Showing posts with label Learning Jesus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Learning Jesus. Show all posts

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Way of the Secret, Open Heart
Rend your heart and not your garments. (Joel 2:13)
“Rend your heart,” says Joel, “not your garments.” Rending, or tearing open, the garment was a way to demonstrate grief or repentance. In practice, it would be either a true sign of an inward disposition or, as it often was, merely an outward display, an empty show — and God had had enough of that from his people. In Isaiah, the Lord voiced his complaint: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught” (Isaiah 29:13). This was a chronic condition with them, and once again, in Joel, it was time for a change in their inward disposition — a true repentance.

By the time of Christ, the Pharisees had perfected their sanctimony. The Lord Jesus spoke out against this in the Sermon on the Mount, particularly in regard to the practice of charity, prayer and fasting:
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him …

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18)
Alms, prayer and fasting are all very good things, but the Pharisees had become something of a play-actors guild with them. Jesus called them hypocrites, from the Greek word hypokrites, a term for stage-players and other pretenders. His criticism was that they were putting on masks and playing parts that did not match who they really were in their hearts. Everything became a show, to be seen by others. Their alms, prayer and fasting were for the applause of men. This praise was what they were angling for — and that would be all they would receive. Jesus’ sad refrain about them was, “Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” God was not impressed with them, for though God does indeed care about our actions, he is more concerned with the heart from which those actions spring: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).

The Lord Jesus calls us to a different way, a way that is not about us, a way of humility. It is at once both a quiet, secret way, yet the way of an open heart. It is the way of Jesus, who did not come to please himself but to please the Father. Not to be served but to serve and to pour out his life for our sake. Paul exhorts us to this same mindfulness:
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! (Philippians 2:5-8)
There was a hiddenness in the way Christ came into the world. Though he was God’s Anointed King, and fully divine as well as fully human, he was not born in the sanctity of a temple or the luxury of a palace but in the simplicity of a stable. He did not grow to maturity in a royal court but in the obscurity of a little village and the home of a humble carpenter.

There was also a hiddenness in his ministry, which was often unannounced. Many times, the crowds even had to track him down. Sometimes the disciples, too, had to search for him. He spent much time, in the late evening or early morning hours, off by himself in a quiet place, praying. His death on the cross was not glorious but shameful in the eyes of the world, designed to humiliate him and his followers.

He did not come to exalt himself but to empty himself — yet he did not lose anything of his divinity by doing so. Rather, in taking the nature of a servant, he revealed to us the very nature of God, who is love. In him, then, is exemplified the second refrain from those passages in the Sermon on the Mount: “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
Understand, Christ did not humble himself in order to be exalted. His humility and servanthood is itself exaltation. His love and the giving of himself is the glory. For he has never ceased to be human, never ceased to be servant, never ceased pouring himself out for us. In a word, he has never ceased to be love. That is the “secret” way that gives light to the whole world, and Jesus calls us to himself that we might learn him and the way of the secret, open heart.
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 is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Return to Me with All Your Heart
Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming. It is close at hand — a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness. Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was in ancient times nor ever will be in ages to come. (Joel 2:1-2)
We do not know much about the prophet Joel or the occasion of his writing. He speaks of devastations that are past and also of great devastation to come, which he calls “the day of the LORD.” He speaks of locusts as armies and armies as locusts. In chapter 2, he describes a time of terrible judgment, when God allows the violent ways of man to come to fruition. Whatever the judgment is that he foretells, however, it is not the end nor is all finally lost. There is a word of hope from the Lord, an opportunity for repentance, for turning again to God.
“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing — grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.

Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” (Joel 2:12-17)
Joel twice says, “Blow the trumpet in Zion.” The first time was to sound the alarm, but now there is a different purpose: to declare a holy fast and call a sacred assembly. Everyone is to come, from the very young to the very old, and even the bride and groom are called back from their honeymoon — it is a deeply serious matter. It is to be the preoccupation of the priests to weep between portico and alter, an area accessible to priests alone, to cry out for the mercy of the Lord, for him to deliver his people from destruction and the reproach of the nations.

Even now — whatever you have done, or are going through, or will face ahead — even now is the time to repent, to return to the Lord. Not in outward show or empty ritual, but with all your heart. Tears and ashes mean nothing without the heart. They do no good but are merely a deception. And God, who knows all hearts, is not the least bit fooled.

