Jesus Is Real
Greetings Narrow Gate,
I greet you all in Jesus' name. I pray that you and your families are healthy, and that the beginning of the school year has gone well for you. Our mid to late August prayer lists used to be filled with requests for students, bus drivers and teachers and administrators. All back on the road again. With the return of school, our traffic patterns would change drastically in our neighborhoods, especially in those areas nearest to the schools. Not today, with virtual classes.
This "virtual" thing is not something that I am comfortable with. My spirit is uneasy with virtual church, virtual school, virtual work, virtual relationships, virtual health care, what's next? Virtual paychecks, virtual vacations, virtual families, virtual food, the list can be endless. It seems virtual police enforcement is becoming the norm now in some of our big cities. After seeing this, I hate to imagine what virtual fire fighting or virtual EMTs would look like.
What about a virtual Savior? The virtual Jesus? To me, this sounds terrible. But the reality is, Jesus was virtual before virtual was virtual. In fact, by definition, what is virtual is not real. However, God is real. Jesus and God's Spirit are real. I can give you scores of personal accounts of this reality and I know others with their own accounts. This is nothing unique for believers, it becomes a part of our daily existence. For one to experience the power of God's healing, mercy and grace is special in each instance, for sure. But these are regular, not rare encounters. This is why I am a pastor.
This is the beauty of our God, the simplicity of the godly relationship of the individual believer. You do not have to go through technology or other people to access Jesus. Since God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, we just have to speak or think to communicate with Jesus. We have direct access to our Savior. Don't ever let anyone convince you differently. Because if they can convince you differently, these people then control your access to God.
I don't like being controlled by other people. None of us likes being under the yoke of someone else. Did you know that Jesus spoke specifically about this being yoked to others in the book of Matthew. The passage of scripture that we'll look at today is Jesus' personal invitation to discipleship. It is an historic and loving call to belief.
But first, let's set the scene. Jesus, in this passage is addressing the Israelite community which was being burdened by the Pharisaic legalism that was so much a part of the ruling structure of that time. All the legal do's and don'ts of the Mosaic Law were causing frustration and dissatisfaction among the people. The purpose of the law was to reveal our inherent sinfulness, not our ability to perfectly follow the law. In fact, the very Pharisees that thought they were perfectly following the law were not as sinless as they thought they were. Jesus, the new kid in town, was introducing a new covenant, not one that would add to the believers' frustration, but one that would truly set them free. Matthew 11: 28-30, NIV,
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light."
Now the Mosaic Law was good, holy and righteous. But it could not bring liberty or freedom because it had a failing, it depended on mankind. The very people whose sinfulness the law was created to reveal. So, under the control of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, instead of liberty and justice, it brought oppression and injustice. The Israelites were yoked to the Pharisees or the law or both. In 2 Corinthians 3:7, Paul (himself a recovering Pharisee) calls this law, "the ministry that brought death". He also called this Law of Moses transitory. The law was there to facilitate the transition to the new covenant that came with Jesus and his blood sacrifice.
As a Pharisee, Paul was yoked to the Pharisees too. When he gave his heart to Jesus, he turned his life completely over to Jesus. He repented for his life as a Pharisee. It became a part of his testimony to the Israelites, a very effective part of his testimony. He now had a personal relationship with Christ. He was now compelled by the Holy Spirit of God to share this new faith with others.
This is what makes Christianity so revolutionary. Christianity, true Christianity, is a personal relationship with the person Jesus Christ. Being religious means we believe in one of the many different earthly religions. You may go to church, within a specific and well recognized denomination, but if you do not have that personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you are not a Christian.
Christianity is not a self help program, or a system of religion, or a certain denomination, or a follower of a certain pastor or preacher. Christianity is not theology, science, medicine, finances, engineering or politics. Christianity is a personal relationship with Jesus. God can use these other things for his glory, but only a personal relationship with Christ defines whether one is a Christian.
And unlike so much of the world's means of controlling mankind, Jesus' yoke is easy. This is not saying our lives' are not still difficult, or that we do not suffer pain and grief. Whether the yoke is that of the Pharisees (legalism that brings shame and guilt) or the unbelievers' yoke of sin (also bringing shame and guilt), this relationship (discipleship) is the only true freedom from our weariness and heavy burdens. True discipleship teaches us how to overcome the difficulties faced by all of humanity. The bad things still happen, but Jesus equips us to handle the bad things that confront us all.
Have you answered this call of Jesus? My prayer is that you have. If you haven't, just tell Jesus that you would like to, right now. Tell him you love him and believe in him, and ask him to teach you, and he will.
This isn't complicated. Let's not make this rocket science.
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.