of Israel’s god. Obviously, one could not wear two yokes at the same time. The wearing of the yoke as viewed in Hebrew scripture was the outward sign of an inward relationship. Thus one might bring the offerings and do all of the things of religion and still not be bearing the yoke in terms of attitudes and relationships. Hebrew scriptures can thus view the bearing of the yoke of God’s sovereignty as joy, honor, and privilege rather than tragedy, hardship, and sorrow.[21]

 

God is passionate about upholding His covenant with His people as we read in Jeremiah 2:20, “For long ago I broke your yoke and tore off your bonds; But you said, ‘I will not serve!’ For on every high hill and under every green tree you have lain down as a harlot.” He continues in Jeremiah 5:5-6, “‘I will go to the great and will speak to them, for they know the way of the Lord and ordinance of their God.’ But they too, with one accord, have broken the yoke and burst the bonds. Therefore a lion from the forest will slay them, a wolf of the deserts will destroy them, a leopard is watching their cities. Everyone who goes out of them will be torn in pieces, because their transgressions are many, their apostasies are numerous.”[22]

 

Dramatically, God commands Jeremiah to prophetically take on Himself the yoke of Israel’s apostasy to Babylon. Listen to a few verses of Jeremiah 27:1-22, “Thus says the Lord to me—’Make for yourself bonds and yokes and put them on your neck.’” Soon after God declares of His promised deliverance and rescue of His chosen people for the glory of His name, “I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon.”[23]

 

The people of Israel knew the imagery of the yoke. Listen to Jewish rabbis from these Jewish documents. In the Babylonian Talmud and the Mishnah, Berakhot 2:2 states, “So that one should first accept upon himself the yoke of the kingdom of heaven and afterwards accept the yoke of the commandments.”[24]

 

Also from the Mishnah, Pirke Abott 3:5, “R. Neḥunia b. ha-Kanah said: Every one who receives upon him the yoke of Torah, they remove from him the yoke of the kingdom and the yoke of worldly occupation. And every one who breaks off from him the yoke of Torah, they lay upon him the yoke of the kingdom and the yoke of worldly occupation.”[25]

 

We should not forget that the context of Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 11:25-30 is Jesus renouncing the Jewish cities that He has preached to for their apostasy in Matthew 11:20-24. This connection to the concept of the yoke as God’s sovereign rule over His chosen people should not be lost nor ignored. This is essential to our understanding of Matthew 11:28-30 and its application to our lives and the ministry of the gospel through the local church. Jesus usage not only aligns with the OT usage, but also the Jewish understanding of the yoke.

 

 

Yoke as Invitation to Christian Discipleship

 

As already introduced, Jesus is using ‘yoke’ as a conceptual metaphor, a teaching device, to invite you into the fullness of what it means to be Christian disciple. This is a call to Christian discipleship as we saw overtly in verse 28 and as we will continue to see as Jesus commands us learn from Him.[26] In using the word “yoke” Jesus is recognizing His audience’s preexisting understanding that goes beyond the literal usage of the word alone. A yoke imagines the following: 1) a working tool for greater productivity in farming by being united with one stronger and more experienced than you and 2) to submission to God’s authority and way of life.

 

The invitation to take Jesus’ yoke was a direct invitation by a Jewish rabbi to a Jewish audience to take off the yoke of the legalistic observation of Torah, which was the heavy burden that the religious rulers of Second Temple Judaism had placed firmly on the shoulders of these Jewish people. That is why Jesus invited those are “weary and heavy-laden” in Matthew 11:28. This is what this text means to its original audience and in intended usage. As Neil Anderson said in Victory over the Darkness, “the context is the yoke of legalism.”[27]

 

Jesus is explicitly commanding His Jewish audience to put down the Torah (Law) and put Him on (grace). Jesus is inviting the Jewish people into a new covenant of relationship with the Father, which is why He describes Himself  as “gentle and humble in heart.” He is contrasting His grace-yoke with the Father as compared to the heavy-yoke of works-based religious observance. Jesus is inviting His hearers to a grace-filled relationship with God through Himself, enabled through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

 

This was not missed by the Apostle Paul who continues this conversation very overtly in Galatians 5:1-4, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”[28]

 

Nor was this lost on the Apostle Peter who said during the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:7-11,

 

After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”[29]

 

Nor was this missed by the Apostolic Fathers, the earliest of Christian leaders who had contact with the apostles. These Apostolic Fathers left some evidence of how they viewed the yoke of Jesus Christ. Below are the two earliest non-canonical sources of the early church. In the Didache 6:2 states, “If you can bear the entire yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect, but if you cannot, do what you can.”[30] While 1 Clement 16:17 asks, “Ye see, dearly beloved, what is the pattern that hath been given unto us; for, if the Lord was thus lowly of mind, what should we do, who through Him have been brought under the yoke of His grace?”[31] It would be a future study to discuss all the commentary on theses sayings of the earliest church leaders, outside of the Bible. But it is enough for us to know 19 centuries later, that this saying of Jesus has inspired Christians to a faithful life of Christian discipleship, not just a faith decision for Christ.[32]

 

Application of the Yoke Imagery

 

For most of us independent American types, the yoke imagery does not work for us in partnership with the concept of rest. Jesus’ teaching is counterintuitive, which is a fancy way of saying, “This is not common sense!” Is Jesus saying that you have to do some work to have rest?  But salvation is a no-work agreement as Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”[33] And that is 100% true! So, what is Jesus saying?

 

Listen to Jeremy Treat, from a 2014 Gospel Coalition article about God’s grace,

 

If it’s “all about grace” then clearly it’s not about effort. Or so it seems. But, as Dallas Willard once said, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning.” Christians therefore, should work hard, strive, and toil—but we do so not for grace but from grace. Because of the gospel we are motivated not by guilt but by gratitude. And the gospel is the greatest motivating power in the world, propelling followers of Christ to love their neighbor, do justice, and share the gospel. Philippians 2:12-13 describes this type of grace-driven effort: “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”[34] (italics his)

 

To help us close the gap on this seeming paradox of Jesus’ simultaneous invitation to find rest and command to take His yoke upon you, listen to Christian psychologist Dr. Bill Gaultiere’s insight on the actual usage of the yoke as would best help us understand Jesus’ intent,

 

The yoke that Jesus is referring to is a heavy wooden harness that fits over the shoulders of two oxen. It’s used to attach them, neck to neck, and hitch up them up to a plow that they are to pull across a field to prepare it for planting a crop. First, the ox needs to be “broken in.” To train a young ox wise farmers are careful not to pair it with another young ox or an ox that’s been poorly trained. Young oxen might be strong and energetic, but they don’t know how to wear the yoke and they don’t know how to pull the plow. They jerk and strain to try to get out of the yoke. They charge forward to rush to the end of the job, chaffing their necks and choking themselves. Or they try to wander off to graze in a meadow. But if you take a young ox and pair it with a mixture ox who has been well-trained then it learns. The lead ox shows the younger how to wear the yoke loosely and lightly. It pulls the brunt of the weight of the plow and leads the younger one to pull the plow and steady, step-by-step, straight ahead – without getting bruised or worn out. Jesus is the mature ox we need.[35] (italics his)

 

Utilizing the historical context and with the promise of Jesus’ promise in John 10:10 to give us abundant life and fullness of joy in mind, Stoltzfus speculates into the command of Jesus,

 

When Jesus the master craftsman said ‘my yoke is easy,’ memories flooded back to him of his time in the woodshop: carving the curved opening in the yoke to fit around each animal’s neck, sanding it down carefully so that it would not rub any spot raw or hurt the animal. When he asks you to, ‘take my yoke upon you,’ he means the one he custom-made just for you and him. It’s designed to preserve you from unnecessary pain and let you reach your full potential. Just as yokes were made to join the pulling power of two animals, his yoke is meant to join your strength to his and let the two of you to pull together.[36]

 

Allow me to conclude with Janet Pope’s concluding thoughts about the yoke of Jesus,

Burnout doesn’t come from working too hard for God. It comes from working ALONE for God. Working side-by-side with Jesus gives us rest IN our work, not rest FROM our work. We want to be yoked with Jesus because the load IS too heavy to carry alone. We don’t need to trivialize the burdens of this world. They are real and ever-present. If the load isn’t heavy, a yoke isn’t needed. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The yoke of Jesus is easy and his burden is light precisely because that yoke connects us to the One who has overcome the world.[37]

You are invited if you do not know Jesus to come to Him and find rest. You are commanded to put on His yoke and learn from Him to find rest for your soul. There is a once and for all-time decision that must be made, but there is also a lifestyle of faithfulness that must be decided every morning you wake up and throughout your day. Put down all the other yokes you are carrying, and take up your Cross and follow Jesus![38]

 

Are you working hard, but doing it alone?

 

Are you weary and under a heavy load?

 

Then put on your shoulders the yoke of grace. There is only room for one…
 
 
Rest Week 4:  Listen to it here
 
You can watch the video series by clicking HERE.
 
 

Footnotes:

——————————————————————————————————————–
 

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 11:28–30. All caps in this reference is part of NASB formatting to indicate that Jesus is quoting the Old Testament. In this case, it is Jeremiah 6:16 which is relevant to today’s teaching, but will be further discussed in the future.

 

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 12:8.

 

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Heb 4:3.

 

[4] Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 1507.

[5] All word searches are from Logos 8 Bible Software. “The aorist verb tense is used by the writer to present the action of a verb as a “snapshot” event. The verb’s action is portrayed simply and in summary fashion without respect to any process. In the indicative mood, the aorist usually denotes past time, while an aorist participle usually refers to antecedent time with respect to the main verb. Outside the indicative and the participle, the aorist does not indicate time” (Michael S. Heiser and Vincent M. Setterholm, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology [Lexham Press, 2013; 2013].”

 

[6] “lit. w. obj. acc. σταυρόν Mt 16:24; 27:32; Mk 8:34; 15:21; Lk 9:23. ζυγόν (La 3:27) Mt 11:29. τινὰ ἐπὶ χειρῶν 4:6; Lk 4:11 (both Ps 90:12). Pass. Mk 2:3. αἴ. τι εἰς ὁδόν take someth. along for the journey 6:8; Lk 9:3, cp. 22:36. Of a gambler’s winnings Mk 15:24.—Fig. δόξαν ἐφʼ ἑαυτὸν αἴ. claim honor for oneself B 19:3” (William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000], 28).

 

[7] Cf. Matthew 7:24-27. Both of these teachings of Jesus indicate that simply being with Him is not enough to experience His promised abundant life (John 10:10). It is not enough to be yoked with Jesus, but you must learn from Him. It is not enough to hear the teachings of Jesus, you must do them. While putting your faith in Jesus is an act of grace toward you, it cannot be seen from a reductionist-gospel point of view as only that. Grace is not only a salvific action of God to secure a person in His inheritance, but an empowered lifestyle of apprenticeship with Jesus, where grace is the active power of enabling the life of faith. A life that bears the fruit to God’s grace testifies to the new nature of the tree by grace (Matthew 7:15-23 is the context for Jesus’ illustrative Matthew 7:24-27 parable). I will develop this teaching on God’s grace throughout this sermon and in next week’s sermon.

[8] “Literally, the wooden bar that allowed two (or more) draft animals to be coupled so that they might effectively work together (Nm 19:2; 1 Kgs 19:19; Jb 1:3). In addition to this literal usage, the Bible frequently uses the term metaphorically to refer to work or bondage (Gn 27:40). The yoke of bondage was applied not only by foreign oppressors, but often by Israel’s own kings as well (2 Kgs 12:4–14; 2 Chr 10:4–14). In prophetic writings, the yoke of bondage was generally associated with divine judgment (Lam 1:14), so that deliverance was represented as God breaking the yoke that had enslaved Israel (Is 9:4; 10:27; 14:25; 58:6; Jer 2:20; 5:5). The yoke of bondage figured prominently in Jeremiah’s contest with Hananiah concerning Judah’s imminent release from Babylonian captivity (Jer 27:8–11; 28:1–17)” (Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Yoke,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988], 2173).

[9]Conceptual metaphor refers to the way we use a concrete term or idea to communicate abstract ideas. If we marry ourselves to the concrete (“literal”) meaning of words, we’re going to miss the point the writer was angling for in many cases. If I use the word “Vegas” and all you think of is latitude and longitude, you’re not following my meaning. Biblical words can carry a lot of freight that transcends their concrete sense. Inspiration didn’t immunize language from doing what it does” (Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition. [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015], 387).

