Matthew 11: 28-30
Colossians 3: 12-14
Ephesians 6: 11-15
1 Peter 5: 5-7
God’s delight is, and was, and ever will be, in Jesus. When the Lord Jesus was on this earth, God’s delight was in Him. We know that because God Himself says so; He declares that this is the One “in whom I have found my delight” (Matt 3: 17), marking out the Lord Jesus in all His uniqueness, in all His glory and in His perfection. God’s delight was in that One, and every day and every moment of that life gave fresh delight to God as He looked on. It says prophetically, “For he shall grow up before him as a tender sapling”, Isa 53: 2. It was as if God’s eye was exclusively on Him, growing up “before him”. In the scriptures we read, we see some of the features that were seen in Christ whilst here that God would have found so attractive and would have found His pleasure in; they were features that were so different to every other man that had ever walked the earth before. The Lord Jesus expressed these features because of who He was in all His perfection, and in the greatness of His Person, God Himself here in manhood’s form, the Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Son of God. Think of God’s delight in Him!
The Lord Jesus is no longer here; He is in glory and we rejoice in that; we rejoice in His present position but it is a wonderful thing to see that there remains something on this earth for God’s delight at present, and it cannot be in anything other than what is of and like Christ. And where is it seen beloved brother and sister, dear young one, dear older one? Where is it seen? It is seen in believers in the Lord Jesus like you and me, or I should say, it ought to be seen. The Lord Jesus was perfect in everything that He did, in everything that He said, in every thought, every footstep, was absolute perfection. These features were true of Him, we might say, intrinsically, but we have to be formed in these features. They do not come naturally to us, and even once we have put our trust in the Lord Jesus, we need to learn, we need to make progress, so that these same features might become evident in our life; so that there may be something for God’s pleasure now in the waiting time until Christ shall come again, because He is coming soon.
So I read here first of all in Matthew 11 because we see the attractive features of meekness and lowliness in Jesus. It is the Lord Jesus Himself speaking, and He says, “Come to me, all ye who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest”. That emphatic “I” is very attractive, is it not? It is as if to say, ’You will not find rest anywhere else’. It is not possible. You may be burdened, maybe by your sins, maybe the guilt of them burdens you, or there may be something else that burdens you. Dear friend, no matter what it is, the answer to finding rest is to come to Jesus. Have you done that? I trust you know what it is to have been burdened by your sins first of all, to realise you are a sinner, and to come to Jesus and find that He is able to give you rest. How can He do that? He can do it because of the way that His love took Him. He can do it because He died for you. He can do it because He laid down His life and shed His precious blood. Believing that is the only way by which you can have rest, relief from the burden of your sins. That is a rest given but there is something else. That is an essential starting point, but progress is envisaged. What does it say? “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me”. If we are going to make progress, if we are going to display the features that marked Christ perfectly, if they are going to be seen in us in any measure, how are we going to accomplish that? Are we going to try and improve ourselves by some human means, or educate ourselves in some way that the world can offer? No, that will not produce these features. The only thing that will produce the features that were seen in Christ is to learn from Him because He is the perfect Model. He is absolutely perfect in every way, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me”. Think of this, the Lord Jesus speaks of “my yoke”. What was that? A yoke is something put on an animal so that it can pull a load, and the animal is no longer able to go the way that it wants to. It has to submit itself to the will of another; it is directed by another. Think of the Lord Jesus in perfect obedience, in subjection to the will of His Father. I feel limited as to what I can say about it other than that He was perfect. He could say of the Father, “I do always the things that are pleasing to him”, John 8: 29. Let us be occupied with such a One as that, One who says, “I am meek and lowly in heart”: what an attractive One. Coming to the Lord Jesus, and learning from Him, and His helping us, is an attractive matter. Sometimes learning according to this world can be a difficult, trying, troubling matter, but I think learning from the Lord Jesus is a wonderfully attractive matter because it is all embraced in the glorious Person, the glorious Man: “I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest to your souls”. I think it has been pointed out that that is a different kind of rest to the verse before, CAC vol 28 p193. The rest in verse 28 is what Christ gives in His Person as showing God’s disposition, God as Father being disposed to bless, not to judge, so that we realise that our sins can be removed from His sight. But there is something further. You might have peace with God, you might be able to rest in that way, knowing that your sins are forgiven and your eternal salvation is secure, but this is a found rest: have you got rest in your life from day to day? You might say, ’I find things difficult. Things are confusing me, they are disturbing me. I do not have rest’; well, here is the answer, “learn from me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest to your souls”. It is as doing this, as taking His yoke upon us and learning from Him, that we will find rest to our souls. Satan has worked a wonderful deception with man. He has made man believe that the only way that he can be happy and find rest is by doing his own will, and we are often taken in by that. We think, ’If I could only just do what I wanted to do, then I will be happy, then I will be able to get some rest’. Dear friend, nothing could be further from the truth. The only way that you will find rest in your soul, the only way you will find happiness in your life, is to take on and be subject to the will of Another, the Lord’s will. Have your realised what it is? Have you asked Him to tell you what it is? Ask the Lord what His will is for you. Ask Him every day. Think of the Lord Jesus; it speaks prophetically of His ear being wakened morning by morning “to hear as the instructed” (Isa 50: 4), to find out what the Father’s will was. How I need to do that more, to be under a yoke in that way, Christ’s yoke, to be under the will of another; only then will I find rest to my soul. Only then will I begin to learn, begin to be formed in these features that Christ showed. Meekness and lowliness are two things mentioned here; how many there are, but these things can be seen in us as we begin to learn from Him, meekness and lowliness. It has been said that meekness is largely in relation to one another, lowliness perhaps more in relation to God, JT vol 12 p238. Think of the beautiful way that these features marked the Lord Jesus. They should mark us. Think of God’s delight in seeing us being meek towards one another, and being lowly before Him, going on in simple dependence on Him in humility. So that is what is to be taken on, “Take my yoke upon you”.
