Responding to the Priorities of Jesus (Week 3)

2020: A Year of Celebration!

The Priority of Rest!

Key Verses:  Matthew 11:28-30; 12:1-16 & Hebrews 4:1-11

 

One of our big 7 words at FBC is “Rest”. These 7 big words are what our church considers priorities of Jesus and essential marks of the people of God. Today, we are going to talk about the one of seven words that no other church in America, that I know of, has prioritized for their ministries like we have here at FBC: REST!

 

Just like with last week’s big word “follow”, this week’s big word of “rest” is a word that has lost its biblical meaning in contemporary culture. Therefore, we are going to chase after the depth of Jesus’ promise and priority for our life by examining the rest motif of Scripture. We are going to start with Jesus’ words then learn from two illustrations from His life. Next, we are going to press into the origins of the concept and Old Covenant usage and finally bring it closure with a New Testament admonition to be diligent to enter God’s rest.

 

Apart from this kind of biblical study, we are left with a very watered-down cultural understanding that falls so far short of Jesus’ intent that even if you sincerely wanted to obey you couldn’t and would fall into either extreme of a legalistic sabbath-day observance (like the Pharisees) or a sinful permissiveness as found in most  American churches.

 

We are being invited to walk in the ways of Jesus by living according to His priorities!

 

Let’s start by reading Jesus’ priority for “rest” from 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.”

 

We looked at this last week and saw that the context of this passage is in Jesus’ invitation to follow Him in Christian discipleship. Jesus was calling a Jewish people who were living unfaithful lives to God, just like the people in Jeremiah’s time were before the sacking of Jerusalem in 586 BC and the 70-year Babylonian exile.

 

Today, we are going to focus on Jesus’ one word promise: REST! Rest is a major theme throughout the Bible. Listen to this quick overview of Jesus’ promise of rest:

 

It includes peace of mind and heart, and relief from uncertainty and anxiety. It is a deep refreshment that enables a person to go back to his or her tasks with renewed strength and energy. It is relief from sin and guilt, and from striving after salvation. It is an eschatological rest, and reflects the language of Jeremiah 6:16, but it is also a present reality. This “rest” is a proper fellowship with God. It is not idleness or inaction, but the contentment and full life that come from knowing and living by the truth which God’s Son reveals. It is eternal, eschatological salvation by faith. It speaks of a refreshing and fulfillment that looks forward to the eschatological Sabbath.[1]

 

This is what Jesus is promising you! Better than a rocker on the front porch, or a weekend off, or a vacation to one of America’s many meccas of entertainment, or even retirement! Wow! This is a really BIG promise!

 

Now, let’s take the second step in our study and watch the two back-to-back illustrations of this rest from Jesus’ ministry life. Watch Jesus at work in Matthew 12:1-16, immediately after He gives His famous promise of rest:

 

At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath [the Jewish day of rest], and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.” But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? “Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? “But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? “How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, and warned them not to tell who He was.

 

I invite you to really pay attention to how Jesus worked on the Sabbath. He did not reduce nor remove it; Jesus reformed and fulfilled the Sabbath! Jesus emphasized His authority as the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mt. 12:8). In fact, Matthew intentionally placed these two sabbath stories immediately after Jesus’ invitation to find rest in Him. The literary proximity has theological implications, which we are about to look at.

 

Jesus’ actions on that sabbath in Matthew 12 were not in rebellion to the original sabbath commandment as given in Exodus 20:8-11 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15, but they were a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders’ perversion of God’s heart. Jesus was all about this one thing: returning people to the heart of God!

 

This leads us to our third step in our study of FBC’s big word of REST: to explore the biblical origins of Jesus’ promise of rest, rooted in the Old Testament Sabbath command.

 

The fourth commandment of the Ten Commandments is God’s command “to CEASE”, which is what the word sabbath means. Exodus 20:8-11 is grounded in the creation motif of Genesis, stating,

 

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy [italics added]. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy [italics added].