 

[10] 1000 Bible Images. Stuttgart, Germany: German Bible Society, 2009. Further insights about the yoke will be developed when exegeting Mt 11:30, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Scriptures that speak to this historical reality of Jewish culture are Deut 22:10; 1 Sam 14:14; 1 Kings 19:19; Job 1:3; and Luke 14:19.

 

[11] Ralph Gower, The New Manners & Customs of Bible Times Student Edition (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2000), 74-75. Beyond the scope of this study, but illustrative to the power of a conceptual metaphor, Gower continues, “The regulation prohibiting partnership between believers and unbelievers in 2 Corinthians 6:14 (“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers”) was not simply exclusivist; it was made out of the knowledge of the suffering that could be caused” (75).

 

[12] Tony Stoltzfus with Kathy Stoltzfus and Sarah Herring, Questions for Jesus: Conversational Prayer Around Your Deepest Desires (Redding, CA: Coach22 Bookstore LLC, 2013), 68. The quote within the quote was footnoted, “Tiller’s Tech Guide – Building An Ox Yoke”. All italics are original to the author.

 

[13] Picture from https://briarcroft.wordpress.com/2010/03/17/lenten-meditation-resting-in-the-yoke/ (accessed January 25, 2019).

 

[14] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 15:5, 16a.

 

[15] Discussion about the role of the Holy Spirit to do this will come in the sermon on Mt 11:30.

 

[16] Janet Pope, “A Yoke? What’s that all about?” (November 20, 2013) http://www.janetpope.org/a-yoke-whats-that-all-about/ (accessed January 26, 2019).

 

[17] Not to be weird about numbers, but seven is the number of completion and the number of rest. Regardless, it is the goal of our lives to be able to say as Jesus said in John 17:4, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.”

 

[18] The quotes continues, “Sometimes it was used to describe oppression and servitude, politically (Gen. 27:40; Lev. 26:13; 1 Kgs. 12:4–14 = 2 Chr. 10:4–14; Isa. 58:6, 9; Jer. 28:1–14) and religiously (Acts 15:10; Gal. 5:1; 1 Tim. 6:1). Lam. 1:14 employs the figure to describe the negative results of sin. The figure of humans yoked usually represents an unhealthy relationship (2 Cor. 6:14; cf. Ps. 106:28)” (W. E. Nunnally, “Yoke,” ed. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible [Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000], 1404).

 

[19] As Jesus said in Matthew 15:24, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” See whole story for context, Mt. 15:21-28.

 

[20] The Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible expresses this larger understanding of the yoke imagery, “Even more striking is Jeremiah’s use of the term as a metaphor for God’s authority, probably as expressed in the covenant and the word of God (Jer. 2:20; 5:5). Jesus’ shorthand use of the term in Matt. 11:28–30 refers to the rabbinic concepts of ‘the yoke of the kingdom of heaven/Torah/commandments’ (cf. m. Ber. 2:2, 5; b. Sanh. 94b; Sir. 6:24–30; Pss. Sol. 7:9)” (W. E. Nunnally, “Yoke,” ed. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible [Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000], 1404).

 

[21] Charles L. Tyer, “Yoke,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 1026.

 

[22] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Je 2:20; 5:5–6.

 

[23] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Je 27:2; 28:2.

 

[24] Jacob Neusner, The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary, vol. 1 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2011), 82. Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah : A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 5.

[25] Robert Henry Charles, ed., Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, vol. 2 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1913), 699. Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah : A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 679.

 

[26] The roots of biblical discipleship go deep into the fertile soil of God’s calling. That calling is expressed in the pattern of divine initiative and human response that constitutes the heart of the biblical concept of covenant, manifested in the recurrent promise, “I will be your God, and you shall be my people.” That call from Yahweh is reiterated in the call of Jesus, when he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). God has called his people to represent him on the earth, to be with him in every circumstance of life, to be transformed in personal character to be like him. That calling is at the heart of biblical discipleship, both in the Old and New Testaments” (Michael J. Wilkins, “Disciple, Discipleship,” Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Baker Reference Library [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996], 175).

 

[27] Neil T. Anderson, Victory over the Darkness, 10th Anniversary Edition Updated and Expanded (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2000), audiobook reference at 1:11.40.

 

[28] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Ga 5:1–4.

 

[29] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Ac 15:7–11.

[30] Kurt Niederwimmer and Harold W. Attridge, The Didache: A Commentary, Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1998), 120.

[31] Joseph Barber Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), 64.

 

[32] “Although discipleship was a voluntary initiative with other types of master-disciple relationships in the first century, with Jesus the initiative lay with his call (Matt. 4:19; 9:9; Mark 1:17; 2:14; cf. Luke 5:10–11, 27–28) and his choice (John 15:16) of those who would be his disciples. The response to the call involves recognition and belief in Jesus’ identity (John 2:11; 6:68–69), obedience to his summons (Mark 1:18, 20), and counting the cost of full allegiance to him (Matt. 19:23–30; Luke 14:25–28). His call is the beginning of something new; it means losing one’s old life (Matt. 10:34–37; Luke 9:23–25) and finding new life in the family of God through obeying the will of the Father (Matt. 12:46–50)” (Michael J. Wilkins, “Disciple, Discipleship,” Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Baker Reference Library [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996], 176).

[33] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Eph 2:8–9.

 

[34] Jeremy Treat, “Grace is Not a Thing” (May 29, 2014).  https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/grace-is-not-a-thing/, last accessed January 24, 2019. A parallel thought from Paul is found in his words in 1 Corinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” God’s rhythm of rest is not just a 6:1 ration of work to rest, it is resting in your work. In this fallen world, it takes work to truly rest in the Lord. To build the boundaries in your life and to not live your life in 24/7 connectivity and productivity.

[35] Bill Gaultier, Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke: Rhythms of Grace to De-Stress and Live Empowered (Irvine, CA: Soul Shepherding, Inc., 2016), 7. Gaultier was a long-time apprentice to Dallas Willard and this book, along with the work of John Ortberg, is the best work I have found building upon the ground-breaking work of Dallas Willard. Before his death and after reading the first draft of this book, it is reported that Dallas Willard said to Gaultier, “This is groundbreaking! Pastors and others will come under this teaching and develop aspects of it in their own ministry” (1). I am finding that statement very true. Combined with the essential works of Dallas Willard, this book has shaped my thinking on the applications of Mt 11:28-30 more than any other resources.

[36] Tony Stoltzfus with Kathy Stoltzfus and Sarah Herring, Questions for Jesus: Conversational Prayer Around Your Deepest Desires (Redding, CA: Coach22 Bookstore LLC, 2013), 68. For additional support of this thought process, Richard Myers explained, “Yokes had to be shaped and fitted carefully. Many parts were made of wood, so the carpenter Jesus had to know well how to design, make, and use them (Mark 6:3)” (Richard Myers. Images from The Temple Dictionary of the Bible [Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012]).

[37] Janet Pope, “A Yoke? What’s that all about?” (November 20, 2013) http://www.janetpope.org/a-yoke-whats-that-all-about/ (accessed January 26, 2019).

[38] I will further establish the connection between the yoke and the cross in a future sermon. The implications on the call to Christian discipleship are essential to our application to both discipleship and ministry.


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Rest: Life in the Easy Yoke of Jesus! (Week 3)

“The Rest of God!”

Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus is inviting you to come to Him, but what did Jesus promise to give to those who are tired from day-to-day life and weary from carrying the burdens that have been placed on them?

 

From the New American Standard Bible, listen for the promise found in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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.”[1]

 

Here is a brief survey of numerous Bible teachers’ thoughts on Jesus’ promise of rest in v. 28:

 

It includes peace of mind and heart, and relief from uncertainty and anxiety [NTC]. It is a deep refreshment that enables a person to go back to his or her tasks with renewed strength and energy [PNTC]. It is relief from sin and guilt, and from striving after salvation [Lns]. It is an eschatological rest, and reflects the language of Jeremiah 6:16 [EBC, NICNT, NIGTC, WBC], but it is also a present reality [EBC, WBC]. This ‘rest’ is a proper fellowship with God [TH]. It is not idleness or inaction [BNTC, ICC], but the contentment and full life that come from knowing and living by the truth which God’s Son reveals [ICC]. It is eternal, eschatological salvation by faith [CC]. It speaks of a refreshing and fulfillment that looks forward to the eschatological Sabbath [WBC].[2]

 

What a beautiful and robust promise for those who will come to Jesus. All this from a one-word promise.[3] The original Greek word used in Matthew 11:28c is ἀναπαύω which is used 12 times in the New Testament, with the following range of meaning: “to cause someone to gain relief from toil, to cause to rest, refresh, revive; to bring something to a conclusion, end, conclude, finish; to settle on an object, rest upon in imagery.”[4]

Here are three examples of the rest Jesus is referring to in Matthew 11:28. With applications.

 

First, from Mark 6:31-32, after the disciples come back from successful ministry trips, “And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.’ (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.”[5] (emphasis of bold and underline added)

 

APPLICATIONS: Rest can happen in times alone with God or with a small group of people.

 

Do you have 7 friends (a small group of people) that you can be yourself with?

 

You won’t find rest as long as you are carrying the yoke of performance to gain acceptance from people. The fear of man and fear of rejection disallow us from finding rest in the easy yoke of Jesus. This level of relationship is cultivated through time together, with an intentional desire to be known and to know. It’s risky, but what worth having does not come with risk to ourselves. Love is the riskiest business!

 

We will talk about this more in the coming weeks, but it is critical to understand that Jesus’ invitation to find rest is not just a once-upon-a-time faith decision, but daily moment-by-moment decisions to faithfully live by faith to Jesus’ ways and words. This is never tested more than in our relationships, in how we love one another, in how we relate to others ranging from our neighbor to our enemy.

 

When is the last time you went on a retreat (mini, day, or overnight), either alone or with others?

 

The ultimate antidote to the fear of man is the fear of the Lord. It is in Christian discipleship, in answering the invitation to come to Jesus, that you learn how to take off the yokes of other people’s expectations. You don’t need to fear them! This includes taking off the yoke of our own expectations of living up to oppressive standards (often driven by our own past hurts, or by pride of performance or insecurity of what others may think, fear of the future including the very relevant fear of missed opportunities that drives so many young families today). It is impossible to rest in the easy yoke of Jesus when you are being driven by puny gods (idols).

 

Are you making space in little ways for God in your life to experience the rest of God?

 

Start small and start today. One idea is to get to bed on time and on purpose in order to get a good night sleep. Then you can wake up rested to spend your first part of the day with Jesus. Whether for 2 or 20 minutes or 2 hours, turn your early morning into a mini retreat with Jesus. Your day doesn’t start with how you wake up, how you start your day is determined by how you get to bed! Pray the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 to relax and relax to rest.

 

The next two examples of rest are from Paul. In 1 Corinthians 16:18, he spoke of the rest that comes from the ministry that Christians can give to one another, “For they have refreshed my spirit and yours.”[6] Again in 2 Corinthians 7:13, “we rejoiced even much more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.”[7] (emphasis of bold and underline added)

APPLICATION: Rest happens through the service we provide to one another. Both to the one who is ministering as you serve one another in the yoke of Jesus and to the one who is being blessed by the ministry of the other. When was the last time you obeyed the Spirit to serve another person? How did it make you feel? How did it affect the other person? Do you have 1 place of service where you feel led by God to serve others in the easy yoke of Jesus?

 

A warning for the sake of your health: Any place of service that is not in submission to God through the yoke of Jesus will either burden, disappoint, or eventually frustrate you or pridefully cause you to feel better than others. In either case, the lack of the Spirit and the increasing of the flesh in that kind of service can only lead to a wary and burdened soul. All service in the easy yoke of Jesus brings about humility in the person and praise to God who is the only one able to bear spiritual fruit in our lives. As Jesus said in John 15, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain.”[8]

 

Combined, these applications, are what we are calling FBC’s 2019 “7:1 Initiative” that I believe the Lord Jesus is inviting each of us to as members of His body at FBC. This is not a program that we are calling you to, it is a lifestyle. Are you investing in 7 relationships and 1 place of service that will lead to rest for you and rest for others?

