August 30th 2015

listen to last Sunday’s worship set.

One question.  That’s all you get.  One question to ask Jesus.  You could imagine people as they heard the news about Jesus….his teaching about the kingdom of God spread.  As he went from town to town and crowds grew, I’m sure that there were people that were thinking, “If I get my chance, if I get my one question, here’s what it’s going to be.”  In Matthew 19:16 we get to read about one man’s question.  He’s a rich, young man and when he gets a chance to ask his one question here’s what he says to Jesus:  Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?  That’s a good question!  Here’s what he’s asking, “Alright Jesus, I need you to boil this down for me, because I want to live the type of life that lasts forever.”  Eternal has two dimensions to it: It’s eternal in duration, but he’s also asking Jesus, what does it look like and how do I live the type of life that I want to last forever?  Those are two different questions, right?  Eternal in duration and eternal in quality that’s what’s wrapped up in this man’s question to Jesus.  His one question.  Listen to what Jesus says (verse 18):  And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  The young man said to him, “All these I have kept.  What do I still lack?”   So he goes, “Okay, I’m looking at my resume.  No murder.  I’ve obeyed-ish my father and my mother.  (Probably a little bit of revisionist history going on here.)  I haven’t coveted.  I haven’t bore false witness.  I haven’t stolen.”  So the rich, young man is thinking, “We’re good.”  It was interesting to me that Jesus points out a number of the Ten Commandments, but He doesn’t give the man the first.  The first of the Ten Commandments is “You shall have no other gods before Me.”   He leaves that one out, I think intentionally, and as the man says check, check, done, I’m good.  Jesus says, “Oh, oh! Before you leave, one last thing.  Sell everything you have, give it to the poor, then you’ll have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.”  It’s interesting the first time around that Jesus doesn’t mention the first commandment, but He diagnoses what’s this man’s god.  What’s number one?  You shall have no other gods before me and He sees this guy’s god is his money.  It’s his stuff, it’s his treasure.  So He says, “Here’s the deal:  If you want to have life, drop the other gods.  Push them aside.  Anoint me as king of, not only the universe, but of your life, come and follow me.”  Isn’t it interesting that a question that starts out what does it mean to have eternal life, ends with an invitation from Jesus to “follow me.”  It’s an interesting turn of events, because it goes from “doing” to “following.”  It goes from what can I accomplish and what are the works that I can achieve? to Jesus saying, “Let me boil all this down.  You want to have the type of life that lasts forever and the kind of life that you want to last forever…..follow me!  Follow me!”  This is the invitation that Jesus gives to his followers…..FOLLOW.  Don’t just hear…’s what the rich, young man does.  He substitutes, like many of us do, proximity to Jesus for devotion to Jesus.  He rubs up against Jesus.  He gets to look Him in the eye.  He gets to hear His words, but he decides not to follow. He substitutes proximity to Jesus for devotion to Jesus.  He hears the words of Jesus, but those don’t equate in his life to following.  And he has the knowledge of who Jesus is….he knows His teaching, he’s heard His words.  He’s followed Him, to a certain extent, to see where He is and what He’s doing.  He’s heard the stories, but when it comes down to it, he’s unwilling to relinquish the trinkets in his hand for the treasure of following the way of Jesus.  I think in many ways he paints a picture of modern American evangelicals.  He paints a picture, in some ways, of my life.  I love to be close to Jesus, but when it starts to cost me something I’m like uunnhhh.  I love to hear the words of Jesus.  I love to study the Scriptures, but when it comes time to actually putting them into practice in my life…..I don’t know.  I love to study way more than I love to obey.  I don’t know about you.  Bible studies are great, aren’t they?  So we pack our lives full of them, I think, partially so we don’t have to go, “Alright, what does it look like to actually live this what?”  Bible studies are good, but they’re not the end.  Knowledge of and about Jesus is great, but it’s no substitute for following Him, where He says know me intimately, embrace My person and My way.  

