Hope Ruffles the Religious
Topic: Sunday Message Verse: Matthew 11:28–11:29, Mark 2:18–2:22, Mark 2:23–2:28, Matthew 10:28–10:31
How have you been sleeping these days? Better or worse than pre-lockdown
On the surface it seems like the answer should be “better,” because most of us generally have less to do with more time on our hands. However my guess is that a lot of us aren’t sleeping as well these days, because sleeping better and feeling more restful isn’t so much a schedule problem as it is a stress problem. So even though our activity might be lower, the uncertainty of these times has caused our anxiety to rise higher.
That’s what uncertainty and anxiety can do to us. It's not only true in the physical world, but it’s also true in the spiritual world. How do we know where we stand with God? What does He think of us? Have I been good enough? There is a rest we can experience in the deepest and most precious place of our being—our soul. That's where Jesus comes in and that's what His mission of hope is all about.
Matthew 11:28-29 NIV
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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.
The Clash Continues
You might remember from last week that Jesus clashed with the religious authorities because they were troubled when they saw Jesus dining with the “excluded” crowd. “How could He…?” they asked Jesus’s disciples. In response, Jesus gave us this wonderful news: that He came not for those who think they’re righteous, but rather He came for those who know they’re not (like you and me).
Unfortunately, this mindset of a rules-based righteousness was so imbedded into religion back then that people still had trouble hearing and accepting what Jesus was trying to teach them. This is what He was up against and this is what He wanted to tear down so that He could share a better way for the world to know and worship God.
Mark 2:18-22 NIV
18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” 19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. 21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
Mark 2:23-28 NIV
23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” 25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
"The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath"
When Jesus audaciously calls Himself the “Son of Man,” He's telling them: “Your Sabbath rules don’t apply to me, because I’m the God who gave you the Sabbath in the first place, and I never intended for keeping the Sabbath to be a test of your piousness so you could feel good about yourself.”
Beyond that, Jesus also makes the bold claim, that: “The Sabbath ultimately points to me. I am your Sabbath. I am your worship. I am your joy. And I am your rest." It's a deep rest for your soul from all the uncertainty and the anxiety that comes with trying to keep the rules and never quite knowing if you're good enough for God. Instead Jesus came to ultimately fulfill all righteousness on the cross and give to us this perfect righteousness that we cannot achieve for ourselves.
Hope Ruffles the Religious
Jesus came to bring us good news about how we can experience deep rest for our souls and prevailing peace with God. But not everyone received it that way. No, it actually made them mad and threatened something inside of them that ran far deeper than just a difference of opinion.
You know what? The same is still true today. Some of most religious people you know might also be some of most resistant to Jesus and the hope He came to bring.
Jesus knew that the fate of our eternal souls was at stake and that the rule-keeping system these religious leaders had constructed was actually harming people and preventing them from coming to know and worship the God who created them. That's why this matters then and now.
Finding Rest for Your Soul (two approaches)
1. The RELIGIOUS (based on "what I can do for God")
This is mankind taking the initiative and reaching up to God by keeping all the rules, so that through their own righteousness they would win God’s favor and find rest for their souls.That’s the plan, but here’s the problem: “How do you know if you’re doing it right? How do you know if you’ve been good enough?” When you build your life on keeping the rules, you’re inevitably gonna fail. And when you do, you modify the rules and you measure yourself against others to feel better about yourself. This can happen in every religion including Christianity, where fine-lookin’, church-goin’ people can think it’s all up to them and the good they do.But how do you know if that's you? Ask the question: "Is your life marked by comparing, complaining, and condemning?" If you tracked the words of your mouth, the thoughts in your head, and the attitudes in your heart, and how much and how often do other people bother you? Does it consume your life? If it does, you may be a Christian in name, but it’s possible you’ve built your life upon rule-keeping religion, rather than the life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
If that's you, then the first thing you need to do is to just fess-up: tell God and admit to yourself that being religious, trying to keep the rules, and judging others while you’re at it isn’t working for you. It's so important to be honest and humble like this because before you can grab on to the good, you first need to let go of the bad.
Finding Rest for Your Soul (two approaches)
2. The REDEEMED (based on "what Jesus did for me.")
Instead of building my life on all the so called good I’m trying to do for God with all the anxiety that produces within me, I look to Jesus and I build my life upon His perfection: the perfect life He lived; the perfect sacrifice He made for me on the Cross; the perfect victory He won over sin and death through the resurrection; and the perfect righteousness that becomes my own when I trust in Him fully as my Savior, my Redeemer, and my Lord.
Keeping the rules will never bring rest to your soul, but Jesus can and He will when you let go of the bad and grab on to the good. Jesus, your Redeemer, is the good. So take this opportunity to accept or to affirm Jesus as your Savior and all that He did for you and because of you.
Matthew 10:28-31 NIV
28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Deep Rest from Anxiety Now AND Forever
What does finding rest for your soul have to do with you're going through right now and everything you're feeling inside. In other words, Jesus may have “saved your soul,” but you're still afraid of the virus, or you're out of a job, or you've lost your home.
Yes, sometimes churches get accused of always talking about the sweet “by & by,” without ever really addressing the bitter “here & now.” Yet real Christianity that’s built upon the firm foundation of Jesus Christ doesn’t ask you to choose one or the other. Jesus is Lord of both the “here and now” and the “forever after.”
If Jesus has already given you the deep rest for your soul that comes with sins forgiven and the promise of heaven, then you can also count on Him for the other things that might make you anxious. In other words, if Jesus can handle the eternal fate of your soul, then He can certainty take care of everything else.Don't be afraid--you are worth everything to your Heavenly Father. He's got you. So in the midst of this global pandemic and this historic 500-year flood: “Come to Jesus, all you who are weary and burdened, and He will give you rest.”