God is full of grace and compassion, slow to anger and abounding in love. That it is what he is in his very nature. Those who are hard in heart are senseless of it. But if we allow our hearts to be open, even to be broken before him, we will experience the love and grace he has towards us. Indeed, it is divine love and grace that breaks open our hearts to receive him. And if we are willing to bring our brokenness for the sake of his love, we shall be healed by that same love.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Faith Means Following the Shepherd

The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:25-28)
Jesus had come to Jerusalem for the Festival of Dedication (aka Hanukkah) and was standing in Solomon’s Colonnade, in the temple complex. Several of the Jews who opposed him came up to him and demanded, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly” (John 10:24). Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you did not believe me” (v. 25), then spoke to them about the works that testified about him. But they did not believe him, he said, because they were not his sheep.

Now, mind you, the whole of John 10 is about Jesus the Shepherd and his sheep. He talked about the Pharisees and others who tried to sneak into the sheepfold in order to steal the sheep (v. 1). He said that the one who comes through the “gate” is the rightful shepherd (v. 2). That the “gatekeeper” “opened the gate” for him (v. 3) — perhaps a reference to Moses (see John 5:45-47) or more likely to John the Baptist (see John 1:29-34). Jesus said that his sheep listen to him and follow him because they recognize his voice and not the voice of a stranger (v. 4-5). That he himself is the “gate” for the sheep and that all who enter in by him will be saved (vv. 7-9). That the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but Jesus comes that the sheep may have abundant life (the life of the age to come) because he is the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (vv. 10-11). He is the good shepherd — he knows his sheep and his sheep know him, just as he knows the Father and the Father knows him — and he lays down his life for the sheep (vv. 14-18).

And now, even though he and others have testified plainly to his opponents about who he is and has done healing signs and miracles in the name of the Father, they still refuse to trust him, to listen to him, to follow him. They did not really believe Moses and the prophets or else they would have believed Jesus, because he is the one Moses and the prophets spoke of.
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39-40)

But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say? (John 5:45-47)
They did not listen to Jesus’ voice because they did not listen to the voice of Moses and the prophets. They did not follow Jesus because they did not follow Moses and the prophets. They were not Jesus’ sheep because they were never God’s sheep.

But now let’s look at who Jesus’ sheep are: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Jesus’ sheep are the ones who listen to his voice, the ones who follow him. That is what faith is, what it looks like, what it does. Faith is more than an acknowledgement of who Jesus is or agreement with some facts about what he has done. Faith means trusting him, which is to say, entrusting ourselves to him — putting our lives in his hands. So it is listening to him and following him. The man who says he is trusting Jesus but does not listen and follow is not really trusting after all, merely acknowledging something about him.

Acknowledging who Jesus is may be more than those Jewish opponents were willing to do, but it does not measure up to faith. More importantly, it falls short of how Jesus identifies his sheep. Listening to his voice and following him describes their faith, their trust in him. And it is specifically of these that Jesus says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”

Friday, May 8, 2015

Divine Humble-Mindedness

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 is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Abba Anthony, the earliest of the Desert Fathers, said, “I have seen all the snares of the devil spread out on earth and I said with a sigh, ‘Who can pass these by?’ and I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Humble-mindedness.’”

Jesus said, “Come to me. Take my yoke. Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” It is no sign of weakness that Jesus is gentle. True gentleness does not come from weakness but from strength. Jesus, the Messiah King and Son of God, is the Almighty. Yet he is gentle and gracious toward the weak (which includes all of us).

He is gentle because he is “humble in heart.” Or “humble-minded,” as St. Anthony of the Desert might say. People often misunderstand the nature of humility, but C. S. Lewis nails it squarely on the head: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” Humble mindedness is not about disparaging ourselves, it is thinking more about others than ourselves. It does not take anything away from our identity or worth but it recognizes the divine identity and worth in others, for we are all created in the image of God and we are all people Christ came to redeem.

Love is humble minded. It does not think about itself but about others. God is humble minded, for God is love. Within the Trinity, the Father does not think about himself but about the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Son does not think about himself but about the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not think about himself but about the Father and the Son. The Three are all about each other, all about love.