 

You are invited to practically apply Matthew 11:28. Rest is not a complete absence of work, but from a complete surrender to Jesus Christ which includes every single day in every single way, not just a 6:1 ratio of work to rest. Jesus is the purpose and meaning of our work and He is the rest for our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls.

 

Immediately after this amazing invitation in Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus declares this in Matthew 12:8, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”[9] Jesus calls us to a day of ceasing from our work because He knows we need to rest from our labors, our striving and scheming, and we need above all to remember and to know that He is God and we are not.

 

The rest of God is not only to be found in our outward rhythms of work and rest, but in the inward movements of our heart and mind to trust God and move closer and closer to Him every day. Jesus is desiring to be with you, from the inside out. Jesus is desiring to set you free and in your freedom, to give you rest, in this life and in the life to come.

 

Are you moving closer and closer to Jesus?
 
 
Rest Week 3:  Listen to it here
 
You can watch the video series by clicking HERE.
 
 

Click here for Supplemental Material

 
—————————————————————————————————

Footnotes:

 

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 11:28–30. All caps in this reference is part of NASB formatting to indicate that Jesus is quoting the Old Testament. In this case, it is Jeremiah 6:16 which is relevant to today’s teaching, but will be further discussed in the future.

 

[2] David Abernathy, An Exegetical Summary of Matthew 1–16, Exegetical Summaries (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2013), 412–413.

 

[3] When I was first studying this passage, I was going to demonstrate how God “gives” and cross reference this promise with the famous promise of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” But while there is a conceptual connection to this truth that God is the giver of all good gifts (cf. James 1:17), there is not a lexical connection. This is a one-word promise and it is not the same Greek verb used in either of these verses or the like (e.g. Rom 8:32).

 

[4] Word studies and analysis of the text done in Logos 8 Bible Software. Word study with Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. Additionally from UBS, “to cause someone to become physically refreshed as the result of resting from work—‘to cause to rest, to give rest.’ δεῦτε πρός με … κἀγὼ ἀναπαύσω ὑμᾶς ‘come to me … and I will give you rest’ Mt 11:28. In some languages it may be difficult to speak of ‘causing someone to become refreshed by resting.’ Normally this would be accomplished simply by causing a person not to have to work. Accordingly, Mt 11:28 may be expressed in some languages as ‘I will make it possible for you no longer to have to work’ or ‘… to toil hard.’ This, however, must not be understood merely in the sense of ‘to give a person a vacation’ or ‘to make it possible for someone to live without working’” (Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains [New York: United Bible Societies, 1996], 260).

 

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mk 6:31–32.

 

[6] Ibid., 1 Co 16:18.

[7] Ibid., 2 Co 7:13.

 

[8] Ibid., Jn 15:5, 16a.

 

[9] Ibid., Mt 12:8. “What better example than the fourth commandment, which dominates 12:1–14? One experiences the sabbath rest precisely by keeping the sabbath command; and it is rest not just for the ‘soul’ (so most translations of 11:29c), but for the body as well. Yet, this only happens for persons intimately related to ‘the Lord of the Sabbath’ (12:8). In Jesus’ hands, the law is an instrument of grace, a guide for loving God and neighbor. Wielded by alien powers (demonic or human), the law becomes enslaving and destructive” (J. Knox Chamblin, Matthew: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries [Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2010], 637).

 


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Rest: Life in the Easy Yoke of Jesus! (Week 2)

“Are you tired and worn out?”

Matthew 11:28-30

Today, we are going to start a conversation on the major issues of stress. We live in an overconnected 24×7 world where technology is blurring the lines between work and home life. In 2015, Forbes magazine broke with this news, “According to the World Health Organization, stress is ‘the health epidemic of the 21st century,’ and the driver of many chronic diseases.”[1] This is a fascinating and insightful article that is more relevant today than it was when it was released in October 2015, over three years ago. With the millennial generation on track to be the majority of the work force within the next 6 years, with technology (phones, pads, computers, AI, etc.) continuing to be integrated more deeply than ever into work force expectations and everyday life productivity, and with tightening budgets causing employees to do more with less, allow me to quote some of the statistical research regarding how stress is affecting us:

 

When asked if they have ever missed work due to stress, nearly one-third (31%) of respondents indicated they had taken a day or more out of work in the past year solely because of stress they were feeling on the job. But what are employees saying when they are skipping out to decompress? The most common excuse is calling out sick (81%), followed by taking a mental health day (32%), saying there is a family emergency (20%), claiming a household problem or car troubles (18%) and saying you have a doctor’s appointment (14%). The alternative to having your employees out of the office – having them work while stressed – isn’t necessarily the next best option. Stressed employees don’t perform to their potential: When asked how they operate at work under stress, 56% said they’ll work overtime, 28% said they log regular hours and avoid extra work and 16% said they’ll take long breaks throughout the day. They might be in the office, but they are not engaged with their work. Perhaps the most interesting piece of data: the number of respondents who admitted they have left a job because of the stress it caused them. Just over 40% of respondents said they quit because of stress, which should make employers and HR departments think a little more about how they can empower their employees to thrive in the stressful situations rather than bear the high costs of turnover, replacement and training.[2]

 

Last week we talked about the first three words of Jesus’ invitation, “Come to Me”. Today we are looking at the next clause, “all who are weary and heavy-laden.”[3] Sounds like Jesus is inviting, “all who are stressed out.” Jesus invites people who are stressed out, strung out, screwed up, set up, set aside, snowed in and sent out to pasture. Jesus is inviting you and me!

 

That is good news, because it means that Jesus has not given up on us yet. Jesus is still inviting!

Please open your Bible with me to Matthew 11 and allow me to briefly help you gain important context on who Jesus is inviting. Jesus is making this invitation after John the Baptist’s disciples relay his question as he sat in jail awaiting his execution, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”[4] I think John the Baptist was feeling some anxiety and he was second guessing who Jesus was.[5] So Jesus gave evidence that He is the Messiah and then as if in direct response to John the Baptist’s anxiety, Jesus said, “And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me [literally, “does not stumble over me”].”[6] Jesus’ ways are not our ways!

 

Immediately afterwards, in a strong moment of what I call “righteous rebuke” Jesus describes the generation to which He was sent.[7] Then in unapologetic words of judgment which Jesus usually focused on the religious elite of his day who were putting the burdens on their people, Jesus judged whole cities for their lack of faith and unwillingness to come to Him. He contrasts them to Sodom and Gomorrah actually (ouch!).[8] And this is when the great compassion of Jesus Christ breaks through one of Jesus’ hardest denunciations recorded in the Bible.[9]

 

From the New American Standard Bible, listen to Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28-30 starting in verse 25, “At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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.”[10]

 

These are words of great compassion in the face of great unbelief. Technically, it is apostasy since Jesus is speaking to a Jewish audience. In a moment that Jesus determined great judgment was due, He compassionately relents (showing His character as gentle and humble in heart) and makes one of the most gracious invitations of His ministry.

Let’s go a little deeper so we can get to application for our lives today. There are two original Greek words of special interest to us this morning. The first is κοπιάω (= weary in Matthew 11:28). There are 23 usages in the NT ranging from to “become weary/tired” and “to exert oneself physically, mentally, or spiritually, word hard, toil, strive, struggle.”[11] An equivalent usage to Matthew 11:28 is found in John 4:6 about Jesus, “Jesus, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.”[12]

 

Growing weary, growing tired is a real condition for all of us. It is part of being human. Even Jesus got tired. You can be tired physically, emotionally, relationally, mentally. We are finite creatures. Even when we are in Christ we are dwelling in finite bodies. Never ever forget, that you are human and you need rest! God made us with finite boundaries physically, emotionally, relationally, and mentally. And I will go as far as telling you, that these boundaries are gifts from God, to remind you of your absolute need for God in this life. God is inviting us out of our pride and self-sufficiency. Don’t deny your everyday need for Him. Are you weary? Are you tired?

 

Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to take a nap.

 

When is the last time you took a nap? If you are simply tired, weary from the journey of the last 6 days, then today is the day to find rest for our whole being because our soul is the center of our personality and all that we are.[13] It is God’s gift of rest to His people and it’s called the Sabbath. It’s not a burden, it’s a gift! It is a day of rest after 6 days of work. It is a day of intentional non-productivity after 6 days of productivity. It is a day of celebrating the infinite God whose life you are dependent on and to remember that you are finite and in need of God’s power and provision in your life. It is a day of humility to be reminded that the world doesn’t need your hard work as much as you think. It’s a day of freedom from self-imposed slavery.

 

We will talk more about the Sabbath the Bible’s rest motif when we dive into Jesus’ promise for rest. For now, just know that rest is a part of God’s design for you. He modeled it in Creation, commanded it through Moses, and revolutionized it through Jesus. Jesus is our rest.[14]

 

Now, combine this with the second word: φορτίζω (= heavy-laden in Matthew 11:28). Very interestingly, in the original language, Jesus used this passive participle in the perfect tense which means that Jesus is implying that someone else has already put the burden on you and you are now experiencing the ongoing state of that burden.[15] This is why there are 2 words in this expression: the first is an active participle in the present tense. You are actively tiring yourself out! This second word is the key to Jesus’ invitation: Because someone else has put a heavy-burden on you once upon a time, but you are still feeling the effects of it.

 

Listen to the only other usage of φορτίζω, but this time in the active voice meaning to load someone down, to burden them.[16] The only two usages of the word were used by Jesus and it provides a significant connection to the meaning of our scripture. Listen to Luke 11:46, “But He said, ‘Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers.’”[17]

 

This is further applied by Jesus in Matthew 23:1-4, “Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.’”[18]

 

Listen one more time to Jesus’ invitation, but this time in The Message. It demonstrates the context in which Jesus is inviting all who are weary and heavy-laden: “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.”[19]

 

Jesus is inviting people into the life He has learned to live. A life that is not one of performance with a try-harder mentality, but the life in the grace-yoke of submission to God the Father, whom Jesus taught us to call Father, too. Jesus lived this before us, showing us the rest and the peace and the fullness of joy that comes with a relationship with God that is not based on man’s performance goals to meet the religious standards that have been squarely placed upon our shoulders with no hope of rescue. The rescue is here and Jesus is doing it and inviting us into it.[20]

Jesus is inviting you to enter into His rest and to stop trying harder to find security. In Jesus, you are already found, stop trying to earn your acceptance because you are already accepted.

 

What God has known we as a people are starting to learn to re-train ourselves to live by—it’s the new way of the Spirit.[21] We are disintegrating as a church because we live more like culture than like God’s people. All of these are worldly and not biblical teachings, but they all are right here working against the very way Jesus calls us to live and do community:

 

  • “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again.”
  • “It’s up to me to make it happen.”
  • “I have to take control of the situation.”
  • “I need to get a grip on my emotions.”
  • “Life is hard. I have to be harder.”
  • “I am a self-made person and I can do it.”

 

We are a try-harder culture, but Jesus is not a try-harder God. Stop trying harder to be someone and to make something of your life. Rest and live your life! Be who you are in Christ and allow Him to do what He’s always intended for you to do in His easy yoke.

 

The easy yoke does not mean life is going to be easy. Life is not easy, but in the easy yoke of Jesus Christ your best life is ahead of you, not behind you. Never behind you! Because the easy yoke of Jesus Christ is your rescue from the yoke of the devil (not only for eternity, but for this world here and now). The devil is the deceiver of your soul who is striving to distort your personality and intoxicate your desires. And in doing so, the devil is the thief of your joy, the robber of your peace, and the destroyer of your rest. For the followers of Jesus Christ, the devil is the only true enemy we will ever have because it is the devil who animates the structures and the systems of this world against the followers of Jesus who are called to live with and for God as proclaimers of the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven.[22]

 

As Jesus Christ promised as our good shepherd, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”[23] As the good shepherd, Jesus never drives us to do His Father’s will, He always walks amidst us, with us, to do His Father’s will. He modeled the life of being in the grace yoke of His Father by living the restful life, which included how He walked, talked, even how He died. Every aspect of His life was according to the Father’s will and for us to be able to enter His rest.[24]

 

As the Apostle Paul said to the disciples of Jesus Christ in Galatia, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”[25]

 

Jesus is inviting you to His easy yoke. Accept Jesus’ invitation and allow Jesus to personally release you from the bondage of religion that is a heavy yoke that has been placed around your neck. In place of that yoke, Jesus will personally custom fit you with a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light. Made by the Nazarene carpenter Himself.[26]

 

Anxiety is caused when we view the problems of this life as greater than the promises of God. Rest is when we trust the promises of God as being greater than the problems of this life.