The next two scriptures I read are about what we put on, or are to be in the state of having put on. Colossians 3 says, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness”. There they are again, these two features, but there are others here: “bowels of compassion, kindness, … long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another”. These things are to be put on. I do not have them on after nature, they have to be put on. The previous section says, “having put off the old man with his deeds, and having put on the new”. As far as God is concerned, the old man is done with and the new man is the only man that is in view. The new man is down here in the place where the old man was. Then it says, “Put on therefore, as the elect of God ...”. The features of new man have to be put on; therefore these things ought to be true of us as the elect of God. What a dignified title, “the elect of God”. Believers here on the earth indwelt by the Holy Spirit are “the elect of God”. It says in Isaiah 42, “Behold my servant whom I uphold, mine elect in whom my soul delighteth!”, v 1. Think of the delight of the Father in Christ as being His Elect and the One in whom He delighted; and now Paul is using similar language here, “the elect of God”. Dear brethren, we were reminded last weekend, when our brother brought before us the excellency and dignity of God’s people, that we should view one another in that way, what we are for God, “the elect of God”. Well, if you are such a person, if you have such a standing before God, there are certain things that are suited to you, and these are some of the features that I think are proper to such persons. They are holy and beloved too, these persons. Are you conscious of the Father’s love? Then it says, “bowels of compassion”. They have been likened to our feelings and affections towards one another, which might be expressed in an automatic way, JT vol 40 p200. We might not plan to think or act in a particular compassionate way towards a person but it may come out automatically, “bowels of compassion”. Think of the times it was said of the Lord Jesus that He was moved with compassion. You sometimes feel that, just speaking simply. You see someone, perhaps a brother or a sister that you have not seen for some time, perhaps someone who is suffering, and you just feel your affections going out towards them as someone you love in Christ. Then we have “kindness”, the willingness to give, “lowliness, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another”, and so on. It has been said that these are not borrowed clothes, CAC vol 17 p130. These are the clothes that rightly belong to you, belong to a person that is elect of God. Let us be exercised to be marked by these features more as having learned them by occupation with Christ. It goes on to say at the end, “And to all these add love, which is the bond of perfectness”. Everything that the Lord Jesus did was really marked by love. Think of the Hebrew bondman saying distinctly, “I love”, Exod 21: 5. Love was the motive for everything that Jesus did, love for His Father, love for His own, love for the assembly. Let us be motivated by love in our relations with one another and towards God.
So I read in Ephesians because we have what is protective there that needs to be put on. In Colossians, it seems to be the promotion of these features between one another, these matters of compassion and kindness and so on. They are given opportunity to be seen in our relationships with one another, but then in Ephesians we see that we need to put on what is protective because there is what is opposed to the believer. I do not have to say that there is what is opposed to the believer at the present time; we are very conscious of it; and be in no doubt that the enemy that is opposed to the believer is the same enemy who was opposed to Christ when He was here. Think of Satan in his direct opposition to the Lord Jesus. How did He meet it? He met it in beautiful dependence and obedience as a Man, and we are to meet Satan in a similar way by dependence on God and obedience to Him, having learned from the Lord Jesus, having seen how He met Satan in that way. Of course there was what was in the Lord’s Person which was supremely greater than Satan anyway, but for us, what an example He is. So there is this panoply of God that is to be put on, and again the note says, ’have it put on‘, the complete armour. You need to be protected in every part of your person, whether it is your mind or your feet or your loins, that which would relate to your thoughts or your walk or your affections, every part of your life needs to be protected; because, if not, Satan might find a weak point. You might not have on all the armour. Let us be exercised to put it all on. What does it say? “That ye may be able to withstand”. You might say, ’Well, I would quite like to do something else, a bit more than that. I would like to go out and do this or that for God’. God is not really asking for a great deal more here than for us just to stand. Although there is what is opposed to the believer, we can stand, we can stand for what is right, we can stand for Christ; but we need armour because we are not able to protect ourselves and stand in our own strength; we need what God has provided. He has provided the full armour, it is the panoply of God. “Take to you the panoply of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having accomplished all things, to stand”.
