Freely & Lightly
A few years ago I spent a considerable amount of time preaching in my church from Matthew chapter 11. It seemed like every verse was loaded with truths about the person God really is, compared to what people had taken him to be. Especially by the examples set before them by the religious sect. The chapter begins with Jesus being confronted by John the Baptist’s disciples, questioning Jesus and His authenticity as the Messiah. From there Jesus talks to the crowd about John, how the Kingdom of God operates, and who fits in. It’s an interesting chapter, and I have about 20 messages in its entirety…and I know a lot of people in Texas were glad when I found other chapters in the Bible besides this one! Bear with me as I highlight a few of my favorite verses. I’m using the Message translation for easier understanding:
7 When John's disciples left to report, Jesus started talking to the crowd about John. "What did you expect when you went out to see him in the wild? A weekend camper? 8 Hardly. What then? A sheik in silk pajamas? Not in the wilderness, not by a long shot. 9 What then? A prophet? That's right, a prophet! Probably the best prophet you'll ever hear. 10 He is the prophet that Malachi announced when he wrote, 'I'm sending my prophet ahead of you, to make the road smooth for you.' 11 "Let me tell you what's going on here: No one in history surpasses John the Baptizer; but in the kingdom he prepared you for, the lowliest person is ahead of him. 12 For a long time now people have tried to force themselves into God's kingdom.
Jesus takes the opportunity to speak well of John and verify his authenticity. However, Jesus makes an amazing statement when He tells the people, ‘…the lowliest person is ahead of him’. Another translation of it says that he who is least in the Kingdom is greater than John. As Jesus stated, for a long time people think they can force their way into God’s Kingdom, or force their way up the ladder of holiness by living a life of perfection. If they continue to lead an almost perfect life, they believe that God will honor that perfection and they will have credibility in their walk before God. It’s not true. If you know Jesus and walk with Him, than I believe that at the moment of salvation His nature becomes our nature and we find ourselves willing to love, serve and obey His commands…willingly. Then there are times that God’s Word and relationship with Him bring correction to our thinking. Even when we don’t feel like making the change, there’s a willingness to do it because we love Him. But there are certain Christians out there that get a kick out of forcing themselves to live a certain way, sort of as if the Kingdom of God is a Navy Seals operation They put themselves under rigorous daily training, thinking it merits something. In the end it never lasts. But, during their ‘black ops exercises’ these people end up looking down on others who aren’t regimented like they are, pray as much as they do, eat kosher foods like they do, and have it all together like they have it. I don’t think living our lives like this is what Jesus was getting at.
25 Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: "Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You've concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. 26 Yes, Father, that's the way you like to work." 27 Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly…
Hearing Jesus say things like this gives me encouragement. “Yes Father, that’s the way you like to work.” God the Father isn’t complicated. When we think we know it all, we don’t. If we think our tenure of serving the Lord has merited us a badge with God, it hasn’t. Actually, the more you act like you are something in God’s Kingdom, the more on the outskirts and isolated you become. Because God isn’t interested in what you think you know. When you’re real, and you accept that you don’t know everything is when you start catching on. If you’re used to being in control and having things all figured out ahead of time, this is a bit hard to take. This is great news however for ordinary people! Let your ‘hair down’ in life and see yourself as ordinary as the everyday people you see at Wal-Mart. (Yes, I said Wal-Mart) Like Jesus said, God wants to ‘spell out’ His life to you just as simply as He does to everyone else…so keep things simple.
28 "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. 29 Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30 Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.
This verse has definitely become one of my all time faves. When living for God becomes more about Jesus-and rather than Jesus alone, then get ready for a burn out. Good meaning Christians, bad ones and sometimes preachers tend to make the Christian life about everything you have to add to your relationship with Jesus. Meaning, you need Jesus AND you have to add this other thing. The result? We begin focusing on adding and subtracting and end up falling short any way we slice it. The resolve? We need to get with Jesus and recover our life. Go back to the basics. Jesus says to just walk with Him, and learn how to work with Him. So how does Jesus work? Really simple. He doesn’t worry, fret, nor does He get anxious. He simplifies the complexities of life with just a simple word. As we slow the train down and operate like Him we begin to watch His grace operate in our lives. A grace to do what we need to do, the when, the how, the strength and the courage. Best of all, it’s totally unforced. Jesus says that He won’t turn around later and slam you with a heavy or make you do something that doesn’t fit. This is truly how it works for the ordinary person.
For me, I like keeping that kind of company! Freely and lightly is a whole better way to do life.