 

Sabbath is rooted in God’s creative intent, as recorded in Genesis 2:1-3:
 

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it [italics added], because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

 

God sanctified, made holy, the seventh day because it was the day that He rested to delight in His completed work. As one scholar points out from the original Hebrew language, “The Sabbath day is a holy day. Interestingly, the only thing God deems as qadosh, or ‘holy,’ in the creation story is the Sabbath day.”[2]

 

This was the first intent of the fourth commandment: the Sabbath command is to cease from your own striving in order to rest in God’s delight of His completed work. It is a separation from your own capabilities in order to remember His ability. As another Christian author explains, “Keeping the Sabbath day constantly reminds us that Yahweh is to be pre-eminent in our lives.”[3]

 

Submission to the command to cease facilitates the “habitual practice” of resting in God one day per week, as it fuels the rhythm of prioritizing God as pre-eminent in each and every day. Jesus’ promise and priority of rest is rooted in rich theology. It is yoked in the hālakh of God—the habitual lifestyle choices of covenant faithfulness!

 

If you are not resting, then your life is out of control! We are good at pointing the inverse of this out to people who don’t work—we are a culture infatuated with our own self-efficacy and capabilities! That is proving to be our downfall because our culture has uprooted itself from resting in God’s sovereign grace! Truly, rest is all about learning to work in God’s rhythm of grace; to work from rest, which is faith and trust in God!

 

Sabbath is about submission to God’s Sovereign Rule over us because, unlike the Lord’s finished work at creation, human work is always incomplete. I can always justify work!  Gordon MacDonald wrote, “We do not rest because our work is done; we rest because God commanded it and created us to have a need for it.”[4]

 

People are called to a deeper trust in God by ceasing from their own efforts to make this life work out for them the way they want it to. It is surrender; it is a means of grace. All of humanity’s work, as from the Garden, was to flow from the divine wellspring of God’s grace, just as our good works are to flow from faith. Both are essential, but the order is critical—faith always comes before works! We are saved by grace through faith!  

 

From the very beginning, humanity’s first experience was not to work for rest, but work from rest. Choosing not to walk in this intended rhythm demonstrates a fundamental disbelief in, and rebellion against, a most fundamental of our Christian doctrines from 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.”

 

The rest motif of the Old Testament teaches that humanity serves not only the God of creation, but also the God of salvation, who delights in rescuing His people from slavery. The second giving of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy came with a different motive clause for the Sabbath command. Deuteronomy 5:12-15 explains,

 

Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant or your ox or your donkey or any of your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you, so that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day.

 

The exodus of God’s people from Pharaoh’s oppressive lordship in Egypt renewed the purpose of the fourth commandment, anchoring it in God’s redemptive work. Rest is an act of divine justice between God and humanity that we are called to participate in every week, between men and women!

 

God’s people had forgotten how to trust Him because of living under the heavy burden of an oppressive regime. God desired for His people to taste and see that they could trust their God to provide for them by the work of His hand, rather than by the works of their own hands and the sweat of their own brows.

 

How far humanity had fallen from Eden, to so fundamentally distrust the good gifts that came from the hand of the God who created them and delivered them. Sabbath was a day to declare divine deliverance from slavery. God rescued them so that they could enter into His rest, as they were created to do. It is freedom!

 

The Exodus became an early foreshadowing of the rest that was to come through Jesus Christ. Jesus demonstrated a true observance of this deliverance motif of the sabbath in Luke 13:10-17, when He declared His motivation for violating the Pharisees’ legalistic rules of sabbath observance:

 

You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?

 

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had forgotten—not their own rules added to the Sabbath command, but the true intent behind its observance—divine deliverance! In upholding their own rules about sabbath they had created a new yoke of slavery, instead of commemorating the shattering of the heavy yoke of Pharaoh’s slavery.

 

Once again, just as the Israelites in Egypt had forgotten, the people Jesus was teaching had forgotten how to trust God because of living under the heavy burden of an oppressive regime. In fact, it was this very religious “heavy-burden” that Jesus came to take off of God’s people. Jesus promised a one word solution to lift these “heavy burdens”: REST! 

 

Sabbath is an active resistance against the oppressive regimes of this world, animated by the forces of evil who refuse to give up any claim for their rule over man, even though Jesus has rightfully reclaimed us!

 

Have God’s people forgotten again from what He has saved us? Are we once again living under an oppressive regime and don’t even realize that we are slaves to the same demonic principality that led Pharaoh to enslave an entire people group of over a million people just so he can build more storage facilities for more of his stuff?