I was specially impressed by the word, “having girt about your loins with truth”. We spoke about truth in the reading and the importance of it in our walk down here, to hold to the truth in love. Perhaps something has to be undertaken that requires much exercise. The loins are girded before something strenuous is done so that there might not be any damage. Let us protect ourselves with the truth in that way so that if something has to be undertaken, it is done in truth. That would be protective because I might try and do the right thing with good motives but maybe leave out an aspect of the truth in doing so. There could be damage as a result; there might be harm. Let us have our loins girt about with truth.
Then it speaks about “the breastplate of righteousness”. Think of the protection there is if I am marked by practical righteousness. If I am only putting on a good appearance - and I feel the challenge of that - if I only put on an appearance of what is righteous, perhaps when I am amongst God’s people, but I am not quite so righteous when I am in my responsible pathway, that would be dangerous. The breastplate is not on. Let us have on “the breastplate of righteousness”. God provides us with power in the Holy Spirit to be able to act righteously here.
Then our feet shod “with the preparation of the glad tidings of peace”. That should characterise the walk of a believer. In every footstep he takes there is to be something of the glad tidings of peace; there would be something in his walk that would be suggestive of the glad tidings of peace with every person he comes into contact with, whether they are opposed to him or whether they are with him. There would be a willingness to speak glad tidings. It speaks here about preparation, “shod your feet with the preparation of the glad tidings of peace”. If there is an opportunity in any part of my walk to say something as to the glad tidings concerning the Lord Jesus I should take it. My feet are to be shod. They are to be ready to move, ready to take that opportunity.
Then we have all these other provisions that God makes, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word. Satan was defeated by Jesus when he tempted Him by Jesus referring to the Scriptures as a dependent Man. The same Scriptures are available to you. Perhaps someone opposes you; are you able to bring out a scripture that defeats the attack? I feel tested because in order to do so I must have first read that scripture, and I too must have relied on the Holy Spirit to bring out the right scripture at the right time. So we see that the believer is fully provided for, he is to be fully fitted, like the man of God “fully fitted to every good work”, 2 Tim 3: 17.
God desires that we might take on Christ’s yoke, that we might put on what is for the promotion of the features seen in Him in our relationships with one another, that we might put on what is protective so that there might not be inroads for Satan to spoil, because if an individual is spoiled there is a risk that a household will be spoiled, and if the household is spoiled then the local assembly could be spoiled. It begins small but it may have a large effect. Let us see that we are fully protected by this armour that God provides.
I read in Peter because here we have something that is not only to be put on but it is to be bound on. It is to be by “all of you”, he says. Earlier he speaks about the elders and younger persons and the particular things that he exhorts each to do, but he says, “all of you bind on humility towards one another”. I feel the need of that myself. I feel tested by it. It makes me think again of Philippians 2, “For let this mind be in you”, and it goes on to speak of One who humbled Himself, v 5-8. Am I willing to humble myself in relation to my brother? It may mean that I lose face, it may mean that I might be lower in some way as I am looked upon by others. Am I willing to do that? Binding it on suggests to me that it is done with definiteness, and it is not something that is done lightly. It suggests too that if I do not bind it on there is a risk that it will slip off again, and I might not be just quite so humble the next time I act towards my brother. Let us bind it on. Think of the Lord Jesus, think of His humility, think of the way that He acted, the willingness to go down, the mind to go down.
Let us be found as having been occupied with Him to be marked by these features, to have taken on His yoke, to have known what it is to find out what the Lord’s will is, to be given power by the Holy Spirit to do it in our measure, and then to put on these bowels of compassion and other features that are fitting to persons that are elect of God. I do not think this reference is exactly stressing election according to purpose, but the fact that they are precious and they are excellent in God’s sight on the earth. Let us have an elevated view of one another, “each esteeming the other as more excellent than themselves”, Phil 2: 3. What an elect company we have been privileged to gather with! It makes nothing of ourselves, of course, but makes everything of Christ, the One who is our common Object. Then we have to put on what is protective, and to bind on this feature of humility.
May we be encouraged by these things. For His Name’s sake.
14th September 2013