When a rabbi would say to somebody who was looking to be one of his students……a rabbi would say to a student or disciple, “Follow me.”  What he meant was come and be like me.  Come and live like me.  Come and learn what it means to live under the commands of Yahweh, under the commands of God, in the same way I do.  So when Jesus says to the rich, young man, and to you and I, “follow me” He’s putting extreme faith in the fact that by His power and by His work you can actually become like Him!  It’s not just do the things I do.  It’s become like me in my nature and my character.  Look at the way that Jesus, in the calling of the first disciples, echoes this.  He says to the first disciples…they’re fishing…..Follow me, and I will make you….stop there, because here’s what Jesus’ saying to them: I’ll transform you.  I’ll do something in your life that causes you to live a little bit differently.  I’ll turn you from fishermen into fishers of men, that’s what I’m going to do in your life.  I’m going to take you from where you’re at and as you follow and as you walk in My way, you’ll start to take and clothe yourself in my character and I’ll make you….you’ll be a little bit different.  

Did you know that your decision to FOLLOW Jesus always determines your FORMATION to Jesus?  There’s a lot of people who love to be around Jesus, love to hear the words of Jesus, love to learn more about Jesus, but when it comes time to actually put this into practice, we go, “Whoa! I’m not so sure!”  This invitation from Jesus is come and be transformed.  Come, and by the Gospel of Grace, I will change the very inner-workings of your soul.  You can go from being an angry person to being a free person.  From being somebody who’s bitter and looks at the past and goes I’m not sure how I’m going to get beyond that to somebody who walks in the goodness of the Gospel.  Somebody who embraces the word “do” can be transformed into somebody who says by your grace and mercy it is finished!  You always become like the things you follow.  This Saturday, my oldest son, Ethan, was away with a friend in the morning, so it was just my daughter, Avery, and my youngest son, Reid.  Normally, Ethan is our event planner in the family so he decides where everybody goes and what everybody does.  This morning Avery had her opportunity.  She carpe’d that diem!!!  She seized that day!  She said, “Reidie, let’s go!”  She had all these necklaces on him.  He’s dressed up in a tutu holding his Barbie picture camera walking around the house.  It was this picture for me of:  The things that you follow lead to who you become. You can look at any fad or culture that rises up, but this truth is absolutely, 100% applicable in the physical realm, in our culture we see and in the spiritual realm.  The things that we follow, we become like!    So when Jesus is asked the question, “What does it look like to inherit eternal life?  The kind of life that lasts forever and the kind of life you’d want to last forever.”  He says, “How do you do that??  You follow me!  You don’t just hear my words, you actually live them up.  You don’t just see me, you walk intimately with me.  You don’t just know about me, you know Me!”  It’s more than just information, it’s transformation!  The decision for us to follow always, always, ALWAYS determines our transformation.

I’ve often wondered how this rich, young man’s life played out.  Haven’t you?  The decision to hear the words of Jesus and walk away…..I’ve always wondered if he was haunted by that decision.  Did he hold his treasure and his stuff and think is it really worth it.  Have you ever gained more and more stuff and felt more and more empty?  My guess is, the rich young man would go yes and amen!  I can’t believe I passed up the opportunity to inherit eternal life through the following of the Messiah and I’ve sacrificed it for all of this stuff that in the end doesn’t really matter.  Would you look up at me for a moment?  The desire of Jesus is that every single person in this room and every person you meet would be conformed into His image.  It’s not because He’s egotistical, it’s because He loves you and He knows the way He designed you to live.  He wired you for intimacy with the Father.  When we live in His way, we start to be conformed or formed into His image.  But it doesn’t happen by just looking at Him and going, “Man, you’re amazing!”  It doesn’t happen by just hearing His words.  It doesn’t happen by just being in close proximity to Him, maybe like on a Sunday morning.  It happens when we lay all of our life at Him and say, “I’m willing not just to hear and I’m willing not just to know.  I want to FOLLOW!”  Anybody there this morning?  Anybody saying God, I want to follow you!  I don’t just want to hear about you.  I want to actually follow in your way.   

