The following is the summary of the sermon:
We all desire to be called by someone who is significant. Christians have been called by the Almighty God who created and has been operating the entire universe and everything in it, beautifully, perfectly and harmoniously. What a privilege it is! How? In many ways, but here is the most typical one. "Come to me." Some were called also by way of "Come and see" or "Follow me."
Matthew 11:28-30 describe "the Greatest Invitation" as John Stott called it. His invitation had two components.
First, Jesus called the most burdened and weary to Himself so that He may give the rest by lifting off the burden and carrying it on their behalf. Indeed, He carried the burdens of all sinners on the cross and died the redemptive death. This rest is not a physical one but a spiritual one, the salvation from eternal condemnation. (Isa. 53:6; John 1:29; Hebrews 19:28)
Then, is it an once-in-a-life time event? No. The calling to restore the relationship with God may be one if the calling is responded properly, but it is also an on-going event where we can receive and enjoy His rest everyday as we surrender ourselves to His authority.
The second component of His invitation was "Take my yoke" and this signifies the call to our surrender/submission to His authority. Jesus was the Savior in the first calling and Jesus is requiring us to submit ourselves to His authority as the Lord and Master in our everyday life. But His yoke does not produce another burden but instead, "you will find rest in your souls" for His yoke is light and easy. Christ's yoke is indeed the necessary boundary for our freedom we enjoy in Him. (Please refer to the previous blog-post for more details.)
Then, what are the spheres of our life that enable us to find rest for our souls? There are six spheres, the first two of which are related to God, the next two to self and the final two to others:
1. Worship: It is natural that we, as God's creations, find rest when we worship the Creator God. We worship Him through praise, confession of our faith, offerings. God commands us to worship Him alone, for there is no other God and none like Him.
2. Growing and maturing faith: There are so many voices that tempt us to believe: the Satan, the world and the self-righteous inner voice. But we will find rest for our souls when we believe what the Creator is telling us. He urges us to use the shield of faith against the flaming arrows, the ungodly temptations.
3. Holiness: Holiness is God's essence. He calls us to be holy also. (1 Peter 1:15,16) He even urges us to perfect the holiness. (2 Corinthians 7:1) We will find rest for our souls when we pursue God's attribute. Pursuing holiness requires cleansing unholy and ungodly attributes and behaviors. This process requires unceasing repentance and prayer for forgiveness. He promised to forgive our inequities when we repent. (1 John 1:9)
4. Living according to His will: Life require endless decision-making. Each decision is made on the basis of something that we believe and value to be right. No one wants or intends to make a wrong decision. Jesus is urging us to make our decisions according to God's will. God's will includes ones that are general in nature and that are particular to individuals. His general wills have been revealed through the nature (visually), the Scripture (verbally) and Jesus Christ (both visually and verbally). His particular wills that are applicable to individuals have been and are being revealed through the understanding of the Scripture, counsel with the wise and the godly. It takes commitment and obedience to live according to God's will, but when we do, we find rest in Him for our souls.
5. Sharing the good news: Salvation by His grace and through our faith in Jesus Christ is indeed a good news. If we choose to keep the good news to ourselves, it is a selfish decision. It is natural to share a good news with family, friends and even strangers if indeed it is a good news that does not bring you any harm. The spiritual good news that Jesus is the Way to the Father God must be shared with all nations as His witness to the ends of the earth until He returns as the King of the kings and the Lord of the lords on the Day of the Lord. (Matthew 28:19,20; Acts 1:8; Matthew 24:14) We find rest for our souls when we do the Great Commission of God.
6. Serving the neighbors in love: Loving and serving the neighbors, particularly the underprivileged ones, is also a mandate. (Deuteronomy 15:11) It is a new commandment and when we obey it the world will know that we are his disciples. (John 13:34,35) When we love others, we have completed the law. (Romans 13:8) When we love each other, God's love is made complete. (1 John 4:12) We find rest for our souls when we obey God's command.
Now we know that we have been called to come to Jesus to receive the spiritual rest and to take on Christ's yoke to find rest for our souls. Then how do you live such a life?
In Ephesians 4:1-6, Apostle Paul is urging Christ-followers to live the life worthy of the calling we have received.
1. Be completely humble and gentle: In Matthew 11:29,30, Jesus was describing Himself to be gentle and humble. They are Christ's attributes and He is urging us to be like Him. To be humble is before God who is almighty. When we humble ourselves before Him, He promised to lift us up in His time. (1 Peter 5:6) Humility comes before honor. (Proverb 15:33) To be gentle is towards others. John Stott called gentleness "tamed or controlled strength." Whatever strength we may have should be used in a controlled or tamed manner. This way, we will be able to live a life worthy of His calling.
2. Be patient bearing with one another in love: This is required not when everything is going well or as expected. This is required when things are not going well, when someone is rubbing you off, when you dislike what someone else is saying or doing, even when someone hates you or persecutes you for no reason. So it is not easy. It is easier said than done. Rather it is tough. Nonetheless, that is the way we should live. We recite in the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Our forgiving our debtors comes before God's forgiving our debts. It is a sobering command. But that is how the body of Christ grows and we grow in Him. (Ephesians 4:15,16)
3. Keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace: God is one. The Spirit is one. The Lord is one. We were called to one hope. There is one faith. One baptism. One body. (Ephesians 4:4-6) Before Jesus was arrested to complete His redemptive death, He prayed three times each for Himself, for the disciples and for all saints. In His prayer for all saints, He prayed for unity among the saints. So unity among saints is not an option but a mandate. We should make every effort to keep this unity. The best way to keep this unity is through the bond of peace. God is the King of peace and Jesus is Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6) Jesus was the peacemaker between the Holy God and the sinful men by becoming the sin and the curse. So we Christ-followers must also be peacemakers. Peacemakers are blessed because they shall be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:9) The author of the Hebrews urged us to be in peace with everyone, if possible. (Hebrews 12:14)
We Christ-followers have been called to rest in Him and to take on His yoke to find rest for our souls. We are also urged to live a life worthy of the calling by being completely humble and gentle, being patient and bearing with one another in love and keeping the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. We pledge to do so because we love Him and love to serve Him by honoring and obeying His commandments. May we all be living a life worthy of His calling! - Jeffrey