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Embracing the Life of Christ

 

Matthew 9:35-38

 

Jim Davis

 

What if Jesus lived your life for one day? If you are a teenager, try to imagine Christ going to school in your body. Imagine Christ living in your body with all the hormones raging through your body just like they are raging in you right now. Try to imagine Jesus living in your body with the same friends, and the same enemies, in the same circumstances you face each day. The only difference is that he is the one living in your body.

 

Why donít we as adults try to imagine the same thing? How would Jesus respond at work, and at home in the same circumstances we face? Would he behave different? Would others see a difference in how Jesus would live and how you lived in the same circumstances? Would your problems be too much for him to bear? If so, where would he look to for help? (These thoughts come from Max Lucadoís book, Just Like Jesus, W Publishing Group. 2003.)

 

Why Did Multitudes Follow Jesus?

 

Have you ever wondered why multitudes followed Jesus? Was it for the loaves and fishes, or the miracles, or was there more? Surely the loaves and fishes drew people to Christ. The miracles made them stand in awe of his authority and power. But those who stayed to hear what he had to say stayed because they perceived Jesus was a man of compassion. They stayed because of the life he was living in their presence.

 

Matthew 9:35-38

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." NIV

 

Jesus was moved to compassion because he understood the crowds were harassed and helpless. They were looking for direction, but there was no one to guide them. Jesus saw religious people burdened with religious rites and doctrines they could not live up to. Jesus confronted the religious teachers saying, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help themĒ (Luke 11:46 NIV). The weight of their traditions was driving people away from God, when they needed care and attention.

 

How often do methods of Bible study and the formulation of doctrines and creeds blind us to the powerful life of Christ.  It is ironic that we teach things to others as they are going through difficulties that we have difficulty doing ourselves when we find ourselves in the same situation. Yet, Jesusí teaching was so simple as he went about in compassion helping the needy. His teaching was about how he lived.

 

Often we go to the epistles thinking thatís where the meat of Godís message is found. We chisel out religious creeds from the Bible while overlooking the simple life which Christ exemplified for us.

 

The writers of the New Testament consistently point us to the life of Christ. We fail to realize that the writers of the epistles are chewing on the meat found in the gospel accounts of Christís life. We have difficulty with our Bible study because we havenít taken time to know the Christ of the gospels. Notice how the following passage instructs us to be gentle with those who have gone astray.

 

Galatians 6:1-5

6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5 for each one should carry his own load. NIV

 

We find Paul encouraging New Testament congregations to feed on the message of Christ. These verses are concerned about not over burdening those trapped in sin. He is concerned about how our pride, self-deception, and comparisons often place burdens upon others they cannot bear. Paul wants us to lift their burdens instead of making them heavier. He doesnít want us to place burdens on others we are not willing to help them bear, or we canít bear ourselves.

 

In John 8 we find the Pharisees desiring to stone a woman caught in adultery. They are merely using her to win an argument with Christ. They condemn this woman while they have taken Godís law about Moses giving a bill of divorce and perverted it to justify their own adultery. Pride, self-deception and comparing themselves to this woman had left them blind to their own sin, while creating an unbearable burden for the woman.

 

Paul is encouraging the Galatians to live by the law of Christ--he is afraid the Galatians will place unbearable burdens on others. What was the law of Christ? It was to bear each otherís burdenóit is not our job to make their burdens unbearable. The law of Christ is the message of every epistleóthe law of Christ is found in the gospels.

 

Paulís epistles persistently point the first century congregations to embrace the life of Christ.

 

Ephesians 4:32

32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. NIV

 

Ephesians 5:25-28

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. NIV

 

 

Philippians 2:5-7

5 Your attitude should be the kind that was shown us by Jesus Christ, 6 who, though he was God, did not demand and cling to his rights as God, 7 but laid aside his mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men.  TLB

 

Embracing the attitude of Christ toward one another is the key to Christian living. It was Christís attitude toward those caught up in sin that lifted their burdens. He was not judgmental or condemning.

 

We Can Not Bear Our Cross Alone

 

Jesus asks each of us to take up our cross and follow him, but he knows we canít carry our cross alone. Even Jesus collapsed under the weight of your cross. Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry your cross, for Jesus could not bear it alone. Yes, it was actually your cross he was seeking to carryóhe collapsed under its weight. If Jesus collapsed under the weight of your cross, who do you think you are?

 

It is really not hard to convince us that the cross Jesus asks us to bear is unbearable. I have heard people say, ďWell there is no way I can live like Christ wants me to live in this perverted world.Ē Itís an admission of the impossibility.

 

A preacher talked to a father, whose daughter was having great difficulty adjusting in her mid-teens. The father wasnít a Christian, but he opened the eyes of the preacher. He told him that part of his daughterís problem was that she was learning a lot of good things at church, but it had caused much of her problem. The problem was that she did not know how to apply what she was being taught to real life situations at school. He felt her major problem was that she had collapsed mentally under the load.