 

If we can’t rest from our unfinished work, then have we truly found rest in Jesus’ finished work?

 

This bring us to our final step in our learning journey for today and a clear admonition of the New Testament for you to work hard at entering the rest of God. Hebrews 4:9–11 is critical; it informs and instructs,

 

So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest [italics added], so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.

 

Rest is the hardest and most important work you will ever do! Because Sabbath has always been about trust, and in that trust, the living out of covenant faithfulness. As Pastor Ken preached recently, “True rest is trust!

 

Jesus Christ is the rest His original Jewish audience had been awaiting, but did not recognize. Jesus Christ is the rest this world desperately needs, but is too loud and busy to recognize, even well-intentioned religious people!

 

I believe that the greatest evangelistic witness of the Church of Jesus Christ in the 3rd decade of the 21st century, in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic, international instability, domestic uncertainty, and civil unrest is the people of God diligently learning to enter God’s rest in the easy yoke of Jesus Christ. What could possibly be more attractive to our stressed-out culture, than non-anxious, non-defensive, restful people—at peace with their God, one another, and their world around them? Imagine if all that the world saw and read from all of us Christians, both from our relationships and our social media, was trust in God! Instead of us just being another blowhard’s opinion in the cultural malaise, imagine if you brought a fresh perspective of rest for their souls that was from the actual overflow of your cup. Just imagine the evangelistic impact we could be if we had: REST!
 
 
 

(Due to personnel being on vacation, there may be a week or 2 delay)

You can listen to the message here (It is usually ready by late Sunday afternoon):

 
 

This Message Video will be ready by next week. You can watch the entire service HERE.

 
 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] David Abernathy, An Exegetical Summary of Matthew 1–16, Exegetical Summaries, 412–413.

[2] A. J. Swoboda, Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World, 12.

 

[3] Marva J. Dawn, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: easing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting, 141.

 

[4] Gordon MacDonald, Ordering Your Private World, 174.

 
 
 

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Responding to the Priorities of Jesus (Week 2)

The Priority of Following Jesus!

Key Verses:  Matthew 4:18-20

 

 

One of our big 7 words is “Follow”. These 7 big words are what our church considers priorities of Jesus and essential marks of the people of God. We talk about these all the time because it is not enough to know them, but to live them. I have heard it said that I should never preach a new message until we are obeying the last one I preached; that it’s our hunger for novelty that keeps us immature in our thinking and living.

 

Biblically, we don’t know something until we are living it as a habitual lifestyle. For example: you don’t know the Lord’s prayer until you pray the Lord’s prayer. And you aren’t praying it until you are living it.

 

  • Our culture teaches you that it is enough to know the form of the words, Jesus teaches that it is enough when you are formed by the words.
  • Our culture teaches you to master the words, Jesus teaches that you must be mastered by His Word.

 

Do you see the difference?

 

In this gap is what one theologian called “The Great Omission” of our Great Commission. We are not calling people to follow Jesus; to becoming people who live in habitual lifestyles of following Jesus—being His apprentices, His learners. He explained it this way, using athletic imagery like the Apostle Paul did:

 

We know [that young people] won’t succeed [in becoming like a professional baseball player] if all they do is try to be like him in the game—no matter how gifted they may be in their own way. And we all understand why. The star performer himself didn’t achieve his excellence by trying to behave a certain way only during the game. Instead, he chose an overall life of preparation of mind and body pouring all his energies into that total preparation, to provide a foundation in the body’s automatic responses and strength for his conscious efforts during the game. … And what is true of specific activities is, of course, also true of life as a whole. … A baseball player who expects to excel in the game without adequate exercise in his body is no more ridiculous than the Christian who hopes to be able to act in the manner of Christ when put to the test without the appropriate exercise in godly living. As is obvious from the record of his own life, Jesus understood this fact well and lived accordingly. … To live as Christ lived is to live as he did all his life.[1]

 

This gets to the heart of what it means to follow Jesus, so let’s now listen to Matthew 4:18-20:

 

Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

 

Later, in a different setting to a larger Jewish audience whom Jesus had just renounced for this unfaithfulness to God’s ways, Jesus invited to follow Him 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.”