I want to flip over to Matthew 11:28-30 and we’re going to spend the rest of our time unpacking how Jesus wants us to follow.  There’s some really specific things He’s going to say, that He’s going to invite us to. I’d encourage you to go back over the course of this week and read through Matthew 11, because Jesus is preaching a little bit angry here.  Or at least passionate.  He’s just given a few “woes.”  Woe to you…you places that I did miracles and you haven’t repented.  So He knows there’s a lot on the line.  So when we here this invitation “come to me,” we have to hear it with “this is a weighty, weighty call” from the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  It’s not “Hey, if you feel like it, come on and follow me.”  It’s:  LIFE is on the line and it’s too good and it’s too beautiful and it’s too absolutely abundant for us to hold on to our trinkets and miss His treasures!  Here’s what He says in teaching people how to follow His way:  Come to me, all 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.”   

Three things I want to point out for you and what it looks like for you and I to follow—really, truly follow—the way of Jesus, not just appreciate it.  To be a follower, not just a fan.  Number one, Jesus says, “Come to me.” This is an intentional approach.  None of us will wake up some day and go, “You know what?  I think I’m following Jesus.  I don’t know how it happened.  All of a sudden I’m obeying and abiding and wow! this is great, this is awesome!”  It doesn’t happen by accident.  You will not drift there.  So Jesus says: This requires an intentional approach, a heart direction, where we look at the Messiah in the same way the rich young man did, but with a different result.  He looked at him and asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus says, “Follow me.”  We must say, “Jesus, we are chasing after you!”  Have you said that?  

When we traveled back to California for vacation over summer break, I love cruise control!!  We get on I-70….we make about four turns from when we leave our house and when we get to California.  It’s like get on I-70 and get on I-15…that’s all you do!  MapQuest is like three things.  So we get on I-70 outside of Grand Junction and it’s like boom! cruise control!  Hit it 85 and wake me up when we get to I-15 and I need to make a left!  Cruise control is a great way to travel!  It’s a terrible way to live!!  I think a lot of our lives, if we were honest and we would say, alright, Jesus, the spiritual condition of our soul probably reflects more cruise control than it does intentionality and chasing after Him.  Some diagnostic questions would be:  What does my prayer life look like?  God, what am I calling out for in my soul when it comes to you?  Am I like the psalmist?  Am I approaching you saying, “My soul longs for you as in a dry and weary land where there is no water?  Where can I go and meet with God?”   I love the way that Dallas Willard puts it in his great book, The Great Omission:  “The single most obvious trait of those who profess Christ but do not grow into Christ-likeness {Time out.  That is a devastating thing, isn’t it?  We would say that we know Him.  We would say that we love Him. We would say our faith is in Him, but our life just doesn’t reflect this.  There’s something better.} … their refusal to take the reasonable and time-tested measures for spiritual growth.”  He says that’s the only thing that separates people that grow into Christ-likeness and people that don’t.  The people who grow into Christ-likeness are the people who set this intentional approach to God.  Have you done this?  It’s a great, glorious invitation so good that I don’t want us to pass it by!