 

Jesus is inviting you to take Him at His promise for your life.

 

Are you tired and worn out? Has Christianity as you’ve known it and experienced it not even touched your depression or your anxiety or your fears of death or worries in life or your neurotic tendencies or self-centered thinking or consumeristic living?

 

Jesus is inviting you to get out of that heavy yoke of religion and take on the easy yoke of relationship. Jesus is inviting you to find your rest in Him.
 
 
Rest Week 2:  Listen to it here
 
You can watch the video series by clicking HERE.
 
 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] Jan Bruce, “Are You Too Stressed to Work: You’re Not Alone” Forbes Magazine posted October 20, 2015. https://www.forbes.com/sites/janbruce/2015/10/20/are-you-too-stressed-to-work/#3fcde2a5a9e3. Accessed January 12, 2019.

 

[2] Ibid.

 

[3] “πάντες οἱ κοπιῶντες καὶ πεφορτισμένοι” (Kurt Aland et al., Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th Edition. [Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012], Mt 11:28).

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 11:3.

 

[5] The amazing news is that Jesus did not hold this against John because Jesus’ acceptance is not based on performance or right answers. Reference Mt 11:7-11.

 

[6] Ibid., Mt 11:6.

 

[7] When Jesus says things like this (Matthew 11:16-24), He is being true and just (righteous), but when a pastor says things like this today, he is generally thought of as letting his stress, anxiety, frustration, or anger come through toward individuals or the congregation. Is there a place for righteous rebuke in the 21st century pulpit?

 

[8] This is not the only connection to Sodom and Gomorrah. You may remember from our study of the phrase “come to Me” in the NASB it is used in Genesis 18:21 when God describes how the prayers of His people come to Him: “And the Lord said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.’”

 

[9] Cf. Mt 23:13-39. We see the same pattern. The righteous rebuke of Jesus Christ (13-36) is again followed by His compassionate plea (37-39). Even as Jesus’ denounces, He can’t help Himself in compassionately inviting.

 

[10] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 11:25–30. All caps in this reference is part of NASB formatting to indicate that Jesus is quoting the Old Testament.

[11] Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

 

[12] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 4:6.

 

[13] There is currently a lot of research on the effects of sleep deprivation on personality and productivity. Surprise, but science is finding that having sufficient sleep is critical to living an abundant life. Are you getting enough sleep to be at your very best? Are you disciplined about getting to bed on time? Are you relaxing before bed in order to actually get good sleep? Research is also proving that anxious people don’t rest well (in sleep or during the day in how they handle their circumstances and everyday demands and expectations).

 

[14] We will learn more in future studies. For now, additional research available by reading, “How is Jesus our Sabbath Rest?” at https://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-Sabbath.html (accessed January 12, 2019).

[15] Perfect is “The verb tense used by the writer to describe a completed verbal action that occurred in the past but which produced a state of being or a result that exists in the present (in relation to the writer). The emphasis of the perfect is not the past action so much as it is as such but the present ‘state of affairs’ resulting from the past action” (Michael S. Heiser and Vincent M. Setterholm, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology [Lexham Press, 2013; 2013]).

[16] Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. In Lk 11:46, it is also in the indicative mood which is the mood of assertion. Jesus is saying that these men really did it.

[17] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Lk 11:46.

 

[18] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 23:1–4. This Greek word φορτίον is translated “burden” in Mt 23:4 and is used again as “burden” in Mt 11:30, “my burden is light.”

 

[19] Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), Mt 11:28–30.

 

[20] Jesus took on the yoke of His Father before He invited us to take His yoke. Jesus modeled a submitted life (“I am gentle and humble in heart” v. 29) before He calls us to a submitted life. “As a disciple of the Father Jesus learned the easy yoke life and teaches it to us. Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of Jesus’ life on earth is that as the Sovereign Lord he himself lived by the discipline of submission!” (Bill Gaultiere, Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke: Rhythms of Grace to De-Stress and Live Empowered. [Irvine, CA: Soul Shepherding, Inc., 2016], 30, 34). The try-harder conversation was stimulated by this book and some information was shared from pages 19-21.

[21] Rom 7:6. For further study, check out Larry Crabb’s resources.

 

              [22] We must soberly and humbly acknowledge, that this includes the dynamics of our own cultural values. In the challenges of our current conversations, the devil is keeping us in bondage to the try-harder mentality fueled by narcissistic fear and unempathetic greed! Don’t believe me? My hope is that the call of Jesus will reform the church. The only way we will truly have “liberty and justice for all” in this nation is if the church of Jesus Christ wakes up from its long slumber to become true followers of Jesus, uncompromised by the ambition for more stuff and the lust for power over “the other” that has intoxicated us. Wake up people of God and unyoke from the heavy yoke, the performance yoke of this world, and take on the easy yoke, the grace yoke of Jesus Christ. This will be the hardest work the American church has done in a long time because it will break us from our own desire to join in the building of mini-empires. The only people who say that there is no hard work found in taking on the easy yoke of Jesus Christ are the ones who have never truly submitted to His lordship. Submission is the hardest work because it is the crucified life of Galatians 2:20. The hard work of Jesus is revolutionary to all things that come natural to the world because His kingdom, to which He is inviting us, is not of this world (Jn 18:36). More on this later.

 

[23] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 10:10–11.

[24] Allusion to Hebrews 4:11. More on this passage next week when we unpack the rest motif and to demonstrate how Jesus modeled the restful life, even in the hardest of circumstances.

[25] Ibid., Ga 5:1. Compare with Ga 2:4; Acts 15:10; and 1 Tim 6:1.

[26] We will discuss this more when we talk about the yoke of Jesus. But it is an amazing thought that Jesus, as Joseph’s apprentice and as a carpenter Himself, would have custom made countless numbers of yokes for the oxen in His community. Jesus knows what it takes to make a yoke that fits properly. The yoke He is calling you to has been custom made for you to do the good works the Father has prepared for you (Eph 2:10).


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Rest: Living in the Easy Yoke of Jesus! (Week 1)

“You are invited!”

Matthew 11:28-30

 You are invited! You ask, invited to do what? You are invited to make 2019 a great year! One year from now, as you are looking back on 2019, here is the most important question we can ask ourselves: Am I growing closer to Jesus Christ today more than I was a year ago? And as a church: Are we loving one another more like Jesus’ family today than we were a year ago?

 

But you must know who is inviting you. It is not me or the church who is inviting you to grow closer in your relationship with Jesus. This is not a program you can opt in or out of; this is a crossroads moment! How you respond to any invitation is dependent on who is inviting you!

 

From the New American Standard Bible, listen to Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, 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.”[1]

 

This will be our scripture focus for the months of January and February. It is the goal of this series that we each will go on a journey of learning how to live our day-to-day lives in such a way as to grow closer to Jesus and to one another. By doing so, we’ll experience rest.

 

Today, we start this series with the first three words: Come to Me… In the NASB translation, the phrase “come to me” is found 50 times and of those 50 usages (30 in OT/20 in NT), 19 (5 in OT/14 in NT) of them has God as the object of the phrase (the “Me”).[2]

 

Where else did Jesus use this invitation of come to Me? In all the verses below, I add the emphasis of bold and underline to highlight these specific words in their context.

 

Jesus says “come to Me” in Mark 10:14-15 (cf. the parallel passages in Matthew 19:14 & Luke 18:16), “But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”[3]

 

From Luke 6:46-48, Jesus admonishes, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.”[4]

In Jesus’ command for us to carry our own cross in Luke 14:26-27, Jesus opens the invitation, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”[5]

 

We’ve now seen these specific words used in all three of the Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke. What about the fourth gospel, John?

 

In John 5:39-40, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”[6]

 

Jesus uses this phrase six unique times in John 6. In verse 35, “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’”[7] Twice in John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.”[8] Twice in John 6:44-45, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.”[9] And again in John 6:65, “And He was saying, ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.’”[10]

 

The final time “come to Me” is used by Jesus is John 7:37-38, “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ ’ ”[11] Please notice the parallelism in this passage and also in John 6:35 between “come to Me” and “believes in Me.” This grammatical construct is like a neon sign of Jesus’ intent on what it means to truly come to Him. It is a life of faith in Jesus that leads to rest.

 

Quickly, allow me to go one layer deeper with you so you can see something that is not apparent in our English translations. The original Greek word translated “come” in Matthew 11:28 is δεῦτε. This word is not only translated “come”, but also “follow” as in Jesus’ invitation of “Follow Me” in Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:17. In other words, Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28 has a semantic connection to His call to the life of Christian discipleship.

The rest for your life that you are looking for is not found in seeking after rest in and of itself. We will build upon this overarching point significantly over these next two months, but please know up front that rest for your soul will never be found in retirement or recreation, but in living the deeper life of imitating Jesus Christ who restores us to our divine work (our form and function) as the Imagers of God.[12]

 

Rest is found in not only putting your faith in Jesus, but then living the life of Christian discipleship. Rest is found in the midst of our work when we return our work to its original God-given purpose (Genesis 1:26-31). That great news is that God promises to reward us for our work (Matthew 25:21-46). Jesus describes the reward for those who live according to God’s way as an invitation in Matthew 25:34, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”[13]

 

The One who created you has redeemed you to find rest in the work He formed you to do in your life. As the Apostle Paul stated in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”[14]

 

For this is the yoke you are being invited to put on and this is the cross you are being invited to carry. It is counter-intuitive because neither of these images produces thoughts of rest, but both the yoke and the cross are “conceptual metaphors” of taking on yourself the teachings and ways of Jesus Christ.[15] To do so is to choose the path you are going to take in the crossroad that you (and we as a church) find ourselves. Taking the yoke of Jesus Christ is to take for yourself the ancient paths of following God,[16] who is fully revealed to you in Jesus the Christ. Will you follow Jesus and find rest for your soul, for this life and for the life to come?
 
 
Rest Week 1:  Listen to it here.
 
You can watch the video series by clicking HERE.
 
 
For ADDITIONAL RESOURCES on this topic, click HERE.
 
———————————————————————————————-
FOOTNOTES
 

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 11:28–30. All caps in this reference is part of NASB formatting to indicate that Jesus is quoting the Old Testament.

 

[2] All word studies were done utilizing the Logos 8 Bible software.

 

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mk 10:14–15.

 

[4] Ibid., Lk 6:46–48.

[5] Ibid., Lk 14:26–27.

 

[6] Ibid., Jn 5:39–40.

 

[7] Ibid., Jn 6:35.

 

[8] Ibid., Jn 6:37.

 

[9] Ibid., Jn 6:44–45. This scripture, in addition to verses 37 and 65, establishes the sovereignty of God as a determinant for who will come to Jesus. I will develop in a future study how this is also seen in Matthew 11:25-27 as the context for Jesus’ invitation “Come to Me…”. While we view this as an open invitation, these scriptures overwhelmingly indicate that for a person to respond to this invitation s/he must be given the effective means to do so by God. This should lead to an even greater humility in any person who has come to Jesus.

 

[10] Ibid., Jn 6:65.

 

[11] Ibid., Jn 7:37–38.

[12] I will develop this line of thought in a future teaching when we address what Jesus calls the “soul”. Jesus is actually quoting Jeremiah 6:16 when He uses this word, so we will examine the Hebrew word nephesh.

 

[13] Ibid., Mt 25:34.

 

[14] Ibid., Eph 2:10.

[15] “Conceptual metaphor refers to the way we use a concrete term or idea to communicate abstract ideas. If we marry ourselves to the concrete (“literal”) meaning of words, we’re going to miss the point the writer was angling for in many cases. If I use the word “Vegas” and all you think of is latitude and longitude, you’re not following my meaning. Biblical words can carry a lot of freight that transcends their concrete sense. Inspiration didn’t immunize language from doing what it does” (Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, First Edition. [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015], 387). More on this in a future sermon when we develop the yoke imagery, but for now it is enough to know that a communication/teaching device is being used by Jesus in His invitation to Christian discipleship.

