Monday, 30 November 2009

which yoke?

I suppose of all the 'comforting words' of scripture Matthew 11:28 would have to come high on the list. "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." but I trust we are learning to read beyond the confines of a single verse. This is a conditional promise and we cannot expect the fulfilment of the promise if we do not fulfil its conditions.

The picture of the yoke is frequently used in the NT as a metaphor for the Law. The way in which the Law had been applied by the Pharisees had made it literally 'unbearable'; Acts 15:10 The rulers of the day used the Law as as a 'one size fits all' and would not lift a finger to help those who were being crushed by it. To such 'weary and heavy laden' Christ offered a different yoke. Do note that he did not offer a 'yoke-less' option but a 'different yoke'; this was no 'off the peg' 'one size fits all' but a 'tailor made' union which bound the disciple to his master.

The full promise with its necessary conditions reads; "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."

Taken together the whole passage makes the issues very plain. We find our 'rest' by coming under Christ's personal 'yoke' for our lives. What a 'rest' it is to come out from under every other 'yoke' and to come under the 'yoke' of Jesus Christ! This lifts from our shoulders every other obligation other than to 'learn of me'. It binds the disciple and his master into an exclusive relationship, and in that union and no other we find rest for our souls. In this union alone we discover that his yoke is easy and his burden is light or as John later testified..."For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome." 1John 5:3.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

but will the truth set you free?

Apparently, according to the Bourne finale, the marble walls of the CIA are adorned with the words "and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free" John 8:32

This is one of those verses which seems very encouraging until you look a little closer. I recall a wayward definition of a parable as 'one of those stories which, just as you are beginning to enjoy it, grips you by the throat". This is one of those 'just when you are beginning to enjoy it' moments.

We don't quote the Bible now we just quote texts and often without context. The full quotation begins with some words of Jesus to some who had become 'believers'. He warned them of the danger of brief lived faith. "If you continue in my word then you are genuinely my disciples, and you shall know the truth and the truth will make you free". Apparently there are both 'disciples' and 'genuine disciples', otherwise there would be no need for that qualifying word 'genuine' or 'authentic'.

So how can we distinguish between the two? Those who 'continue' in the word that Christ has spoken to them are the genuine article; people who suddenly believe may not be. It is not a high moment of faith that defines a genuine disciple but that steady adherence and obedience to Christ himself.

And it is only those who are in that present tense relationship of master/disciple with Christ who will know the truth and THEN, and not before then, the truth will make them free. There is nothing magical about data, it is the relationship to the one who speaks the truth that makes the difference.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Bank Holidays and Thanksgiving

I recall an American remarking on the fact that in the US national holidays celebrated key historic events while in the UK they seemed to celebrate the closure of the banks! It is not quite that simple but the idea of a Thanksgiving Holiday is very attractive. What do atheists do on this day? I recall another friend saying the saddest sight in all the world was a thankful atheist! What does he do with that upsurge? When he sees a sunset or the sweep of the milky way or the nails on a new born baby's hands, what does he do with that emotion?

Paul showed that there was an integral link between unthankfulness and idolatry in his letter to the Romans. Marking the beginning of the deadly spiral away from God's destiny for mankind he declares; "because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened." Rom 1:21 Apparently, idolatry starts right there with a refusal to recognise what we know to be true and a refusal to be 'thankful'.

I have observed something in Christians of many different persuasions throughout the world; it is almost impossible to keep a thankful man down and almost impossible to keep an ungrateful man up! If that is where the rot began that is the place we can begin the recovery. How do I get back on the flight path? Give God his rightful place and lift your heart to him in thanksgiving.