My question after that is who is this open to?  Is Jesus just writing to the spiritually elite?  Here’s who it is open to:   Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden…  So these are people who are working their fingers to the bone, spiritually speaking.  These are people who have it in their sights of what it looks like to appease God and to make Him happy and to avoid the wrath that is coming.  These are people who are working, working, going, going, doing, doing.  He goes all those who are living that way and those who are heavy laden. It’s this picture of a pack mule that is absolutely weighed down!  Overloaded!! Overburdened!!  With the cares and the pain and the regret of life.  THIS is who the invitation from Jesus is open for.  What a miraculous, beautiful invitation, is it not?  I don’t know about you, but life can get a little heavy sometimes, can’t it?  (Pastor Ryan loads a backpack with bricks/tiles.)  You start thinking about the things that as people, just people, that we deal with and it can add up, can’t it?  I know there are some of you out there right now that are going man, the health scare, health concern, uncertainty of it all….I don’t know what to exactly do with that. Jesus says, “Alright, you’re heavy ladened.”  That abuse that you walked through when you were a kid, and as much as you’ve tried, just can’t work it through.  (Tile goes in the backpack.)  That disappointment with the job just not coming through the way that you wanted it to.  You got bad news from your employer. (Another tile into the backpack.)  Your family’s broken.  You had a dream of what it was going to look like when you got married and it doesn’t look anything like that now.  (Another tile into the backpack.)  Is it me or can life be heavy some times?    So Jesus says all you who labor and are heavy laden, burdened with life, come to me.  Come to me.  I love you and I’m for you and the only requirement to do so is not that you be perfect, but that you would be weighed down enough to say, “I need some help and I can’t do it on my own.”  That’s the only requirement!  That’s the only thing the gospel demands of you! An intentional approach informed by your weakness and saying I can’t carry this load alone.  I can’t go at it alone.  The idea of trying to work myself to God…it always seems to let me down.  Or I think I get there and my pride demolishes me.  Or the pain and the hurt of life.  So He goes the only requirement I have is for you to be heavy laden, burdened by life and if that’s you He says, “Come. Come on. And I will, as you follow me…I will make you.  I’ll transform you.”  

The Pharisees couldn’t do it because their way of approaching God was based on their performance.  To drop their guard and admit the weight would mean failure.  The rich young man couldn’t do it because he was like…that’s not that heavy.  I think I can carry it.  And instead of approaching Jesus in a way to follow, he turns his back on this beautiful invitation for formation.  Listen to the way Tim Keller puts it: “The gospel frees us from the relentless pressure of having to prove ourselves and secure our identity through works.”  Friends, listen to me here.  Transformation begins when we come to Jesus, in all of our frailty and all of our weakness….admit it, receive from Him….and it continues, transformation does, as we abide in Him.  The first disciples drop their nets.  They leave their income.  They leave their identity.  They leave their influence and they say back to Jesus:  We’re willing to follow. Have you said it?  Are you a follower or a fan?  Is Jesus sort of a nice hood ornament on our car or is He the king of the universe, Lord of our life?  How does the load you’re carrying feel?  

Here’s the next thing Jesus says.  First, we approach Him with intentionality.  Listen to what He says to people who are weary and heavy laden and burdened by life, wiped out by life.   Take my yoke upon you.   Just imagine Jesus:  Hey, are you burdened by life?  We’re like yeah!  Are you worn out?  Yeah!  Life got you down? Yeah!  Well, come and take my YOKE?????  I would be like….come and take a vacation.  Come and get an erotic massage.  Come and sit in my hot tub.  But come and take my yoke…that that might lighten the burden?  Here’s the second thing Jesus is saying:  Not only, if we’re going to follow Him, does it demand an intentional approach, it necessitates a humble submission.  God, we will walk under Your Word, we’ll walk under Your Way.  Two things that means for us.  Catch these.  A yoke was a work tool for an animal, an oxen typically.  They would fit it specifically for the oxen, which is what Jesus says when he says my yoke is easy.  Literally, in the Greek, it means “it fits perfectly.”  It would allow them to pull more weight than they were able to pull on their own.  Jesus isn’t inviting us to a vacation, He’s inviting us to a way of carrying life’s burdens that feels way different than if we’re carrying it on our own.  Every rabbi would have a yoke—you could replace that word with “school.”  A yoke was a way that they interpreted the Scriptures and a way that they sat under the teachings of God.  When Jesus says take my yoke upon you, He’s telling the disciples and you and I to come and take my way of walking and living and moving and breathing.  Walk in my way.  Do what I do.  Follow me.  Two words….one obedience.  Demands it.  We cannot embrace the yoke of Christ if we are not willing to follow Him.  And to be obedient to what He calls us to do.  The great thing for you and I is….here’s the way the Apostle John writes about the commands of Jesus to be obedient.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.  And his commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)   So this is a totally different way of looking at the yoke, right?  To follow the way of Jesus isn’t:  Oh, man, I gotta forgive my enemies.  Oh my goodness, I’ve got to pray for those who persecute me.  Man, I’ve gotta rid my life of bitterness.  See, from the outside looking in it can look like work…..from the inside looking out it feels like freedom.  I think we’ve listened to people talk about obedience, for too long, who aren’t actually living it out.  The people who are living it out would say there’s nothing better.  There’s nothing better than, by the grace of God, approaching Jesus, embracing His yoke, walking in His way and being freed from anger!  I don’t know anybody holding on to anger who says this is working out great for me.  Do you?  I don’t know anybody who’s going, “I refuse to forgive and it’s a really good decision!”  No, no!!  People are saying, “I refuse to forgive and I wish I could let go because it’s eating me alive.”    What John writes is listen, to walk in His way, to be obedient to His call and His person, is not burdensome, it’s beautiful.  Number one.