 

[16] Jesus references Jeremiah 6:16 in His invitation of Matthew 11:28-30. While we will deal with the implications of this OT quotation in a later teaching, for now it is important to realize that the context of Jeremiah 6:16 is Yahweh putting before Israel the choice of following His “ancient paths” or worshipping pagan gods. They choose the later, to their own destruction. What will we choose as Jesus invites us to follow Him?


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Supernatural (Week 5)

Supernatural: When Heaven Came Down to Earth!

[This Advent Series focuses on the Angels Perspective of the Christmas Story]

Message #4: “Angels: Participants in the Last Things!”

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

(We apologize, but this week our sound system was disabled by an apparent power surge in New Castle.  We have a special version of the video to share with you.  Please click HERE to view it.)

Angels are God’s loyal army who deliver messages and faithfully minister to God’s people. Angels were present at the beginning, have had God-ordained roles throughout salvation history, and according to God’s Word have a direct role in the last things.

 

Listen to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

 

These words, like all prophetic words in scripture, were given for this reason: to comfort God’s people in the face of current sufferings and hardships and the fear and anxiety caused by the unknown of the future. In the same way that God gives us His Word to comfort us, God sends his heavenly host (angels) to minister to us. As Hebrews 1:14 asks, “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?”

 

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 discusses the rapture of the Church from the earth, the taking of God’s people to Heaven in preparation for the seven years of tribulation which are necessary for the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Israel. This is the imminent expectation and hopeful promise for the Church. God’s people are living in the season of the Second Advent—we live in anticipation of what has been promised as God is leading us toward the consummation of all things which includes the fulfillment of all His covenant promises! I believe the promises of the Second Advent will be fulfilled the same way that the promises of the First Advent were fulfilled—literally, spiritually and fully according to God’s Word. God’s promises are for the whole of God’s creation because God’s purposes for creating the heavens and the earth will not be thwarted by evil or sin, but will be redeemed by truth and grace as revealed in Jesus Christ.

 

But we must not make the same mistake that the religious leaders (Sadducees and Pharisees) of Jesus’ time made. The Sadducees missed the First Advent because they did not believe in certain supernatural realities, such as angels and the resurrection from the dead. Their view of scripture did not allow them to see Jesus for who He so clearly declared and showed Himself to be. In fact, their view of Scripture caused them to not just miss it, but to reject and demonize Jesus. On the other hand, the Pharisees missed the First Advent because they too rigidly held to their literal interpretations of the prophecies of the coming Messiah so they too not only missed Jesus as Messiah, but they rejected Jesus as from being of God and ultimately killed him, because He and the events around Him didn’t happen according to their interpretations and timelines. Both ways of thinking are gutters still today, either extreme of prophetic interpretation: the lack of spiritual insight to the Scripture or the rigid adherence to a limited perspective of what has been revealed.

 

Did you hear that the voice of the archangel will be a part of the Rapture of the church? This is not the only time we will see the angels at the time of the last things. Jesus teaches about angels in Matthew 13:37-43, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

 

The angels are participants in the end times of God making all things right because angels are God’s heavenly host. God’s army will not fail in bringing to completion that which God has willed. Revelation 12:7-11 proclaims of the angelic involvement of the final victory over evil, “And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.’ And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”

 

And this paves the way to the greatest reality of God’s will. That God is going to purify and perfect this cursed creation to bring about our final blessed home in the Eternal Kingdom of God—the earth shall return to what God intended: God’s family all together in Eden. The Bible calls this redemption of all things the New Heaven and New Earth. In Revelation 21—22, the angel shows John God’s final dwelling for us with Him. It will be just as Adam and Eve were with Him before the Fall, but even better! This time we’ll be in a glorified state where there will be no more possibility of rebellion (sin), for evil will have been judged and removed from creation, and there will be no more death. And guess what, it is right down here, on earth.

 

When Heaven is on Earth! The Second Advent will be fulfilled just as literally and just as spiritually and just as fully as the First Advent! Listen to sections of Revelation 21:9—22:5, “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, ‘Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.”

 

Church be comforted for you have a heavenly army (angels) who will ensure that the will of God happens in each of our lives and for all of creation. Just as angels were there at the beginning, they will be there at the end. Just as we have celebrated and proclaimed the fulfillment of God’s promises for the First Advent (Christmas), let us celebrate and proclaim the Second Advent (the Second Coming of Christ).

 

As Paul says, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
 
Supernatural Week 5:  Listen to it here
 
You can watch the video series by clicking HERE.
 
 
For Additional Resources, click HERE.

 


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Supernatural (Week 4)

Supernatural: When Heaven Came Down to Earth!

[This Advent Series focuses on the Angels Perspective of the Christmas Story]

Message #3: “Angels: Proclaimers of Peace!”

(Luke 2:1-20)

 

This is the 3rd message in our Christmas series of messages on angels, called Supernatural. Throughout this series and even just in our Christmas Bible reading today, have you noticed how much the angels are directly involved in the Christmas story? The angels have delivered key messages of hope to the main players in the Christmas story. The angels’ involvement is not secondary to the Christmas story, it is God ordained. Therefore, we should understand what God has designed and willed as essential to the greatest miracle in history—Christmas!

 

The heart of Christmas is supernatural! It is the miracle of the incarnation—God who is Spirit and exists outside of creation took on flesh and came amongst us into creation. The Christmas miracle of Immanuel—God is with us! God had walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but because of their sin He justly removed them from His presence (the Fall). God made a way for humanity to be in His presence once again. At the heart of the Big Story of the Bible, Christmas is God’s rescue mission to humanity and the angels are God’s heavenly host, participating fully in Heaven invading Earth to bring God’s peace through His Son Jesus Christ.

 

Angels are called the “heavenly host” (Luke 2:13). The word “host” means “‘a well-trained army’—one that is prepared for war. God’s angels are organized and ready to respond to His every desire and command” (David Jeremiah, 2015, 46). Angels are not a little bling in the Christmas story to make it more marketable to a pop-culture consumer. Angels are not like the lights on the tree to make it more festive. Before angels were key characters in your favorite Hallmark movie, angels were important messengers and ministers to the cast of characters in the actual historical event that is the Christmas story we remember and celebrate every year.

 

The Loyal Host of Heaven have been watching the Big Story of the Bible unfold from the beginning (Job 38:6-7 points to them being there at Genesis 1) and the angels will continue to watch the greatest story ever told unfold before them until its completion (Revelation 21:12 points to them being there in the New Heaven and New Earth). They have front row seats in the very presence of God in Heaven, but they heard something that first Christmas that not a single one of them could have known or even dared to imagine. What did they hear? The cry of a little newborn baby named Jesus. Jesus who would grow up and fulfill every ancient prophecy of the Messiah. Jesus who would die a sinner’s death on the Cross for humanity. Jesus who would defeat death and Hell itself, forever removing the sting of death. Jesus, God, Eternal… a baby…

 

Let’s read one more time the role of the angels in just this one part of the Christmas story in Luke 2:9-15, “And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.’ When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, ‘Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.’”

 

The angels make promises to the shepherds that are fulfilled when they went to investigate the supernatural claims of God’s heavenly messengers. The shepherds found baby Jesus just as the angels said He would be found! They worshipped baby Jesus! In fact, their response to their investigation of the supernatural claims about Jesus was this: The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them” (Luke 2:20).

 

Just like with the angels, you too can be forever touched if you seek to explore the supernatural promise of God made to humanity through the angels. The Loyal Host of Heaven proclaimed on that first Christmas, “Glory to God in the highest. And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14).

 

The angels may be proclaimers of this peace, but only Jesus Christ can give you this peace! Jesus is the Immanuel—God who is with us! Peace among men can only be found when we first have peace with the God who demonstrated His love for humanity by sending His unique Son that those who believe in Him will have eternal life with God and not taste of the second death, which is an eternal state of being separated from God, the only One by whom we can experience lasting peace (John 3:16). The first Christmas was a rescue mission and that rescue is still happening in our world today!

 

Jesus promises in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”[1]

 

God keeps His promises! This is why Jesus came from Heaven to Earth, to bring peace between humanity and God. The angels knew this and they watched God bring peace to humanity by becoming the Christmas miracle: Immanuel – Jesus is the Christmas miracle to which the angels stand in awe and wonder of God’s great love for humanity.

 

Have you opened your mind and heart to receive the first and greatest Christmas gift ever given?

 
Supernatural Week 4:  Listen to it here

You can watch the video series by clicking HERE

 
 

Footnotes:

[1] As Chrysostom (4th Century Church Father) said in Demonstration Against the Pagans 2.8–10, “Why did Christ speak in this way [referencing John 14:27]? Because the peace which comes from a human being is easily destroyed and subject to many changes. But Christ’s peace is strong, unshaken, firm, fixed, steadfast, immune to death and unending” (Thomas C. Oden and Cindy Crosby, eds., Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings: Lectionary Cycle A [Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2007], 33).
 

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Supernatural (Week 3) A Musical

“Supernatural: A Preparation for Advent Story”

Angel stories adapted from Luke 1-2, & Matthew 1
 
NARRATOR: (Kevin Stonerock)
From the beginning of time as you know it, God’s plan was to be in communion with His creation. But He did not want it to be a forced relationship, but rather one of choice. He loved the man and woman that He created and wanted them to choose to love Him in return.
 
But they made the choice to want to be like God, which was the same thing that caused Lucifer (Satan) and a third of the angels to be cast out of heaven. Rather than being in love with Him and being thankful for what He had given them, they listened to Satan speaking through the snake and threw it all away for a lie.
 
God’s desire to be in communion was still there, even though they chose separation. So He began a plan of restoration, keeping the lines of communication open. He wove what many call ‘a scarlet thread’ throughout the tapestry of the history of the world. God kept reaching out, speaking through the prophets and sending angels to let them know He still loved them and would be sending a Messiah, IMMANUEL, which means “God with us”. While Satan tried to derail this plan, God kept showing mankind that He was working all things together for their good. They cried out for a Deliverer, someone to help end their suffering. But God showed them that what they really needed was a Savior, One whom could restore the relationship between God and man. And God’s plan would not be delivered in the way that many expected.
 
 
ANGEL 1 (Kenton Durham) There was a priest name Zacharias serving in Judea under Herod, the Great, king of Judea. He was married to Elizabeth, who was a direct descendant of Aaron, the first high priest of Israel. Both were found righteous in the eyes of God, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and requirements. But sadly, they were childless because Elizabeth was barren and they were both past the age of having children.
 
One day while he was serving in the temple, he was chosen to enter the sanctuary of the Temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar…
 
 
SONG:  “The Father’s Plan” Duet with Zach & Angel  (by Matt Hurst)
 
ANGEL 1 (Kenton) When he went out and was unable to speak, by the signs he was making, the crowd realized he must have seen a vision. He returned home after his duties were fulfilled, and Elizabeth became pregnant. She secluded herself for 5 months, saying…
 
 
ELIZABETH (Tina Durham) How kind and gracious the Lord is! He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.
 
 
NARRATOR (Kevin S) Meanwhile, in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel visited a young woman by the name of Mary who was engaged to Joseph the carpenter in the village of Nazareth in Galilee
 
 
GABRIEL (Jared Evans) Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you! (pause for Mary’s reaction) Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!
 
 
MARY (Emily Hurst) How can this be, since I am a virgin?
 
 
GABRIEL (Jared) The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth is pregnant with a son and is now in her sixth month. For the word of God will never fail.
 
MARY (Emily) I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.
 
 
NARRATOR (Kevin S) A few days later, Mary went off to the hill country of Judea to visit Elizabeth. When she entered the house, at the sound of her greeting, the baby leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit…
 
ELIZABETH (Tina) Mary…..God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, my baby boy jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.
 
 
NARRATOR (Kevin) Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months, then returned home. But while she was away, the angel visited Joseph in a dream (Joseph played by Matt H.)
 
GABRIEL (Jared) Joseph, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, for he will save the people from their sins.
 
 
NARRATOR (Kevin) When he awoke, he did as the angel told him and took Mary to be his wife.
 
