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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

From the Archives - A Series; Part VIII

This message was given on July 7, 1994, at the Freedom in Christ Assembly of God in Lakeland, FL (Jesse McNeal, pastor).   Pastor McNeal was one of my professors for a term at Southeastern, and he always provided his students opportunities for ministry at his church.   He started the church when he was a student at Southeastern himself, after coming to the Lord out of a very violent past, and it was located in an area called "The Bottoms" just off of North Florida Avenue, a very low-income area.  In a short time, Pastor Jesse grew a small but vibrant interracial congregation, and they were a very warm and welcoming group the night I spoke to them. 

A Listening Ear Brings a Restful Spirit

Introduction

Many times we as believers come to a place where we are "burned out."   This happens to all of us at some point in our lives, and can be a hard fact to swallow if we are not prepared.   God desires for us to seek Him when we are in such a state.

"How?" you may ask.   First, you need to do as Psalm 119:11 says:  hide the Word in your hear, and make it a part of you so that it will keep you from falling into trouble.  Ephesians 6 also tells us to be armed with Biblical principles when we face such battles (principles such as salvation in Christ, the truth of His Word, His righteousness, His peace, and most importantly using His Word).

The bottom line is this:  we can trust in God through knowledge of His Word.  Therefore, when we are heavy-laden with the cares of this life, we need to seek the Lord through His Word.

I.  Coming To God Through Listening

Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.  How do you listen to God?  Isaiah 55:2 gives us an idea, so let us turn there to see what it says.

The passage exhorts us to do three things:

A.  First, it tells us to listen to God.

Many Christians in our high-tech American society of microwaves, money, minivans, and more, more, more for me, me, me do not have the gumption, to use an old Appalachian colloquialism, to sit down and actually listen to the voice of God.  God wants us to spend time with him so that we can commune with Him personally;  He is a real person who, because He created and endows us, seeks to know us personally.  We need to motivate ourselves to take time out for Him, for He is always there.

B.  Second, it helps us to be open to the Holy Spirit

Psalm 46:10 tells us to be still and know that he is God.  If we are still, we are open to His Holy Spirit to minister to us, and will be in a better position to receive what He has for us.  The Holy Spirit is a gentleman, and will not impose upon our distractions but expects more time for Him on our initiative.   Therefore, let us open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, and invite Him to minister to us.

C.  Third, we must come to God.

God is already there for us, but we must come to Him in the right attitude and spirit.

It is difficult to do this sometimes when we are desperate for answers, and often we think we come to God when we really do not;  we are in reality demanding Him to come to us, on our terms, and do not have the openness to move ourselves because we are on a hamster wheel of confusion.  I speak this from experience.

What will happen if we do come to God in the right spirit?  St Isaac of Nineveh, in his Third Discourse on the Ascetical Life,  gives us an idea when he writes the following:

"To the soul endowed with reason (meaning God's Word) the words of God are sweet, like succulent food which fattens the body is to those which are healthy."

What does this mean?  He is saying that those who seek the face of God and listen to His words will receive spiritual nourishment.  In other words, when you seek the face of God in times of distress, you will be strengthened.  This is encouraging!

II.  God's Results He Will Give To Those That Come to Him.

We mentioned that God strengthens the soul, but what else does he do?   Let us examine Matthew 11:28 and 30.  In this passage, there are two things to be noted:
  1. In verse 28, God is exhorting those who are, to put it in modern vernacular, "burned out" to come to him.
  2. When we do come to God, He will give us a rest from those cumbersome burdens.
In verse 30, we note one thing further:
  1. In exchange for giving God these cumbersome burdens, He gives us a liberating burden as it were:  this means he calls us to be obedient to His Word, and in doing so we are delivered.  The spoken word of God we know of as the Holy Scriptures require of us something, but in return we will gain freedom.
Conclusion

God wants us to come to Him, and He desires to commune with each and every one of us on a personal basis.  It does take some discipline on our part, but it will rejuvenate our spirits if we will study the Word and meditate upon it for a regular basis.  That is the easy yoke of Matthew 11:20 - it is quite a task to seek the face of God, but it is also a privelege.

Think about it.  Would you rather give a part of your day to God in prayer and study of His Word to receive strength and peace, or would you rather go about the routine drudgery of a day without God and be loaded down with the pressures that Satan can use to destroy you?

This message is for you if you are under stress and bondage, and God desires to see you free from it.   Therefore, if you desire to be free, seek His face;  that is all you need to do.  James 5:16 says that the prayers of a righteous man avail much.   If you are in Christ, you are covered with His righteousness, and therefore the privelege is now yours.  Seek His face, and lay those things that have you bound at the foot of the Cross.

Perhaps you do not know Christ and wish to, yet feel you are unworthy to do so.  If this describes you, then you're carrying a bondage you need to lose fast!  God DOES think you are important, as He loved you enough to die for you.  He wants to have an intimate relationship with you and wants also to take those bondages and cast them away.   In Acts 2:21, it is assured that whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved, and Isaiah 40:31 states that they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.  If you need your strength renewed, God is there, so please accept what He has for you.   Do not carry this bondage around with you.   Instead, accept the easy youke of the righteousness of Christ, and indeed you will have "Freedom in Christ."  Amen.