 

In both these Scriptures, the Koine Greek word (the original language of the New Testament) translated “follow” in Matthew 4:19 (cf. Mark 1:17) and “come” in Matthew 11:28 is δεῦτε. We see these words as very different, but they are actually the same word. In fact, we have distorted understandings of the word “follow” due to the dominance of social media understandings of what it means to “follow” someone.

 

Let’s explore some of these connections to get a larger understanding of why this is Jesus’ priority: What is Jesus actually inviting us to do when He invites us to “Follow” or “Come” to Him.

 

When you become Jesus’ friend by following Him, that doesn’t mean that you can disregard Him on any given day or disobey Him on any given issue. Just because you can stop following anyone you want, anytime you want, doesn’t mean that you can have that same attitude with Jesus Christ. Jesus’ word choice doesn’t allow it!

 

Let’s start in Mark 10:14-15 Jesus utilized this phrase as an invitation to the kingdom of God:

 

Permit the children to come to Me [italics added]; 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. (cf. Matthew 19:14 & Luke 18:16)

 

From Luke 6:46-48, Jesus admonished His disciples,

 

Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me [italics added] 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.

 

In Luke 14:26-27, Jesus commanded potential disciples to carry their own crosses:

 

If anyone comes to Me [italics added], 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.

 

This same Greek word is used in John 5:39-40; Jesus rebuked,
 
“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 [italics added] so that you may have life.”

 

Next, note the parallelism found in both John 6:35 and John 7:37-38, between “come to Me” and “believes in Me.” Jesus said in John 6:35,
 
“I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me  [italics added] will not hunger, and he who believes in Me [italics added] will never thirst.”
 
Jesus made this same connection in John 7:37-38,
 
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me [italics added] and drink. He who believes in Me [italics added], as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”

 

This parallelism is like a neon sign of Jesus’ intent on what it means to truly come to Him—to enter His life with God through faith in Him. And faith in Him is manifest in a life of learning from Him how to be like Him.

 

To truly get the heart of this, we need to dive deeper into the mindset of Jesus and His Old Covenant audience.

This Greek word δεῦτε is a translation of the important Hebrew word הלך (hālakh). Listen to meaning behind this rich Old Testament word; hālakh “has a common metaphorical sense that pertains to one’s manner of living. To walk (hālak) in a certain lifestyle or custom is to habitually practice [italics added] it.”[2]

So many rich examples are found throughout the Old Testament, but I’m only going to share three.  

 

First, it is used twice in the covenantal passage of Isaiah 2:1-5:

 

The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths’ [italics added]. For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war. Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord [italics added].

 

Second, it is used in Psalm 81:11-16

 

“But My people did not listen to My voice, And Israel did not obey Me. So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, To walk in their own devices. Oh that My people would listen to Me, That Israel would walk in My ways! [Italics added] I would quickly subdue their enemies And turn My hand against their adversaries. Those who hate the Lord would pretend obedience to Him, And their time of punishment would be forever. But I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, And with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

 

Last, it is used in the famous exhortation of God in Micah 6:6-8,

 

With what shall I come to the Lord And bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, With yearling calves? Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? [italics added]

 

Are you noticing a trend in the rich usage of the word hālakh? And don’t be deceived, Jesus brought all of those covenantal promises (the blessings and the curses) with Him when he used the Greek word δεῦτε, which we hear in the now overly familiar command of “follow Me” and “Come to Me”, which we have further neutered as a social media word to sometimes pay attention to, sometimes agree or disagree with, sometimes share…

 

We’ve got to understand the gravity of what it means to “follow” Jesus! Based on Jesus’ word choice, there is a clear foreshadowing that He was asking something of those who “come” to Him; essentially, this invitation is not a one-time action, but an ongoing journey of following Jesus through the “habitual practice” of His way of life. For example, He got up early to pray… He quoted Scripture to fight against temptation…

 

Jesus’ invitation has profound implications. Through a word choice that was unmistakable to His original Jewish audience, but easily missed by today’s audience, Jesus directly aligned His call to discipleship (“Follow Me”) with what it means to be saved, to find one’s life, while also directly connecting Himself to the ancient promises of God’s redeemed rule over all nations and the Messiah’s eternal reign over all of God’s creation.

 

Jesus’ call to discipleship was, and is, an invitation to enter into a relationship with God by joining Him in His relationship with the Father. Jesus declared Himself to be more than Moses; He is wisdom and Torah incarnate!

