Finding Rest (11-12-17)

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One of my theology professors liked to include lots of complicated theological terms in his lectures. When my classmates and I asked him to explain a big word, he did. With even bigger words. It all sounded good from a theological perspective but we had no idea what he was talking about or how to apply it to our lives.

Last Sunday, I preached from Matthew 11. Our scripture passage included Matthew 11:28-30 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I ended the sermon by encouraging you to yoke yourself to Jesus and allow him to give you rest. That statement sounds good. It’s biblical. But what does it really mean and how do we do it in real life?

Obviously one way we yoke ourselves to Jesus is by reading the Bible and doing what it says, spending time in prayer and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. We’ve talked about this a lot over the past few months so we won’t spend more time on this now. Let’s look at another Biblical concept which allows Jesus to give us supernatural mental, emotional and spiritual rest.

We’ll begin in Philippians 2:1-8 – Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—  even death on a cross!”

What happens when we have the same mindset Jesus had? We replace any selfish ambition or vain conceit we have with humility. This allows us to place the needs of others above our own desires. Since Christians are commanded to do this, shouldn’t our congregational gatherings be a place where we can go and say, “These are my sins, faults and struggles. Please pray for me and help me?”

Do we typically do this? No, we don’t. We’re afraid of being judged and then being the source of community gossip. We’ve all heard more than one story of someone who bravely shared a struggle only to have it broadcast all over town. Perhaps you’ve even had this happen to you.

We can overcome this problem by applying Galatians 6:1-6 to our lives. It says, Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.”

We’re told to gently restore others caught in sin without comparing ourselves to them. Comparing ourselves to others typically causes us to judge them. Judgment can lead to gossiping because we want to tell others about the sentence we’ve determined their sin deserves.  This can make us feel better about ourselves.

However, Galatians tells us we are to judge our own actions to make sure we’re doing the right thing. We address our own issues instead of worrying about what others are doing. This should lead us to deal with our own sins and faults. And just as we help restore others without judging them, they are to do the same thing for us.

So, if you’re a person who gossips about others so you can feel better about yourself, stop it. You’re doing more harm to others and to the church of Jesus Christ than you realize.

The intent for being part of the church isn’t just so we can work together to share Jesus with others. It’s also supposed to be a place where we can safely share our struggles with each other and carry each other’s burdens. Trying to do everything on our own simply doesn’t work. This includes overcoming sin.

Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” We know that confessing sins to God is important if we want to receive his mercy. We can do that when we’re alone with him. This brings us forgiveness but it might not help us stop doing them. We may need some other help.

James 5:16 tells us, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Carrying each other’s burdens includes helping one another overcome our sins. We’ll never do this with each other if we’re afraid we’re going to be judged for being honest and then have people gossip about us.

(I have permission to share the following story.) At last week’s worship service, Sister Della Watters asked for prayer to help her forgive some people who hurt her in the past. This past Tuesday, she stopped by my office when our congregational secretary and I were working. Della and I talked about her situation. I told her I was proud of her for being brave enough to share her heart with the whole congregation. Then I asked her how she was doing.

She responded, “I was somewhat humiliated to admit my sin of unforgiveness and weakness but I was also relieved because now I don’t have to work so hard to hide it.”

After some more discussion, I asked her if I could anoint her and pray for her. We went into the sanctuary where she knelt down at the altar. I anointed her with oil. Then I put my hands on her head and prayed for her.

Immediately after I finished, Della started praying. With a quiet voice, she began by confessing her sins. Then she shifted to a time of begging God to help her and to heal her. This opened the door for God to begin working in her life in ways that can only be described as supernatural.

What is one way we find rest by being yoked with Jesus? We confess our sins and struggles to each other. Then we support each other with humility instead of judgement and gossip. The door is then opened  for Jesus to work in supernatural ways through his church. This only happens when we’re willing to humble ourselves before God and each other. We have to dare to trust others because it’s what Jesus tells us to do.

Faith in Jesus saves us but obedience to Jesus and God’s Word transforms us.

Please find someone you trust. Then confess your sins and struggles to that person and let her or him help you carry your burdens. This will open the door for Jesus to give you supernatural rest.