 

From the fatherís perception he saw the church placing burdens upon his daughter she could not bear. Of course, he wasnít a Christian and he wasnít making much of a contribution to helping her. He found his support in a bar with his bar room buddies several times a week.

 

Maybe this one incident will allow us to see the burden children have to bear as they strive to bring their lives to Christ with little or no parental help. How can we help them bear their unbearable burdens? Worrying about rowdy children in Bible school wearing hats inside the church building and acting up is a minor inconvenience compared to the daily struggle they face at home and at school.

 

Many young people may give up in defeat because they feel they canít live up to the image, created by religion. Their world is not an idealistic happy-go-lucky place to live. Many collapse under the load as they begin entering adulthood. They live with heartbreak, hourly crisis, and often, horrible family crisis.

 

Today we see multitudes giving up on relationships God desires to work. Their personal problems seem overwhelming. Just about the time they think they have overcome they stumble and fall as they are overwhelmed by guilt and condemnation. They fall back into sin. Very few know how to pull out of it.

 

Their burdens will remain unbearable until they embrace the life of Christ. Jesus wasnít like the religious rulers who placed unbearable burdens on the backs of others. Jesus did not ask us to take up a cross we canít bear to harass us or overwhelm us. He asks us to take up our cross to follow him because he knows the weight of our cross will make us realize our need of God.

 

Matthew 11:28-30

28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." NIV

 

Yokes for animals were made so that animals could share in pulling the load. When two animals are yoked together there is always one animal who takes the lead. The other animal follows. When we embrace the life of Christ he becomes yoked with us; he is the one who takes the lead for knows how to pull the load. We must simply follow his lead.

 

1 Peter 5:6-7

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. NIV

 

We must become dependent upon Godís help as we live moment by moment. God was with Paul as he faced opposition to preaching the gospel. Act upon Godís word and expect Godís power to sustain you.

 

Acts 18:9-11

9 One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: "Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. 10 For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city." 11 So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God. NIV

 

We must live in expectation of Godís deliverance moment by moment as we look for Godís strength to bear our burdens.

 

1 Corinthians 10:12-13

12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall! 13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. NIV

 

2 Corinthians 1:8-11

8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. NIV

 

2 Timothy 4:18

18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. NIV

 

Fear of what others will do to us if we live like Jesus makes our burdens unbearable.

 

Matthew 10:24-33

24 "A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!

 

26 "So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

 

32 "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. NIV

 

Conclusion:

 

Salvation must not be reduced to a religious mathematical formula. Salvation comes as we allow Christ to live through us.  Here is what I mean:

 

Mark 16:15, 16 + Acts 2:38 + Acts 22:16 + Romans 6:1-6 + Galatians 3:26, 27 + 1 Peter 3:20, 21= B/ES. (B/ES = Baptism Essential to salvation.)  We should have no problem concluding baptism is essential to salvation after studying all these verses. But we must not come away thinking that baptism is all thatís essential to salvation. Baptism without embracing the life of Christ is not biblical baptism.

 

We could do this with each step of salvation, i. e., hearing, believing, confessing, repenting and baptism. However, following these steps without embracing the life of Christ would be useless. In reality these steps without Christ become faithless acts. We must not reduce preaching Christ down to some religious formula that tends to lead people to believe they have been saved by the formula alone. We must lead them to embrace the living savior.

 

We must embrace the life of Christ to experience the power of his resurrection in our difficulties.

 

Philippians 3:10-14

10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

 

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. NIV

 

The most difficult step in experiencing the resurrection power of Christ in the present is dying with him in the present. This is the commitment we make at baptism as we are buried with him in baptism.

 

For those in this audience considering becoming a Christian, come to God with a desire to be recreated to be like Godóthatís the life Jesus came to exemplify. Expect to be resurrected with Christ out of the baptismal waters with the power of God as he seeks to salvage your life daily from sin.

 

The epistles tell us that God wants us to be just like Jesus. He wants us to think and respond to life just like Jesus. Want you allow Jesus to live through you.

 

Ephesians 4:20-24

20 You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. 21 Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. NIV

 

We come to Jesus just as we are, but God doesnít want us to stay just as we are. We come to God for him to mold us into the image of his Son. He wants us to be transformed through a rebirth of how we thinkóby changing our minds about how to live.

 

It goes beyond changing our minds about what we believe until it leads us to live what we believe as we anticipate power of Christ to become a reality in our lives.

 

Gospel of Christ is Godís message give to save us (Romans 1:16).

 

You must listen to what Christ instructs you to do (Romans 10:17).

 

You must believe Christ message and follow his instructions.

 

You must confess Christ (Matthew 10:31-32).

 

You must repent of your sins (Luke 13:3).

 

You must be baptized into Christ, it is the only place forgiveness can be found (Acts 2:38)

 

You must arise out of baptism to follow Christ (Romans 1:1-6).

 

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