Number two—It’s not only obedience, it’s relinquishing control.  When we say to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords: I’m willing to take on your yoke and walk in your way of approaching God through grace, through mercy, through the work of the Spirit, the sacrifice of the Son and the foreknowledge of the Father….when I’m to do that I have to say then that my way of carrying this is not working.  I think the hiccup for a lot of us as we walk with Jesus is we’re selective in what we obey.  We say I like this and I don’t like that.  God, I think you were right THERE, but when it comes to this other point, I don’t know.  Really, at the end of that who’s our God?  We are.  So Jesus is saying: one, embrace obedience. Walk in my way: to love God, to love your neighbor as yourself.  To carry the message of the Kingdom everywhere you go.  To be a disciple who makes disciples. To live the ethic of the Sermon on the Mount.  It’s not burdensome, but it does require obedience and it requires relinquishing control.  I’m not in charge here, God.  You are.  The beautiful thing about that is it results in, if you read John 15:10-11, one, knowing the love of the Father when we walk in His way.  We get to go: Oh, God, You’re amazing and You’re good and Your love never fails!  And two, it means we get to walk in the joy, according to Jesus…as we obey we walk in the joy of our Father.  It’s not burdensome.  

Will you look up at me a moment, friend?  This is way too good to skim by.  This is way too good for the rich young man to go, “You know what?  I think I’ll hold on to my trinkets and relinquish joy and the love of the Father.”  Transformation of our souls is absolutely possible only as we follow.  Approach Him intentionally. Submit to Him humbly.  Then Jesus says this:  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.    It’s deliberate learning.  It’s gaining knowledge then implementing it in our daily life.  The invitation from Jesus is to come to Him and learn how to live.  It’s not come to me and learn how to go to church.  It’s not come to me and learn how to be spiritual.  It’s come to me, take my yoke upon you, take my way upon you, learn from me.  Have you ever thought of Jesus as a teacher?  Have you ever thought of Him as brilliant?  Have you ever thought of Him as living the kind of life you want to live and then putting yourself under His teaching and His way?  It demands deliberate learning.  Once again, Dallas Willard writes: “The greatest issue facing the world today, with all of its heartbreaking needs, {that’s a big issue} is whether those who, by profession or culture, are identified as ‘Christians’ will become disciples—students, apprentices, practitioners—of Jesus Christ, steadily learning from him how to live the life of the Kingdom of the Heavens into every corner of human existence.”  This takes practice, friend.  This takes learning.  This isn’t just we’re going to come Sunday morning, walk out of here, well, I’m filled up for next week.  If it’s that, we’re the rich young man.  We hear, we don’t follow.  It’s learning from Jesus….Jesus, teach me how to embrace your way.  

I remember ten years ago, I took guitar lessons.  I started out as an average guitar player.  And I am less than average today!  I can tell you why.  I went in and he gave me scales to practice.  I went home and I watched the Broncos.  I went back the next week feeling guilty.  He asked me how the scales went.  I’m like my dog ate them!  Week after week he would give me things to practice and I would go home and I would not do it.  I wonder if we’ve done the same things with the words of Jesus.  Come and learn from me, He says.  Learn what to do, how to walk in my way and then, maybe even more importantly, learn to allow the grace and mercy of God to penetrate deeply in your soul, not just so you do the right things and can check them off.  But so that you have the right motivation, a grace-drenched, God-loving, Jesus-exalting heart!  Where you don’t feel like it’s “duty,” but feel like it’s “delight!”  It feels like I’m living the life that You designed me to live.  The Gospel doesn’t just tell us what to do, it empowers us through the grace of God to become the kinds of people who can joyfully walk with Jesus.  That’s what it does.   