 
SONG: “MARY DID YOU KNOW” (sung by Jared)
 
 
NARRATOR (Kevin S) Just before the child was born, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census should be taken, which required everyone to return to their ancestral towns to register. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea. He and Mary traveled there from Nazareth. There was not a room to be found in the town, but they found shelter in a stable, and there she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snuggly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger. In the fields nearby, there were shepherds keeping watch over their flocks of sheep. Suddenly an angel appeared among them with the radiance of God’s glory surrounding them, and they were terrified…
 
(Shepherds played by Brandon Atwood, Kevin King and Elijah Abrams)
 
ANGEL 2 (Kolby Durham) Don’t be afraid! I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And you will recognize him by this sign; You will find the baby wrapped snuggly in strips of cloth and lying in a manger
 
 
SONG: “Agnus Dei” (Sung by Kolby)
 
 
NARRATOR (Kevin S) The shepherds knew that they must go and see what the Lord had told them about. They rushed to the village and found Mary and Joseph with the baby lying in the manger, just as they were told.
 
 
SONG: “Noel” (sung by Kenton)   NARRATOR (Kevin S) Thankfully, the story does not stop here, but rather marks the change in history where God came down in a supernatural way in the form of human baby that was fully God and fully man. His Son grew up, in favor with God and man, and began His ministry by calling 12 men to follow Him, promising that He would make them ‘fishers of people’. He performed miracles, signs and wonders, and ultimately gave His life up as a ransom for many. But He rose again, showing himself to his followers and charging them with the task of taking the message of grace, hope and love to a world that needs to restore their communion with God on a personal level. God poured out His love on us, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The Lamb of God, taking all of our sins to the cross, became the ultimate sacrifice, something that no ordinary man could ever do. Just like on that first Christmas night, we are all invited to come to the Messiah, and recognize our need for the Savior.
 
 
SONG: ‘Is He Worthy’ with O Come Let Us Adore Him (Lead by Brandon Atwood, sang by entire cast)
 
Watch the Video here.
 

List of Characters:

  • Narrator: Kevin Stonerock
  • Angel 1: Kenton Durham
  • Zachariah: Ken Durham
  • Elizabeth: Tina Durham
  • Gabriel: Jared Evans
  • Mary: Emily Hurst
  • Joseph: Matt Hurst (non speaking)
  • Baby Jesus:  Eliza Hurst
  • Angel 2: Kolby Durham
Shepherds (non speaking; could also be part of crowd):
  • Shepherd Kevin King
  • Shepherd Elijah Abrams
  • Shepherd Brandon Atwood
Angel Costumes made by Betty McQueen and Marcia Ireland
Tech Crew:  David Maddy, Cheryl Gideon, Michael Dabrowski, Max Harter, Caleb & Staisha West
 

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Supernatural (Week 2)

[This Advent Series focuses on the Angels Perspective of the Christmas Story] Bree King reads Luke 1:26-38, then Kevin King reads Matthew 1:18-25, prays for the message and congregation.

Message #2: “Angels: Ministering Spirits to God’s People!”

Luke 1:26-38 & Matthew 1:18-25

Do you notice how the angels are directly involved in the Christmas story? Last week, we saw how the angel Gabriel was involved in the birth of John the Baptist and today we see how directly he was involved in the birth of Jesus the Christ. Truly, without God sending the angel to Joseph, Mary would have ended up a single teenage mother, outcasted and labeled by her community, trying to raise the Savior of the World by herself. The angels’ involvement is not secondary to the Christmas story, it is God ordained. Therefore, we should understand what God has designed and willed.
 
There are approximately 180 references to angels in the Bible and in ¾ of them they are focused on angels serving God’s human family (Michael Heiser, 2018, 132). They are simply doing their job as the guardians of God’s presence and messengers (ministers) to God’s people! They are the “Loyal Host of Heaven.” The word “host” means “‘a well-trained army’—one that is prepared for war. God’s angels are organized and ready to respond to His every desire and command” (David Jeremiah, 2015, 46).

 

As an immediate application for us, never underestimate the ripple effect of one small act of obedience. I believe that “just doing your job” with all of your heart is the greatest way you can serve in full-time Christian ministry. Please hear this: you don’t have to work in a position within the church or as a missionary to be on mission! It’s not about your job title or what you do, it’s about doing it all for God’s glory. As Paul says in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.”
 
Just think about this for a second: What if the angels did not do their jobs wholeheartedly? What if the angels who are commanded to minister to you in a time of great need or danger were only going through the motions, trying to do the minimum of what was needed to avoid Hell in hopes of going to Heaven? Scary thought…maybe that should wake us up to the importance of how we live our lives. Thank you Jesus for forgiveness and grace!  But let us not use God’s grace as license to sin or to be half-hearted in our Christian life.
 
Angels are created beings who have existed in the presence of God for thousands of years so while they have free will and can fall, they have every reason to obey with their whole heart. John records an angel’s response to him in Revelation 19:10, “Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, ‘Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God.’”
 
Perspective matters! This verse DOES NOT mean angels are our servants; they are fellow servants of God! Angels are ministering spirits to God’s earthly family. Listen to Hebrews 1:14,Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?”
 
And this leads us into our big question of the day: Are there guardian angels? ——— The short answer is yes! Here is what the Bible has to say about the topic of guardian angels:
 
  1. Hebrews 1:14 calls angels “ministering spirits” and they are “sent out” which means there is a Sender [GOD; hence, we don’t command angels, they act according to God’s orders and within the boundaries of His revealed will to them] and they minister to a specific people, “those who will inherit salvation” [who the Bible calls the elect].
  2. Psalm 34:7 reinforces the group to which the angels minister: The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.”
  3. Psalm 91:11 discusses that you could have a multitude of angels helping you: “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.
  4. Matthew 18:10 emphasizes God’s special provision for children, but speaks of angels in heaven continually in God’s presence and we know angels cannot be in two places at once: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”
  5. Acts 12:15 is part of an amazing story of how angels serve God’s earthly family. This Scripture teaches that angels are real and active in the age of the Church. After angels physically manifest to rescue Peter from jail (please read the story), Peter goes back to the other followers of Jesus, but since they think he is in jail, when Rhoda goes to announce that Peter is at the door knocking, she gets this response: “They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind!’ But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, ‘It is his angel.’”

 

God’s people do have angels ministering to them according to God’s command and permission. Because God sees all and knows all, at times of great need you will have help, with the possibility that some of that help comes in the form of an angel or a host of angels. As J. I. Packer states, “Suffice it to pinpoint the relevance of angels by saying that if at any time we stand in need of their ministry, we shall receive it; and that as the world watches Christians in hope of seeing them tumble, so do good angels watch Christians in hope of seeing grace triumph in their lives” (J. I. Packer, 1993, 66).
 
Allow me to make 2 quick illustrations: Sports: I’ve played basketball and you’ve either played it or watched it. Do we need to always play man-to-man defense, even when there are enough players to do so? No, of course not, you do what is effective and that which the coach tells you!
 
Just like you trust the coach, trust God! The angels do, so should we! In fact, the angels that don’t trust God are no longer part of the loyal host of Heaven. Truly, if we don’t trust God and do what He says, should we go around saying we are Christians? Thank God for Jesus Christ who by grace redeems us and secure us in His love, but let us not abuse such a love.
 
Parenting: First kid, it’s 2:1. Second kid, it’s 1:1. Third kid, you’re outnumbered! J But, here’s the deal, even when Kimberly and I are outnumbered (for her it’s 3:1 for 10 hours a day most days) every one of our children knows that they have a parent who is there for them and will answer their call for help. Even though the child may not always get what s/he thinks is best or good in his/her own eyes, the child knows s/he always has a parent who is there! How much more will we receive the help we need when we call upon the Lord. As Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Don’t call out to angels because angels come only at the command of the Lord. Don’t try to command them, don’t pray to them, and never worship them!
 
Angels are not God’s only means by which to minister to you, to care for you, to guard you and His earthly family. God has more at His disposal for your well-being in this life than angels. God has called you to come to the aid of others like the angels are called to come to your aid. Which is why Hebrews 13:1-2 commands His Church, Let love of the brethren [men and women] continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers [men and women], for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” You never know how God will use you to minister to others. You never know that someone may mistake you as an angel just like you may be ministering to an angel one day without knowing it. This should stop us in our tracks of any racism, sexism, bigotry, vileness, cursing, gossip or slander. God is with us and His angels are possibly the person you are speaking to or about.
 
Who can you invest in today? What service can you render? How can you be there for someone who needs to experience the love of God?
 
In conclusion, may the Christmas story remind you that you are never alone! The miracle of Christmas is Immanuel – God is with us! The little baby Jesus of the first Christmas morning grew up to be a man who lived a perfect life, died a substitutionary death for your sin, defeated death through His resurrection, ascended to Heaven in His resurrected body, and is coming again to make all things right. He promised to you, “I am with you always, even to the end of this age” (Matthew 28:20).
 
God keeps His promises! You are secure in His love for all of eternity and you are protected by His presence and power in this life. God will send His angels to minister to you, but more than that, God is with you, today and every day, forever! Immanuel – this is the Christmas miracle to which the angels stand in awe and wonder of God’s great love for humanity.
 
Supernatural Week 2:  Listen to it here
 
You can watch the video series by clicking HERE.
 
 
 
This ends the notes from the actual teaching, but for those who have had their appetites whetted…
 

For Additional Study (Quotes from Resources with references)

 
Key Verses Heb 1:14; Heb 13:2; Is 6:2–3; Da 10:10–14; Lk 1:26–38; 2 Ki 19:35; Job 1:6; 2 Pe 2:11; Col 1:16; Mt 22:28–30; Lk 15:10; Zec 1:9–10; Ps 103:20–21; Eze 10:1–22 Additional Verses Ge 18:1–22; Ge 19:1–22; Jos 5:13–15; 2 Sa 14:17; 2 Sa 14:20; 1 Ki 22:19; Job 38:7; Ps 34:7; Ps 78:49; Ps 91:11; Ps 148:2–6; Da 9:20–27; Col 1:16; Mt 2:19; Mt 4:6–11; Mt 22:30; Mt 24:31; Mt 25:31; Mt 26:53; Mk 1:13; Mk 8:38; Lk 2:13; Lk 4:10; Lk 20:36; Jn 20:10–14; Ac 1:10–11; Ac 5:19; Ac 10:22; Ac 12:5–11; 1 Co 11:10; Col 1:16; Col 2:18; Heb 1:7; Heb 2:6–9; 2 Pe 2:11; Re 4:6–10; Re 5:11–12; Re 14:6[1]  
 
  • David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (2015)
 
As far as I can determine, there are just two verses in the Bible that indicate there might be guardian angels in the world today. The first is Matthew 18:10: “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” Apparently, some of God’s angels are assigned to stand ready before the Father to respond instantly to His command for protection and care over these children. Jesus calls these particular angels “their angels.” And that’s why some people have used this passage as proof that everyone has an angel.

 

The second passage that seems to support guardian angels is in Acts 12. After Peter was released from jail, he went to the home of Mary, where a group of Christians was praying for his release. A servant named Rhoda answered Peter’s knock at the door. She was so excited to hear his voice, she left him outside and ran to tell the believers Peter was at the door. They didn’t believe her and reasoned the person at the door must be Peter’s angel.
 
Now, those are the only two passages that I’m aware of that allude to the idea of guardian angels. Having said all of that, let me also present to you the other side of the story, because while many believers throughout church history have believed in guardian angels, others have rejected the idea, feeling these two texts are not proof enough to construct such a doctrine. As you read the Scripture, there were many times when more than one angel was called into action on behalf of one of God’s chosen. Several angels carried Lazarus’s soul to Abraham’s bosom. And Elisha and his servant were surrounded by many angels. The psalmist writes that all the angels rally for the protection of one saint.
 