This is the humble-mindedness the Lord Jesus demonstrated when he became human and made his dwelling among us. He did not come to be served but, rather, to serve and to give his life for others. He came to lay down his life for us.

This same sort of humble-mindedness is what he would have us learn. It is the antidote for the weary and burdened way of the world. It is an easy yoke because it is one that Jesus bears with us, and he has already done the “heavy lifting.” We are secure in him, so there is no need to control or manipulate others. His strength becomes our strength, so we can learn to be gentle. As we follow him, he shows us the path of the humble heart. And it leads to rest for our souls.

(See also Divine Humility, Divine Greatness)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Following Jesus ~ Salvation and Discipleship

Discipleship is a process. We can also say that salvation is a process. There is a point where salvation begins, and we are “born again” — so that we can say that we have been saved. At the end, when Jesus comes again, there is a point where we will experience glorification (and we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is) — so that we can say that we will be saved. And in between there is a process of sanctification going on in which the life of Christ in us is being worked out — so that we can say that we are being saved.

Salvation, then, is an ongoing process, with a beginning, a middle and an end. And in this process, we are with Christ from beginning to end. So, salvation is also a relational development, a growth in relationship with the Lord Jesus.

When I look at the Great Commission as it is expressed in Mark and Matthew, I do no think that they are talking about two separate things from one another. They are both talking about the same thing, but in two different ways:
Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:15)

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)
They are both about salvation and they are both about discipleship, even though Mark uses the word “saved” and Matthew does not, but speaks, instead, of making “disciples.” Salvation and discipleship are not two separate issues. When salvation begins, so does our discipleship. Discipleship is what salvation looks like in the process of practical sanctification. It is what faith in the Lord Jesus looks like in the life of a believer.

At this point, let me be quite clear that none of this — salvation, discipleship, sanctification and, indeed, the entire Christian life — is about our own efforts. It is all the work of God in us, by His grace, and we receive it by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now I would like to talk about a couple of passages I have been thinking about lately in regard to salvation and discipleship. The first is Matthew 11:28-30, where Jesus says,
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 is light.
The invitation to come to Jesus and receive “rest” is an invitation to salvation. And Jesus tells us here how to find that rest: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me.” That is discipleship. The Greek word for “learn” here is mathete, which is where the word for “disciple” (mathetes) comes from. But notice how this is sandwiched between the two statements about “rest.” Jesus is not talking about rest and discipleship as two different things but as one thing: rest that is expressed as discipleship. The invitation to come to Jesus for “rest” (salvation) and the invitation to “learn” from Him (discipleship) are the same invitation.

The second passage is John 10:27-28, where Jesus says,
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:27-28)
Again, being one of Jesus’ sheep indicates salvation. Jesus says He “knows” His sheep. Compare this with Matthew 7:23, where Jesus says to the false teachers, “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

Now, notice what Jesus says about those He calls “My sheep,” and whom He knows:
  1. They listen to His voice.
  2. They follow Him.
Listening to Jesus’ voice and following Him — that is discipleship. Now, look at what Jesus gives to His sheep: eternal life, which is the life of the age to come — that is salvation. So in this passage, also, Jesus is not speaking of salvation and discipleship as two separate things but as essentially the same thing — salvation that looks like following Jesus. The life of the age to come is lived out as discipleship in this present age.

With all these things considered, then, the invitation to salvation is the invitation to discipleship. Not two separate and distinct invitations. But, again, whether we are speaking of it as salvation or as discipleship, it is all by grace through faith. Becoming a disciple of Jesus is not a matter of our works but a matter of faith in Jesus. Faith in the Lord Jesus is not merely giving mental assent to a proposition about Jesus. Faith in Jesus looks like following Jesus. Following Jesus is how faith in Jesus expresses itself.

This brings me back to the Great Commission, for an additional thought. The going, the baptizing, the teaching — it’s all part of evangelizing, all part of preaching the gospel. In Mark 16:16 we see that the expected response is faith and baptism. Likewise, in the evangelism practiced by the apostles in the book of Acts, the expected response to the gospel of Christ was repentance, faith and baptism — becoming disciples. In Acts 14:21, for example, making disciples was not presented as some separate activity from preaching the gospel: “They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples.” To evangelize was to make disciples, and to believe the gospel was to become a disciple.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Learning Jesus, Learning Love

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:8)

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)
Correct theology is important. And yet, according to Jesus, it is by our love for one another that all will know that we are His disciples. In 1 John 4:8, we read that God is love. Theology is something that is about God, but love is something that God is. If we do not have love for one another, I wonder how correct our theology actually is. John puts it bluntly: “He who does not love does not know God.”