 

In Matthew 11:27, Jesus declared that He is the only authorized way to know His Father,
 
“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.”

 

Jesus’ invitation directed His original audience to Himself, just as clearly as He did in John 10:9,
 
“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”
 
And in John 14:6,
 
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

 

I conclude with a connection between the OT and NT: God speaks through His prophet in Jeremiah 6:13-21,

 

“For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is greedy for gain, And from the prophet even to the priest Everyone deals falsely. They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace. Were they ashamed because of the abomination they have done? They were not even ashamed at all; They did not even know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; At the time that I punish them, They shall be cast down,” says the Lord. Thus says the Lord, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; [italics added] And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ [italics added] “And I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’ “Therefore hear, O nations, And know, O congregation, what is among them. “Hear, O earth: behold, I am bringing disaster on this people, The fruit of their plans, Because they have not listened to My words, And as for My law, they have rejected it also. “For what purpose does frankincense come to Me from Sheba And the sweet cane from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable And your sacrifices are not pleasing to Me.” Therefore, thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am laying stumbling blocks before this people. And they will stumble against them, Fathers and sons together; Neighbor and friend will perish.”

 

All the promises of God are yours in Jesus Christ. All the blessings and all the curses of the Old Covenant…

 

I read this to you because it was played out again in Jesus’ day; Listen to Jesus in Matthew 11:20-28:

 

Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” 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.”

 

It’s being played out again today! Following Jesus is so much more than following someone on FB. It is the only way to find your life, to be saved, and to experience the promises of God in this life and for eternal life.

 

Honestly friends, you don’t have to teach a young athlete or actor or singer who wants to be like their favorite star, how to take on their mannerisms and lifestyle, their beliefs and attitudes, and their activities (on and off the stage/field). You don’t have to teach that to anyone. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.

 

Ultimately, the question comes down to who or what has captured your heart’s desire to such a point that you want to build your life and model your thoughts and actions off of them. Maybe you need to fall in love with Jesus all over again—return to your “first love” and Follow Him. You are already doing this, but with whom?  
 
 
 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, 3-5.

[2] Joshua Hebert, “Travel,” ed. Douglas Mangum et al., Lexham Theological Wordbook, Lexham Bible Reference Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).

 
 

(Due to personnel being on vacation, there may be a week or 2 delay)

You can listen to the message here (It is usually ready by late Sunday afternoon):

 
 

This Message Video can be viewed HERE.

 

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Responding to the Priorities of Jesus (Week 1)

“First Things First”

Key Verses: Luke 2:41-52

 

 

I was blessed to have been raised in a loving Christian home, with parents who set the example of the importance of setting priorities. They taught me, my sisters and several others who were adopted into our family why we needed to love God, love others, have a good work ethic, but also have fun along the way. They showed us what it meant to put others ahead of their own wants and needs and how to serve others in love and to always give God the praise for all that He had provided. That is doing that which is most important before doing other things! First things first! All throughout the Bible we see God desiring to bring us back to the very reason we were created…to commune with Him, to be in relationship with Him, loving Him, and to share His love with each other. But the devil has worked hard to distract us from that, causing us to become selfish and self-centered, causing us to get out of sync with the pattern that God designed for us…keeping Him first in all areas of our lives!

 

That is why He sent us His one and only Son, to set the example for us to follow.
 

 

LUKE 2:41-52:

 

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”[a] 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

 

 

This did not just ‘happen’ and he had all the wisdom of God in his heart and mind. Jesus had made it a priority to be about His Father’s business! Luke writes in verse 40 “There the child grew up healthy and strong. He was filled with wisdom beyond his years, and God placed his special favor upon him.” So, he had been preparing for this time in the temple. He was keeping God first in all that he was doing.

 

I can hear it now…”Great, Ken! How in the world am I going to be able to be like Jesus? I mean, come on! He was perfect! There is no way I can live up to that!”

 

To which I respond, Philippians 3:12:
 

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

 

We have to press on and press into Jesus, learning from him and his life, and then applying those things to our lives. He is our example, so let’s follow it!

 

 

I. Time Alone With God: Matthew 6:33

 
A. When?
 
Psalms 63:1-8

 

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.”