Now, we can’t know with absolute certainty whether or not each believer has a guardian angel; but we do know that God’s angels care about us and that they can intervene in our lives as they are called by God—and that’s a wonderful thought![2]

 

Our English word angel translates the Hebrew word mal’ak in the Old Testament and the Greek word angelos in the New Testament. The core meaning of both of those words is “messenger.” That’s the essence of who and what angels are: God’s messengers. God’s will and work for angels is to communicate His messages, both by what they say and what they do (Psalm 103:20–21). And solely in obedience to His will are they sent to serve us. God’s own ministry to us, His plans for us, and His protection of us are the busy stairway angels use in their daily diligence of attending to our needs. When they give us strength or enlightenment, it is God’s strength or enlightenment that they impart (Luke 22:43; Daniel 9:21–22). Their encouragement is God’s encouragement (Genesis 16:10–11). Their guidance is God’s guidance (Acts 11:13). Their protection is God’s protection (Psalm 34:7). When they bring comfort and assistance, it is God’s comfort and assistance they offer (Matthew 4:10–11). And when they bring wrath, it is God’s wrath they inflict (2 Chronicles 32:21). Through what angels say and do, God personally expresses to us His friendship, His fatherhood, and much more.[3]  
 
The Bible gives no indication that angels will respond if we pray directly to them for help. We are never told to pray to angels. In fact, in Scripture we don’t find any instances of people even asking God to send them an angel’s protection. And the only person in Scripture who tried persuading someone else to seek help from an angel was Satan, who quoted an Old Testament verse about angelic protection while tempting Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:6). Angels are God’s messengers to us and never our messengers to God—they are not go-betweens or mediators between us and heaven. No one in Scripture ever prayed to an angel, and neither should we. We pray to God, and He sends the help we need.[4]  
 
Yes, some angels appear in human form. In Genesis 18 and 19, angels appear as men to Abraham and Lot. If you read the story carefully, you see that these angels ate, washed, walked, grabbed hands—they took a physical form. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” If you really believe in angels and would enjoy entertaining or honoring them (as a thank-you gesture perhaps for everything they do for you), consider improving your hospitality to strangers. Not until eternity will you know if any of the strangers you encountered were angels, but the possibility is exciting![5]
 
  • Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (2004)  
 
Scripture clearly tells us that God sends angels for our protection: “He will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Ps. 91:11–12). But some people have gone beyond this idea of general protection and wondered if God gives a specific “guardian angel” for each individual in the world, or at least for each Christian. Support for this idea has been found in Jesus’ words about little children, “in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10). However, our Lord may simply be saying that angels who are assigned the task of protecting little children have ready access to God’s presence. (To use an athletic analogy, the angels may be playing “zone” rather than “man-on-man” defense.) When the disciples in Acts 12:15 say that Peter’s “angel” must be knocking at the door, this does not necessarily imply belief in an individual guardian angel. It could be that an angel was guarding or caring for Peter just at that time. There seems to be, therefore, no convincing support for the idea of individual “guardian angels” in the text of Scripture.[6]  
 
As if to make the reality of angelic observation of our service to God more vivid, the author of Hebrews suggests that angels can sometimes take human form, apparently to make “inspection visits,” something like the newspaper’s restaurant critic who disguises himself and visits a new restaurant. We read, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb. 13:2; cf. Gen. 18:2–5; 19:1–3). This should make us eager to minister to the needs of others whom we do not know, all the while wondering if someday we will reach heaven and meet the angel whom we helped when he appeared temporarily as a human being in distress here on earth.
 
When we are suddenly delivered from a danger or distress, we might suspect that angels have been sent by God to help us, and we should be thankful. An angel shut the mouths of the lions so they would not hurt Daniel (Dan. 6:22), delivered the apostles from prison (Acts 5:19–20), later delivered Peter from prison (Acts 12:7–11), and ministered to Jesus in the wilderness at a time of great weakness, immediately after his temptations had ended (Matt. 4:11).

  When a car suddenly swerves from hitting us, when we suddenly find footing to keep from being swept along in a raging river, when we walk unscathed in a dangerous neighborhood, should we not suspect that God has sent his angels to protect us? Does not Scripture promise, “For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Ps. 91:11–12)? Should we not therefore thank God for sending angels to protect us at such times? It seems right that we should do so.[7]   “Worship of angels” (Col. 2:18) was one of the false doctrines being taught at Colossae. Moreover, an angel speaking to John in the book of Revelation warns John not to worship him: “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God” (Rev. 19:10).

 
Nor should we pray to angels. We are to pray only to God, who alone is omnipotent and thus able to answer prayer and who alone is omniscient and therefore able to hear the prayers of all his people at once. By virtue of omnipotence and omniscience, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are also worthy of being prayed to, but this is not true of any other being. Paul warns us against thinking that any other “mediator” can come between us and God, “for there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). If we were to pray to angels, it would be implicitly attributing to them a status equal to God, which we must not do. There is no example in Scripture of anyone praying to any specific angel or asking angels for help.
 
Moreover, Scripture gives us no warrant to seek for appearances of angels to us. They manifest themselves unsought. To seek such appearances would seem to indicate an unhealthy curiosity or a desire for some kind of spectacular event rather than a love for God and devotion to him and his work. Though angels did appear to people at various times in Scripture, the people apparently never sought those appearances. Our role is rather to talk to the Lord, who is himself the commander of all angelic forces. However, it would not seem wrong to ask God to fulfill his promise in Psalm 91:11 to send angels to protect us in times of need.[8]
 
  • A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (1984)

It is true that angels are sent to minister to those who will inherit salvation (Heb 1:14). But nowhere in Scripture or Jewish tradition of the NT period is there any suggestion that there is one angel for one person. Daniel and Zechariah imply one angel for each nation. Appeal to Acts 12:15 does not help. Why should Peter’s supposed guardian angel sound like Peter? And if ministering angels are sent to help believers, what are the angels in Matthew 18:10 doing around the divine throne, instead of guarding those people to whom they are assigned?[9]

  • I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (1993)

 

Heaven is their headquarters (Matt. 18:10; 22:30; Rev. 5:11), where they constantly worship God (Pss. 103:20–21; 148:2) and whence they move out to render service to Christians at God’s bidding (Heb. 1:14). These are the “holy” and “elect” angels (Matt. 25:31; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; Acts 10:22; 1 Tim. 5:21; Rev. 14:10), to whom God’s work of grace through Christ is currently demonstrating more of the divine wisdom and glory than they knew before (Eph. 3:10; 1 Pet. 1:12). Holy angels guard believers (Pss. 34:7; 91:11), little ones in particular (Matt. 18:10), and constantly observe what goes on in the church (1 Cor. 11:10). It is implied that they are more knowledgeable about divine things than humans are (Mark 13:32), and that they have a special ministry to believers at the time of their death (Luke 16:22), but we know no details about any of this. Suffice it to pinpoint the relevance of angels by saying that if at any time we stand in need of their ministry, we shall receive it; and that as the world watches Christians in hope of seeing them tumble, so do good angels watch Christians in hope of seeing grace triumph in their lives.[10]
 
  • Michael S. Heiser, Angels: What the Bible Really Says about God’s Heavenly Host (2018)

 

An earthly focus occupies roughly three-quarters of the approximately 180 references to angels in the New Testament. This frequency should not be surprising, as it is God’s will that his heavenly agents serve his human family.
 
Instead of being objects of worship or adoration, angels are cast in the New Testament as “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation” (Heb 1:14). Angels are portrayed rendering their service in a variety of ways. They delivered apostles from prison (Acts 5:18–21; 12:7–11). One comforted Paul when his life was threatened (Acts 27:23). Angels brought messages to people in dreams (Joseph: Matt 1:20–24; 2:13, 19) and visions (Mary, the mother of Jesus: Luke 1:26–38; Zechariah: Luke 1:8–23; Cornelius: Acts 10:3–7, 22 [cf. Acts 11:13]; Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” at the empty tomb: Matt 28:1–7 [cf. Luke 24:23]; John 20:12–13; cf. 1 Tim 3:16). Angels appeared in the heavens to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:9, 10).
 
Angels could also encounter humans physically. An angel struck Peter on the side to awaken him in prison and supernaturally freed him from his shackles (Acts 12:7). The apostle nevertheless presumed he was experiencing a vision until he found himself outside the jail alone on the street (Acts 12:7–11). The circumstance of an angel of the Lord appearing to Philip (Acts 8:26) is not qualified as a vision, and so a physical appearance is a possible reading of that encounter. Angels ministered to Jesus after he resisted the devil in the wilderness (Matt 4:11; Mark 1:13). An angel rolled back the stone covering the tomb of Jesus and subsequently used it for a seat (Matt 28:2).
 
These instances are all consistent with portrayals of angels in the Old Testament. It is not surprising, in view of this earlier revelation, that the New Testament has Jewish characters expressing the belief that angels could appear and speak to people (John 12:29; Acts 23:9). As the writer of Hebrews notes, an angel’s true identity in such an encounter could be completely imperceptible: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb 13:2). The implication is that angels could not be distinguished from ordinary men. The writer is apparently thinking of Old Testament episodes such as Genesis 18–19. However, explicit references to angels as men are rare in the New Testament (Luke 24:4 [cf. John 20:12]); Acts 1:10; 10:30), and when they do occur, the “men” wear dazzling, luminous robes, suggesting they were extraordinary.
 
One of the more pronounced ministries to people in which angels engage is that of interpreting visions or divine decrees. We saw earlier that this thematic portrayal (the “interpreting angel” motif) occurred in Old Testament apocalyptic literature. The same is true of apocalyptic literature in the New Testament, particularly the book of Revelation, where angels regularly interpret the visions seen by John (1:1; 4:1; 10:7–10; 17:1, 17; 21:9, 10; 22:1, 6, 8). As one specialist of this motif notes:
 
The book of Revelation is the archetype of the apocalyptic genre, and as such it largely conforms to the norms of the type. It presents itself as a revelation (αποκαλυψη, apokalypsē) given through the mediation of heavenly beings.
 
Angels are also described in an advocacy role, popularly referred to as “guardian angels.” Earlier we saw that the Old Testament referred to holy ones as “mediators,” a role that involved explaining divine decisions and functioning as witness on behalf of the innocent in their suffering. The New Testament contains hints of this same idea, though it is clear that believers no longer need an advocate mediator, because Jesus himself now intercedes for us before God (1 Tim 2:5).
 
Matthew 18:10 reads, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” This statement of course precedes the high priestly work of Christ and draws on Old Testament concepts of angelic mediation. Barrett notes, “Judaism believed in protecting and guiding angels.” Pseudo-Philo (Liber antiquitatum biblicarum 59.4) and the Testament of Jacob (1:10) draw on Psalm 91:11–12 (cf. Luke 4:10) to express the guardianship of angels. In the book of Tobit, when Tobit and his wife send their son on a journey, he tells her:
 
Do not worry; our child will leave in good health and return to us in good health. Your eyes will see him on the day when he returns to you in good health. Say no more! Do not fear for them, my sister. For a good angel will accompany him; his journey will be successful, and he will come back in good health. (Tobit 5:21–22 nrsv)
 
Acts 12 apparently has some aspect of angelic oversight in view. After an angel freed Peter from prison, Peter went “to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying” (Acts 12:12). A servant girl named
Rhoda responded to his knock recognized his voice but, in her excitement at hearing Peter, ran to tell those gathered instead of letting him inside. Despite their prayers, they didn’t believe her report, replying, “It is his angel!” Peter kept knocking and was finally welcome (12:15–16). The believers gathered that night believed that Peter had a personal angel.

 

The idea of guardian angels apparently includes protection, as angels did rescue people, but angelic “oversight” in the human sphere also includes keeping track of evil perpetrated on the innocent for later judgment or a record of those who will inherit eternal life. Recall that the “books in heaven” concept was associated with the divine council in the ancient Near East. Jesus says specifically of believers in Revelation 3:5 that “I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” The reference to angels speaks of both “council validation” of those who belong to Christ (see below), but also of angelic witness to such a verdict. Elsewhere in the book of Revelation, this “confession” (or rejection) has to do with the “book of life” (Rev 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27). In Luke 10:20 Jesus told the seventy disciples, “do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Other believers are recorded in the “book of life” (Phil 4:3). This may be the context for a verse like Luke 16:22, where, upon death, the poor man was carried by angels to the afterlife comfort of “Abraham’s side.” Given that some of these passages in Revelation are naturally associated with the apocalyptic eschaton, it is relevant to note that angels are also tasked with gathering the elect—those found in the book of life—at such time (Matt 13:39; 24:31; Mark 13:27).[11]  
 
As we saw in our first chapter, the terms malʾākı̂m (“angel”), keruḇı̂m (“cherubim”), and śerāp̱ı̂m (“seraphim”) are not interchangeable. They are, in effect, job descriptions performed by different spirit beings. In biblical literature, cherubim and seraphim are never sent to people to deliver messages. That task belongs to angels. Cherubim and seraphim are heavenly throne guardians, a role that at times brings them into contact with humans, but they are not sent to earth to instruct people. Conversely, angels are found in the divine presence as well. Old and New Testament writers place them there. Rather, the terminology distinguishes roles.
 
