Come to Me

cometomeJesus says, not said, Jesus says today, “Come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

Come to Me.

Jesus does not say, “Come to religion.”

Jesus does not say, “Come to spirituality.”

Jesus does not say, “Come to church.”

He does not say, Come to the divine one.”  Raising the question of who he thinks he is!

Come to Me.

He calls us to himself.  The pronoun is all-important:

Christianity began on Palestinian soil, as a relationship with a person.

It moved to Greek soil and became a philosophy.

It moved on to Rome and became an Institution.

It moved on to British soil and became a Culture.

It moved on to American soil and became an Enterprise!

But Christianity is essentially a Person.

Come to Me all who are weary and overburdened.  In the English language verbs function in two voices:  active and passive.  You may know that in the Greek language verbs function in three voices:  active, passive and what is called the middle.

Active – “I wash.”

Passive – “I am washed.”

Middle – “I wash myself.”

“All who are overburdened” is in the middle voice – “overburdened themselves.”  Thus, “Come to Me all who have overburdened themselves.”  For the most part, excessive weariness is our own doing.

“Come. . . and I will give you rest.”  Literally, I will rest you.  “I will give you rest” could lead us to think that “rest” can be experienced apart from Jesus, as though rest was a thing Jesus places in our hands which we then can carry off on our own.

“I will rest you,” suggests the personal involvement of the Rester.

Take my yoke upon you. . . and your souls, your inner being, will find rest.

Jesus is telling us that we are weary because we are wearing the wrong yokes.  Refreshment for the soul comes by “a transfer of yokes.”

The question is never, “Will I wear a yoke?”

Every person wears a yoke; there are no yokeless human beings.

The question is never, “Will I be a disciple?”  The question is always, “Whose disciple will I be?”

The question is never, “Will I be pressured by a spirit?”  The question is always, “Of all the spirits of the age that pressure me, to which will I yield?”

The question is never, “Will I wear a yoke?”  The question is always, “Whose yoke will I wear?”

Jesus tells us to come to Him, to enter into His rest because we have overburdened ourselves with the wrong yoke.  We all need His yoke, a yoke that is easy, a burden that is light.

“Come to Me” says Jesus.

 

With thanks to Darrell  Johnson in The Glory of Preaching, p.248-255

Application Consternation

goldencalfFor years I have been concerned with the way people approach the text of the Bible, not in order to merely read it, not in order to be immersed in its world, not to stay awhile and chew the cud, so to speak, not to observe the text and the context, but that great Golden Calf of many Bible study groups:  Application.

Maybe you’ve had a conversation along these lines:  “It’s all very well reading the text together and asking questions, but how do we apply it?  Tell us what to do?”  This is idolatrous short-hand for, “How can I systemise the text so that the Holy Spirit has no room to move or speak; how can I order my life so that there’s no mystery and disorder?  How can I remain in control?  How can you reaffirm my belief that I am the centre of all things and not Christ?  TELL ME HOW TO APPLY THE TEXT!!”  Maybe that’s one reason why Life Application Study Bibles are so popular, I’m sure people read the “applications” under the text and not the text!!  These Bibles can be helpful, but their great danger is in treating the Bible like a one-level-only game of Pac-Man, once you’ve ‘done it’, you’ve done it!  And where’s the fun in that?  Where’s the life?  Where’s the Holy Spirit?

Application, as is often understood, is a way to be in control of the text, to flatten it and to take out the colour.  I actually believe in application.  We all should, but when the clamour for application precedes exegesis and hermeneutics, when application is the code-word for control and order, when application is the buzz-word for mediocrity and sentimentality, when application is the starting point of our engagement with Scripture, preachers of this world need to stand up and be counted!

preachingI was so grateful today to finally get my copy of Darrel W. Johnson’s book The Glory of Preaching – Participating in God’s Transformation of the World.  In chapter 7, entitled Walking the Sermon into Everyday Life – Implication and Application, he begins by writing, “I want now to do what I can to lift a horrible burden off preachers.  It is the burden of “applying the text” to the everyday life of the listeners.  Yes, we can, and we should, try to help people understand the text’s radical implications.  But applying the text is not the preachers responsibility” (p.158).

Even though this sounds contradictory, even to much teaching on homiletics, it isn’t.  He suggests application is simply too mechanistic, too modernistic, too humanistic (i.e. anthropocentric).  He says the pressure to apply is a modernist pressure not a biblical pressure.  Quoting William Willimon, he suggests that the “subtext” of so much of this must-apply preaching is, “You are gods unto yourselves.  Through this insight, this set of principles, this well applied idea, you can save yourselves by yourselves.”  Rather than application then, he argues for the implication of the text.  Implication is more relational, more empowering.

I think this is a very healthy distinction.  It isn’t pedantic semantics.  When we apply, we make something happen, we do it, we’re in charge.  But under the Living Word of God, by the Holy Spirit who speaks through the text, we imply the text.  To imply the text requires greater biblical literacy, it guards against entrenched views, it keeps the Word living and active.  Implication requires trust.  Application when used badly, requires no trust, just the satisfaction that now that verse has been applied, you can move on to other things.

God’s Word doesn’t just inform.  God’s Word performs.  From the preacher, through the text, to the listeners, in all manner of ways.