 

The KJV says “Early in the morning I will rise up and seek.” Take it from me! I am not a morning person. But I also know when I start my days off with giving God the first moments of my day, I seem to get more accomplished and when stress starts to rise, my mind is reminded of what His promises had told me earlier in the day! I challenge you…or how about triple dog dare you to try this for a week. Set your alarm earlier so you can spend that time with God.
 

 

Because Jesus did it! – Mark 1:35

 

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

 

 
B. Where? 
 
Matthew 6:6
 

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

 
There are so many things vying for your time, but you have the choice on what is going to be done first. Set aside those things that distract. Even if you use your phone as your alarm, it does not make you start looking at messages or Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, or playing Candy Crush or any other game on our device. Take your Bible with pen and paper, find a quiet place with no distractions, and soak in the goodness of God to start your day in this crazy world we live in.
 
“If a man wants to be used by God, he cannot spend all of his time with people.” – A. W. Tozer
 

 

C. Why?
 
James 4:7-8

 

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

 

We like to focus on the first part of verse 8, but we need to keep it in context. Only when we spend time alone with God are we submitting to Him, and that is when we can resist the devil. And as we draw near to God, the light of His love, grace and mercy shows us that our hands are unclean and our hearts need purified. It is so easy to think that we are clean, but by who’s comparison?
 
In that private time, He can speak to our hearts and bring us into alignment with His heart!
 

 

Romans 12:1
 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

Again, this is not something that we can do on our own. It is only by us spending time with Him that we can be purified. Our time together as a church is important, but our alone time with God is even more important. It is in those times that He feeds and nourishes our souls, helping us to grow stronger in Him each and every day!

 

How is this accomplished then?
 
 
 

 

II. Being Laser Focused and Carrying Out God’s Plan

 
A. How?
 
Psalms 119:1-8

 

“Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the Lord.
Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts.
They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths.
You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully.
Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!
Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands.
As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should!
I will obey your decrees. Please don’t give up on me!”

 

B. We make the choice!
 
Psalms 119:30
 
“I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by your regulations.”

(*NIV says “set my heart on your laws”)

 
Joshua 24:14-16

 

“So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. 15 But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

 

They were given a choice. We have the same. It may not be serving another little g god, but it might be a choice to serve ourselves with our wants and desires, or some other loud voice in the world that catches our attention.

It is still our choice!

 

Jesus had a choice! His focus was on what God wanted Him to do. He knew what that was by spending time with alone with Him, and then staying laser focused, knowing all along that it would ultimately mean His death on the cross. But it was not just the end. It would bring about a new beginning for all who accepted Him as their Lord and Savior! And He knew the message must be carried out afterwards. That is why He trained up the disciples.

 
 

III.  Intentional Training

 
Luke 6:12-16
 

One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. 13 At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles. Here are their names:

Simon (whom he named Peter), Andrew (Peter’s brother), James, John, Philip,
Bartholomew,Matthew ,Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (who was called the zealot), Judas (son of James), Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).
 

 

He spent the night in prayer before calling together all his followers/disciples to call apart those who would become His apostles, which means ‘sent forth’ or ‘commissioned for a particular errand”.

 

He then spent the next three years investing in these men. He discipled these men by telling them what He wanted them to do; showing them what He wanted them to do; sending them out in groups to do what He had told them to do and then coming back to report what had happened; then, after His death and resurrection, sending them out into all the world. And gave them the Holy Spirit to empower them.

 

In the same way Paul was intentional as he wrote the letters to the believers and to his young protégé, Timothy. He reiterated the power of God’s Word and what it is to be used for in our lives.

 

2 Timothy 3:16-17

 

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

 

So what are we to do? Be like Jesus! He spent time alone with God, He was laser focused on doing what God wanted Him to do, and He intentionally trained others to do the same. He did not come in and find the most popular or influential people to carry out His plan. God had Him chose a ragamuffin group of people that most would have written off, and He trained them into a mighty group that was used by God to change the world!

 

Philippians 4:8-9

 

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”

 
If we do this each and every day, we will see God use us in a mighty way to change the world!
 
 
 

 

You can listen to the message here (It is usually ready by late Sunday afternoon):

 
 

This Message Video can be viewed HERE.

 
 

Footnotes:

 
  1. Luke 2:49 Or be about my Father’s business
 
 
 

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