Truth is important, and, indeed, Jesus said that He is the truth. This shows us that truth is not merely propositional but personal — that is, it is revealed to us in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Theology, as we usually speak of it, is propositional. In that respect, then, correct theology (propositions about Jesus) is not necessarily the same thing as the Truth (Jesus Himself), just as a map is not the terrain it represents.

Love, however, is not merely a proposition about Jesus. Love is what Jesus is. And it is when we love one another that we demonstrate that we have not merely learned about Jesus but have learned Jesus Himself. For when we love one another, we are displaying who Jesus is in a way that correct theology never can.

Theology is not God and God is not theology. A man may know correct doctrine about God, but that does not mean that he thereby knows God Himself. But love is personal and relational. Jesus is the “Word” that John spoke about. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1). However, Jesus the Word is not just a word about God. To know Jesus is to know God Himself, for Jesus is the expression of God in human form. Jesus said that whoever has seen Him has seen the Father (John 14:9). But we cannot say anything like that about propositional theology or correct doctrine.

The Lord Jesus is the expression, not of propositions about God, but of God Himself, who is love. To whatever extent we encounter love, then, we encounter God through Jesus Christ. And to whatever extent we express love, we express God through Jesus Christ.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Discipleship of Gentleness and Humility

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. (Matthew 11:29 NIV)
“Learn from me,” Jesus says. It is an invitation to be His disciple (the Greek word for “learn,” in this verse, and the word for “disciple” come from the same root). What Jesus calls us to learn from Him is gentleness and humility. These are traits that reveal the Lord Jesus Himself, in His incarnation, in the saving work of the cross, and in His exaltation. It is not surprise, then, that the New Testament writers also hold them in high regard:
  • “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:16 NIV)
  • “By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you.” (2 Corinthians 10:1 NIV)
  • “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” (Galatians 6:1 NIV).
  • “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:1-2 NIV).
  • “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12 NIV).
  • “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth.” (2 Timothy 2:23-25)
  • “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” (Titus 3:1-2 NIV)
  • “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13 NIV)
  • “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:6-7)
  • “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3:3-4 NIV).
  • “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV).
  • “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (1 Peter 5:5)
Given that Jesus invites us to come and “learn” gentleness and humility from Him, what should Christian discipleship look like?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Gentle and Humble in Heart

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. (Matthew 11:29-30 NIV)
Jesus calls us to come and “learn” from Him. The Greek word for “learn” in this passage is mathete, and from it comes the word for “disciple,” which is mathetes. To be a disciple is to be one who learns. But what is it Jesus calls us to learn from Him? Gentleness and humility.


The Greek word for “gentle” here is praos and is often translated as “meek.” But meekness is not milquetoast. Far from it. It is not weakness but strength. It is, however, a strength that is patient and calm, the kind of strength befitting a king. In the Bible, it takes on the added meaning of being yielded to God.

In the beatitudes, the opening of the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). And when He made His final entry into Jerusalem (which we remember on Palm Sunday), Jesus applied the words of the prophet Zechariah to Himself: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey’” (Matthew 21:5 NIV).

Indeed, the promised Messiah would be characterized by this kind of gentleness towards those who were willing. Isaiah prophesied concerning Him, “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench” (Isaiah 42:3). Is this weakness? Perhaps in one sense it is. But it is this very weakness that would be Messiah’s strength, for look at what it would accomplish, as Isaiah continues his prophesy: “He will bring forth justice for truth. He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth” (Isaiah 42:3-4).


Jesus also calls us to learn humility, for He is “humble in heart.” Often, the burden we must set aside is our own vanity or pride or arrogance. But Jesus is neither vain nor proud nor arrogant. He came to us as a servant. On the night of the Last Supper, He washed the feet of the disciples, saying, “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).

Jesus came to give Himself, even to the point of giving His life. In the book of Philippians, Paul exhorts bickering believers with this profound portrayal of Jesus in His servant humility:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)
Humility is not something Jesus put on when He became a man and then took off again when He was exalted to the highest place and given the name that is above every name. No, being humble in heart is part of who He is. Being a servant did not camouflage His divinity — it revealed it. It showed that God is, by His very nature, a servant.