So we walk under the weight of things like:  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:14)  Well, that’s an easy yoke.  That fits, doesn’t it?  Where Paul writes in Colossians 1:28-29:  For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.  HIS might at work in me.  That’s awesome!  That is a beautiful invitation:  Come and learn from me.  

In your bulletin is a bookmark: R.E.S.T.  As a staff we’re called to equip.  We wanted to develop a way to learn from Jesus.  This isn’t a program, please hear me on this.  I want to give you tools to help in your marriage, tools to help as you gather with people, maybe on your lunch break…and they want to learn what it looks like to be a disciple and to follow Jesus.  Maybe in your neighborhood or in your small group.  This is a tool, my hope and my heart is, that will help you.  We just call it R.E.S.T.  It’s out of this passage.  Four steps to it. One, that you Read the Scriptures.  I hope you have a method of doing that.  Two, that you’d Engage the text.  You’d ask good questions about what does it look like to be a follower of the way of Jesus.  What’s God saying to me through His word?  Jesus, if your words are Spirit and your word is Truth and Life, then how does it penetrate this hard soul?  Ask good questions. Then to Sit with Jesus.  What a novel concept, right?  Read His word, engage the text and then go God, what do you want to say to me?  Then just pause.  I’ve been a part of a lot of Bible-reading plans that maybe failed to invite the Author into it?  I want to make space for that for us.  Part of the method of the way we approach Jesus is we intentionally listen to Him.  I know, it’s earth shattering.  Finally, to Trust and obey.  Jesus, what are you saying?  How are you inviting me to live today and I want to step into that.  Some of it’s going to require learning and some of it’s going to require unlearning some things that have gotten ahold of our soul that are just absolute lies.  The way you do that is you wash your mind.  You renew your mind with the truth of the Scriptures.  Hide His word in your heart!  The only way to be formed in the image of Jesus is to really truly follow Him.  

There’s a wonderful result that comes.  I love how Eugene Peterson writes this in the Message version.  Verse 29:  Walk with me and work with me—-watch how I do it.  Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. {Learn to abide with me.  Walk with me.  Love me.}   Come to me, all 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 humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  Here’s the promise.  It’s way too good to pass up.  The rich young man heard Jesus, but he didn’t follow Jesus.  He was in proximity to Jesus, but he neglected devotion to Jesus.  He knew Jesus, but passed up intimacy with Jesus.  We can’t do the same!!  It’s way too good!  Because here’s what Jesus says, “Come to me and I will give you rest.”   Here’s what He says:  If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31)   That’s an invitation to rest.  His goodness and His grace and His mercy showered down over you.  That you have access into this grace in which you now stand.  You have access by faith and you have peace with God.  This is a rest for the soul, friends.  If you renew your mind:  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…. and when you do that you will be able to test and approve what is God’s willing, His pleasing and perfect will (Rom. 12:2).  The Apostle Paul to the church at Rome said when you renew your mind and walk in the way of Jesus, when you learn from Him and follow Him, you’ll be able to go God, this is your will, your good, pleasing and perfect will.  You’re awesome.  You’re amazing!  You’re good! You’re glorious and my soul is at rest because of You!  And You get all the glory and You get all the praise and You get all the honor.  But it demands us to come.  Approach Him intentionally.  Submit under the easy yoke that fits really well.  You were designed for it.  And then learn and implement.  And His promise is: As you follow, I will form you!  We call this Gospel transformation around here.  That’s what it is.  To sit under the goodness of Jesus.  To live out of it.  And to be transformed by it.  

{Pastor Ryan ends with invitation to be baptized and also to watch the video testimony.}