We have also seen that whenever angels encounter humans in their messaging role, they appear in human form. In the Old Testament their appearance makes them indistinguishable from men. It is only when they do something unearthly that their transcendent nature becomes apparent. The only visible exceptions in to this pattern are found in the New Testament, where members of the heavenly host appear to people along with luminous glory (Luke 2:9, 13) or dazzlingly white clothing (Matt 28:3). Angels are never described as having inhuman features (wings, multiple faces) like cherubim and seraphim are. The reverse is actually the case. Cherubim and seraphim may share human traits, but angels do not have creaturely attributes. The conclusion can be drawn, then, that angels—those divine beings sent to earth to interact with people—look like people and do not have wings.
 
Zechariah 5:9 is often offered as an exception to both the human (and male) portrayal of angels:
 
Then I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, two women coming forward! The wind was in their wings. They had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven.
 
Despite the fact that even some scholars speak about these women with wings as angels, there is no textual basis for identifying the women as angels. The “women” (Hebrew, našı̂m) are never described as angels. In the very next verse the prophet speaks to an angel (malʾāk), a figure distinct from the women (Zech 5:10). When the angel speaks (Zech 5:11), the writer used the masculine form of the verb (yōʾmer), not the feminine form (tōʾmer). The text is clear.
 
Zechariah 5:8–11 therefore provides no biblical evidence for the notion that angels have wings or come to humans in female appearance. While it is clear that wings mark the women as being from heaven (as opposed to earth), the point is not “these are angels.” Rather, the point is to highlight their contrast with the wicked woman in the basket a few verses earlier (Zech 5:5–8). Akin to the removal of the filthy garments of Joshua the high priest in Zechariah 3, the women represent God’s removal of wickedness from his land and people to Shinar (Babylon), where evil belongs.
 
One could actually make a more reasoned case for the women being cherubim. In addition to their creaturely attribute of wings, Zechariah 5:9 notes, “The wind [rûaḥ] was in their wings.” The term rûaḥ is frequently translated “Spirit”/“spirit.” This is the same “locomotion” of the winged cherubim in Ezekiel 1:12, 20; 10:17. Like Ezekiel 1, the context is oriented to Babylon, the source of cherubim iconography.
 
Since Zechariah 5:8–11 cannot validate that angels are winged creatures, the passage also fails as evidence that angels can appear as women (biblically speaking, at least). If the women are not angels, then Zechariah 5:9 cannot teach us that angels can appear as women.
 
The assumption presupposes the idea that angels have gender. They do not—indeed they cannot be gendered, since they are spirit beings and gender is a biological attribute. When angels assume visible form or flesh to interact with human beings, Scripture always has them male. The flesh they assume is gendered because it is flesh, not because that corporality is an intrinsic part of angelic nature.
 
With respect to the New Testament, the primary appeal to angels having wings comes from Revelation 10:1:
 
Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire.

 

The argument goes: the passage never mentions wings, but because the angel “comes down from heaven,” he must have wings. The same argument (and omission of any reference to wings) is characteristic of Revelation 14:6, 17, where angels emerge from the heavenly temple and altar, respectively (cf. Matt 28:2).
 
The flaw in this argument is its dependence on descent language. It is not difficult to demonstrate its terminal weakness. Are we to conclude that Jesus has wings? After all, he descends from heaven (1 Thess 4:16). Does the Holy Spirit have wings? He descends on Jesus at his baptism (Matt 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22). The point with both examples is that for supernatural beings, descent from heaven does not require wings. The point may be a floating descent, or an urgent one, depending on the context. It may also be figurative language designed purely to denote point of origin—God’s abode. For example, the same language is used of Jesus’ first coming, which we know was by virtue of being born of Mary, having nothing to do with wings: “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:13). It is quite evident that descent language for divine figures does not require wings and so provides no support for angels having wings.[12]

 

FOOTNOTES:

 [1] Sam Emadi, “Angels,” in Lexham Survey of Theology, ed. Mark Ward et al. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018).
 [2] David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2015), 62–63.
[3] Ibid., 64.
[4] Ibid., 65.
[5] Ibid., 68.
[6] Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 399–400.
[7] Ibid., 406.
[8] Ibid., 407.
[9] D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 401.
[10] J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993), 64–66.
[11] Michael S. Heiser, Angels: What the Bible Really Says about God’s Heavenly Host (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018), 132–136.
[12] Ibid., 164–167.
 

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Supernatural (Week 1)

[This Advent Series focuses on the Angels Perspective of the Christmas Story]

Message #1: Angels: God’s Messengers!

 
Janet Miller reads Luke 1:5-25, 57-66 and prays.  
 
From the Bible, what we can learn about angels and their perspective on the greatest miracle to ever happen, “Christmas: When Heaven came to Earth”?
 
A clarifying note: This sermon series is focused on angels, whom I am calling the “Loyal Host of Heaven.” These messages are not focused on the fallen angels, known as demons, who are destined for judgment because they call Satan (the Devil) their lord and not God. In this series, I cannot cover every issue of the supernatural realm—of angels and demons, cherubim and seraphim, seen and unseen. Needless to say, the more I study the Bible on this topic, the deeper it becomes and the more I realize there is much more to this discussion than I first suspected. Let’s take a big picture look by answering 3 questions about angels this morning:  
 
  1. What are angels and where did they come from?
 
  With the notable exception of the “Angel of the Lord” (a wonderful topic beyond the scope of this study) angels are not God! Angels are divine (called the holy ones, heavenly ones) spiritual (disembodied) beings, supernatural members of God’s family with a job to do for God. Angels are created beings with a specific job description, just like we are created beings with a job description! Angels are the messengers of God (that is what both the Hebrew and Greek words for angel actually mean). Angles are also called “watchers” in the OT (Daniel 4 and Job 7).
 
Angels are older than humanity. We know this from Job 38:4-7, when God is speaking to Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it? “On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
 
God calls angels “morning stars” and “sons of God” and teaches us that they were in full function at Genesis 1. They are not as old as God for God is pre-existent meaning God has always been. God is the beginning and end of all things. As John 1:3 says of Jesus, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” This includes angels. But what so many people forget is that while angels are completely separate from us and older than us, they are also created by and subordinate to God.[1]
 
The Loyal Host of Heaven shouted for joy at Creation, witnessed the Fall of humanity, are actively participating in the restoration of humanity, have key jobs to fulfill in the consummation, and we will be with them for all of eternity. Angels are distinct from humans and are not interchangeable with us, nor us with them (in form or function). Jesus says that we will one day become like the angels, but please be very clear in knowing that Jesus never says we will become angels (Matthew 22:30).
 
At this time of history, angels are a part of a different realm than us, but they interact with this realm by God’s command and empowerment, which we will see throughout these sermons. But as powerful as angels are they are not all-knowing, all-seeing, or all-powerful like God. God has created the angels for divine purposes, to be in His presence as His heavenly host, but we are not to pray to angels, bow to angels, or worship angels. While we were made a little lower than the angels (Heb. 2:7), we will one day (in the Eternal Kingdom) judge the angels (1 Cor. 6:3).
 
  1. How many members of the “Loyal Host of Heaven” (angels) are there?
 

Obviously, Gabriel is named as the angel in the Christmas story (Luke 1:19), but did you know that there are only 2 angels named in the Bible? The first is Gabriel (e.g. current passage and Daniel 8:16; 9:21) and the second is Michael (called the “chief prince” in Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1; “archangel” in Jude 9; and leading in battle in Rev. 12:7).  

But are there only 2 angels? No! John in Revelation 5:11 teaches us, “Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands” (cf. Hebrews 12:22). In addition to our discussion on angels, this verse also references “the living creatures and the elders” so I just want to acknowledge that there are other heavenly beings that are not part of this study. There are also specialized forms and functions of heavenly beings such as the cherubim (Gen. 3; Exodus 25; Ezekiel 10) and seraphim (Isaiah 6). While some argue that these are angels with a specific form and function, a key question is whether their description is representative of all angels because most angels, when they appear to humanity, appear human.
 
Back to the number of angels, David Jeremiah summarizes well, “To give you a perspective on how many angels this is, the average football stadium in America holds about 50,000 people. It would take some 2,000 stadiums of that size to hold 100,000,000 people. The total number of angels John saw may have far exceeded 100,000,000–10,000 was the highest numerical figure used in the Greek language. ‘Ten thousand times ten thousand’ may have been John’s way of describing an inexpressibly large company of angels” (David Jeremiah, Answers to Your Questions about Heaven, 2015, 38). While the common view is that there is an “innumerable” number of angels, there are only 2 of the Loyal Host of Heaven named in the Bible. Why?
 
  1. What is the perspective of the angels on the Christmas story?
 
The Bible teaches us that the angels excitedly waited to see what God was going to do with His creation. Only God knows the plans of His own mind and He reveals them as He chooses. The angels longed to know what was on God’s mind for the descendants of Adam and Eve. For thousands of years they have watched, they have delivered messages, and they continue to give God unceasing worship.
 
I imagine that on that 1st Christmas morning the angels were like children on Christmas morning—anticipating and hopeful! They longed to see what God would do to restore His creation. Remember, the angels are messengers, but they do not have full knowledge. Could they even imagine what God would do? Gabriel is faithful to deliver the messages to Zacharias about John, and as we will see next week to Mary about Jesus. Anticipation grows! Hundreds of years of messages and thousands of years of watching are coming to a head… HOPE!
 
The mystery is about to be revealed! Listen to 1 Peter 1:10-12, “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look.” (cf. Romans 16:25-27).
 
Would they be amazed and awe-struck to see Jesus Christ take on flesh and become lower than them so that God could dwell among people that Christmas morning in a promised new way? The angels know Jesus in His glorified form! The revelation of Christmas is the miracle of the incarnation—God who is Spirit and exists outside of creation took on flesh and came amongst us into creation. The Christmas Miracle of Immanuel—God is with us, once again! God had walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but justly removed them from His presence upon their rebellion (Fall). God made a way for humanity to be in His presence once again. This is the Christmas miracle that the angels are now participating in.  
 
Gabriel knows the goodness and love of God, but he is about to see another level of the depths of God’s love poured out on humanity. When Gabriel enters the Holy of Holies in Luke 1:11, he is moving forward the plan that God had him tell Daniel over 500 years prior (see Daniel 8 & 9). This message God gave Gabriel to deliver to Zacharias is good news for Gabriel, as much as it is good news for all humanity, because it is God making all things right, from all the rebellions. It is what Gabriel and the innumerable of Loyal Host of Heaven, have been longing to know. The Loyal Host of Heaven have been watching this story unfold and will continue to watch the greatest story ever told unfold before them. They have front row seats in the very presence of God, but they heard something that first Christmas that not a single one of them could have known for it was only known in the infinite mind of the triune God—the cry of a little newborn baby named Jesus. Jesus who would grow up and fulfill every ancient prophecy of the Messiah. Jesus who would die a sinner’s death on the Cross for humanity. Jesus who would defeat death and Hell itself, forever removing the sting of death. Jesus, God, Eternal… a baby…  
 
The perspective of the angels on that 1st Christmas was one of increased awe and wonder of God, if that is even possible, and renewed hope and anticipation for humanity.  
 
What is your perspective on Christmas and how does it affect your worship of God? Have you lost the awe and wonder of God?
 
The angels, more than any human, know the meaning of Christmas and their perspective should lead us into worship and celebration of God.   The angels know that our best days are ahead of us! To have HOPE is what it means to live in Advent! How does your perspective on Christmas affect you and those you encounter on a daily basis?
 
Supernatural Week 1:  Listen to it here
 
You can watch the video series by clicking HERE.
 
 

Footnotes:

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[1] For further study, do a Hebrew word elohim, take a journey of understanding the divine council of God as overtly witnessed in Job 1:6 and 1 Kings 22:19 and referenced (but misunderstood) in Genesis 1:26, as well as Psalm 82. Additionally, explore the terms in the Bible that speak to the nature, status, and function of the loyal host of Heaven. I exhort you to not be scared to learn directly from the Bible because your Bible will never contradict your doctrine if your doctrine comes from the Bible. May the Spirit reform you through the renewal of your mind. There is such a diversity of opinion, even amongst evangelical scholars and theologians.

 

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