Message by Rev Jonah on 5th of February 2023
God's placed on my heart to talk about the testing times everyone is going through. We have recently seen the Auckland flooding and a lot of devastation that came with it. We've seen houses destroyed, people missing, families displaced, and chaos everywhere. We are looking unto the Lord for help. I’ve been remembering our little church in Gachibowli, Hyderabad. God gave us that little piece of land in 1998 – what was covered in shrubs and bush is now one of the largest IT hubs in India. On our recent trip to India, God gave me a few words from the Bible to write on our church walls there. One of the verses was, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).
We can see any person/family – the tension is not going away and neither is the burden. I was thinking we often say a lot of good things to those who recently came to faith about how fabulous their life would look like believing in God. How the blessings would come about because of their decision to follow Jesus? I feel like we don’t give them a fair picture because most often it’s not a bed full of roses. Jesus said that we will surely have troubles and tribulations in this world and that our faith will be tested. But He also said that in all this that He will walk alongside us; that He will be with us in the troubled waters. He promised that he would not leave us alone nor forsake us.
When people read that verse in Matthew 11:28 about going to God with our burdens and that He will give us rest – they are often comforted by the fact that someone is thinking about the burdens they are facing in this world. That someone cares. Yes, dear family of God, He did say that He will give us rest but make sure it doesn’t lead you to believe that you will have a trouble-free life. He never said He will take away all our problems but that He will be with us as we go through these troubles. He will provide us with the strength and rest we need. He said in verse 30 of that same chapter, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”. I’ve seen some people in India who might just be 30-40 years of age but they look like they’re 70-80 years old. You can tell they are carrying heavy burdens in their lives. Burdens can come from many things – burdens from adultery, lies, deceitful living, joblessness, career, issues in work, family, finances and many more.
We create our own burdens. We make them heavier. We tell ourselves, we want to be in this particular position career-wise by the end of this age. Or that we want to have this much money by the end of this year. We forget the rule we use while travelling – less luggage, more comfort. We do the complete opposite – we drag around and accumulate a lot of luggage wherever we go and in whatever we do. A lot of this burden comes from not taking God at His word and not following His commands. This is the reason behind our heavy luggage and our burdens. God says that he delights in those that follow His commands. In fact, He says, if we say we love Him, we would obey his commands.
My dear family of God, our baggage is heavy but his baggage is light. His commandments don’t cause our grief or burden. Let’s look into this more closely. For example, God says, “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God” (Exodus 20:7). We do the opposite. We say things like “Oh my God” “Good lord” or “I swear to God”. If you are thinking to yourself, I never say those things, then what about “Praise the Lord”? We often say it as a way of greeting our fellow brother or sister but without really meaning it. Remember our God is the king of kings and the lord or lords. He is not your next-door neighbour or your cool uncle. Treat Him with such respect and reverence.
Commandments of the Lord are commandments. When God says, 7th day is the day of rest, that’s it – it is the day of rest. There are no ifs or buts. God’s saying that His commands are easy – He is asking us to take His yoke. Let’s take another example. God said, “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12) but now children seem to treat their parents like their friends. There is nothing wrong with having a relationship as close as a friend but treat them with respect. Honour them in all that you do. Don’t make it a “special” day only on fathers and mother’s day but every single day of your life. Take their counsel – their experience cannot be matched. God-fearing fathers and mothers have far more experience than you will ever have since you are always going to be their child.
You can examine other commandments of the Lord. For example, God said, do not steal. Don’t steal. The weight of those money bags will be the same weight wearing you down for the rest of your life. Those weights are heavy. Don’t covet what others have – enjoy the things that God has blessed you with. Cherish them – it will give you a grateful and cheerful heart. If you covet, you start your day gloomy and end your day in doom and gloom because you are always wishing you had something you don’t. In today’s day and age, people say, we don’t like to follow the old testament – we only follow the new testament. It’s all about Grace now. To that I say, read the bible carefully. Jesus, Himself said that He did not come to cross off the law but to fulfil and uphold it (Matthew 5:17).
The law of the Lord is always there. The commandments of the Lord are light and easy. If we don’t have the commandments, then how would we know what sin is or if someone has violated it? Sin comes to light because of the commandments. Law is like a diagnostic tool – think of it like a blood test. It doesn’t cure but shows you what is wrong. It only shows where the disease is located. Likewise, the law is essentially comparing your life against God’s standards. We read God’s word to understand His commandments – to understand his likes and dislikes. So in essence, Jesus came to do what we could not achieve by ourselves in our own strength. He fulfilled the law. The solution is not the law. The solution is Jesus. He bore our sins and gave us liberty.
So those who say, now we live under Grace – you are right. We do live under Grace but I think we might consider what Grace stands for. Grace in the Greek language translates to “given ability”. You might say to do what? Grace doesn’t exist to keep on sinning. Grace is given to us to give us the ability to not sin; to keep the law of God. God has given us the gift of His Spirit – The Holy Spirit. We now have a counsellor. He knows the law. In the new testament, God said that He wrote the commands on your heart (Romans 2:14-15). There once was a Pastor who was coming back from preaching God’s word. It was late at night and he was waiting at the red signal. After seeing the lights haven’t changed and there was no vehicle in any direction, he felt tempted to go through the red light. Immediately, he heard a still small voice saying that it is not right to do that. Right the next second, a huge truck passed by his car at a very high speed. He couldn’t have seen it coming in the dark.
My dear family of God, listen to God’s commandments. Life is good when you listen and obey His laws. God’s grace will give you the ability to follow God wholeheartedly. God bless you.