The author of Hebrews says that Jesus is the “express image” of God (Hebrews 1:3), and Jesus Himself said that those who have seen Him have seen the Father (John 14:9). So when Jesus says, “I am gentle and humble in heart,” we are seeing something that is not just true of Him in His humanity. It is true of Him in His divinity, and therefore true of the Father as well.

This gentleness, humility and servant heart are basic to the nature of God. For they manifest love, and John tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8). It is this nature that caused the Lord Jesus to pour Himself out, to become a human being and submit to a terrible death on the cross for our sake.

It is these God-like qualities that we are invited to come and learn from the one who lives them most deeply. And it is in taking up this yoke of His that we will find rest and restoration in our lives. For the yoke of gentleness is kind and good to us, and the burden of humility is not heavy but light — and it is the Lord Jesus who bears them.

See also Divine Humility, Divine Greatness and The Humble God-Man Exalted with the Highest Glory.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Come, Take, Learn

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 is light. (Mathew 11:28-30 NIV)
Jesus invites us to Himself, to come and take and learn.

Come. This invitation is for those who are “weary and burdened.” The One to whom we are invited to come is the One who bears our burdens. “Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Psalm 55:22). “Praise be to the LORD, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens” (Psalm 68:18 NIV). Come, “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Take. We very often think of “give” and “take” as belonging together. When someone gives us something, we receive it by taking it. Here, Jesus promises to give us rest, but then He calls us to take His yoke upon ourselves. This seems a paradox, for a yoke is made for bearing a burden, and we normally think of bearing a burden as the opposite of rest. But here, it is in taking Jesus’ yoke that we find the rest He offers.

Learn. What is the yoke Jesus invites us to take? Read the words again: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” Notice that taking up Jesus’ yoke is not a separate thing but is paired with learning from Him. Back in those days, rabbis spoke of taking the “yoke of the Torah,” that is, of being devoted to learning the law God gave to Moses. However, Jesus’ call to take up His yoke is the invitation to come and learn from Him. The Greek word for “learn” in this passage is mathete (the word for “disciple” is mathetes).

For all who are weary and burdened — and who of us hasn’t been? — Jesus calls us to be His disciples, to come and take and learn Him. Learning Jesus is walking with Him, for a yoke is made for two. But Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is light for us because He is the one who carries it. And it is in this way that we discover and experience what is truly rest for the soul.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Learning Jesus, Finding Rest

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
The yoke Jesus is talking about here is not for plowing the fields or pulling the carts. It is about being with Jesus, side by side, and learning from Him. We can think about it in three ways, each one leading us to the next.
  • Learning of Jesus. This is hearing about Jesus, learning about Jesus, and coming to Him. it begins with His invitation, “Come to Me.”
  • Learning from Jesus. When we come to Jesus, He becomes our teacher and we become His disciple. We begin to learn from Him about many things.
  • Learning Jesus. This goes beyond knowing about Jesus, and knowing the things He has taught us. It is about Jesus Himself, knowing Him more and more.
My wife and I have been married now for 35 years. We know each other. Not just about each other. She knows me and I know her. We have learned each other so that we can even anticipate one another (not that we cannot still surprise each other — the more I know her, the more each day becomes a revelation of her). It happened over time, day after day, year after year. Turning to each other, tuning to each other, deepening with each. There is now an ease that we have with each other. A confidence, a trust, a rest with each other.

That is what Jesus invites us to, to learn Him — and find rest.

Praying through my psalms for the day, Psalm 131 seems particularly appropriate to this:
My heart is not proud, LORD,
My eyes are not haughty,
I do not concern myself with great matters,
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
Like a weaned child I am content.
(Psalm 131:1-2 NIV2011)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

It Will Not Be Taken From You

One thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42)
There was Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet — listening to His voice, enjoying His presence, learning of Him. Cut to Martha, serving with a scowl. “Lord, don’t you care? Do something about Mary!”

Jesus quickly gets to the heart of the matter, gently but firmly: “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.”

There’s the problem: a heart crowded and distracted by many things. One thing and one thing only is necessary — to be with Jesus. When you choose that good part, it will not be taken from you.