On The Rest

John David Clark, Sr. - October, 1988

Monday night is a business meeting for the annual Craft and Bake Sale for the church building fund . Tuesday night is reserved for choir practice, and you wouldn't want to miss that. Wednesday night, of course, is Prayer Meeting night. If you are absent, it may indicate that your heart isn’t as committed as it should be to the work of the Lord Jesus; the pastor said so. Thursday night, as part of the youth outreach, you are asked to help co-ordinate the rehearsal of a play. Friday night there is a meeting of the "Stop Profanity In Public" committee, and a debate on the need for another building. On Saturday you are scheduled to help clean up the sanctuary and grounds in preparation for Sunday. You are tired and frustrated. You feel used. You are bewildered. Didn't Jesus say his yoke was easy and his burden was light?

Uh oh! You've done it again.

Now you feel ashamed of yourself. How could you even think to complain, after all that Jesus has done for you? Why, the pastor has faithfully reminded us a thousand times that we owe all these covered-dish suppers to Jesus because of what he did for us at Calvary. "But Lord", you want to ask, "Is this really what you . . .?" But no, you're afraid to even think the thought. Every time you do, you kick yourself a thousand times.

You're trapped, afraid to refuse the constant requests for volunteers, afraid to quit, afraid to question the authority by which you're asked to continue. Your family needs you, and you need rest, but are you going to put your will ahead of the Lord’s? The responsibilities of the church are so much more important than your little life . . . aren’t they? The pastor has warned you against thinking selfish thoughts many times. You want to please God . . . but is this really the way?

This is the miserable situation of very many children of God today. Peter the apostle foretold of these things, giving ample warning to those who would hear: "But there were false prophets also among the [Old Testament] people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who [cunningly] shall bring in[to the Church] damnable heresies. . . . Many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you" (2Pet. 2:1-3).

God's people, scattered throughout virtually every Christian denomination, have become little more than slaves to Christianity, even though the door of escape has been standing open for ages. Yet they remain slaves, principally for two reasons. First, because of their great love for Jesus. It is because they feel that Jesus wants them there that they continue to allow themselves to be used and abused by a system that, at its heart, envies and despises the Lord they love. The spirit of wickedness that inspired and maintains Christianity is very shrewd. It knows that God's people love God and want to do Him service. And as long as that Wicked One can convince the children of God that the things they are doing are pleasing Him, despite their doubts about it, they will remain sad slaves to a very cruel master. The second reason for the present captivity of the saints is the abysmal ignorance of God that exists among the scattered saints of the Lord. If they knew God, they would know that He is not such a slave master. While they have been told that if they love Jesus they will continue to allow themselves to be used by their Christian sect, the truth is that when they come to love Jesus as he wants them to, they will refuse the flattering titles and responsibilities which Christianity bestows. Instead, they will obey the gentle, earnest call of the Spirit, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" (Rev. 18:3).

The more zeal for Jesus that Christian leaders discern in a young person, the more responsibilities will be loaded upon them, until their love for Jesus is smothered beneath a mountain of religious busy-work. Confusing loyalty to Christianity with loyalty to God, they labor in vain to satisfy an insatiable master, while their loving Lord labors incessantly to persuade his confused people that he really will give them rest, and that if they give to him their undivided affection, they will happily abandon Christianity forever and be content--just to walk with him, to listen to his voice, to know him, really to know him, and to trust him with all their hearts. But so often God’s own children are just too busy "working for God" ever to get to know him at all.

This is not a situation without precedent. In fact, it is a situation exactly like that which Jesus found when he came to earth the first time. He saw the common people being required to do things which he knew the Father had not commanded. He saw a people more fearful of the displeasure of their religious rulers than of God, an intimidated people, an oppressed people, and a clergy that lived in great ease and luxury. He saw a people that had a heart to serve God but were so ignorant of Him that they were easily persuaded to believe that they were serving him when actually they were only serving the doctrines of men–men who gave every appearance of sanctity but whose hearts were full of greed and lust. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. . . . Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith. . . . Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whitewashed sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full ofdead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within are full of hypocrisy and iniquity" (Mt. 23).

"Full of extortion", said Jesus. What is extortion? Extortion is in this case the stealing of saints' money and time by the use of threats of God's displeasure. It is forcing the elderly and simple to contribute when they don't have it to give by promising them God's blessing. (This, of course, implies that they are in big trouble if they don't give). Extortion in God’s kingdom is forcing young parents to feel obligated to put the "church's needs" ahead of the needs of their children--needs of the church being defined as needs of Christianity: more people, more money, more buildings, more money, more people, more money, more, more, more. . . . And the burdens of guilt tacitly laid upon the backs of those who do not contribute to Christianity can be crushing. "Woe unto you also, ye lawyers [experts in the Mosaic law]! for you lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers."

They appeared righteous to people, Jesus said. But to which people did they appear righteous? Not to the Romans, certainly. Not to the Egyptians or Syrians or Greeks. To which people did the scribes and Pharisees appear righteous? We could ask the same question by asking, who feared the scribes and Pharisees? Who trusted in their words? The answer, obviously, is the people of the Lord, the Jews. They respected their spiritual judgment and feared their disapproval. To the minds of the precious sheep of the Lord, the educated scribes and the devout Pharisees were God's answer for a troubled nation. At least, that's what they'd always been taught. And because they believed that, they feared to be excommunicated from them. They feared to be free from the spiritual bondage that was making their lives miserable. And if you think it's easy now to persuade the saints that their own religious leaders are lading them with unnecessary and ungodly burdens, and that it would thrill the Father for His children to lay down those burdens, let me invite you to try to persuade one of God’s children to come out of Christianity. You'll find that even though many hate what they are put through, they fear the unknowns of liberty even more.

I must point out the important fact that it is not exactly correct to compare the leaders of Christianity with the leaders of the Jews at the time of Jesus. Christianity is a religion that never was of God, while the Law of Moses was actually from the Lord. The Pharisees really did, as Jesus said, "sit in Moses’ seat", but the leaders of Christianity do not minister "in Christ’s stead"; they only claim to do so. Because there was real spiritual authority in Israel, Jesus told his followers to obey Israel’s leaders. But the spiritual authority over the household of faith which is claimed by Christianity’s ministers is a lie. To submit to them is to submit to a slow death. That is why God is so earnestly calling for those who trust in Jesus to "Come out of her My people!"

The Lord gave to me a prophetic dream a few years ago that was fulfilled before my eyes not long afterwards. I dreamed I was being held prisoner in an old schoolhouse with some other saints, among whom were two particularly distressed ladies. "If we could only get out! If we could only get out!" they tearfully moaned as they wrung their trembling hands. Shortly after, in my dream, I found a gun and concealed it, thinking how relieved those two ladies would be when I shot our captors and escaped. At a convenient moment, I dreamed that I pulled the gun out and killed two of our guards. Running down the corridor, I yelled to all the other captives, "We can make it! Come on, now! We can get out!" Looking back, I saw the two ladies who had been so upset with their captivity timidly peeping around their open cell door at me. They were staring strangely at me as if they could not believe anyone would actually consider escaping. I was stunned. It was so bizarre. They had been pleading so pitifully for liberty, yet now, when the door was open, they chose to stay inside. It was incomprehensible to me. As I ran on toward freedom, I marveled at them, at how they looked at me, at how pitiously they had previously longed for freedom. I saw that dream fulfilled in real life, when two ladies apparently seeking the Lord came to our prayer meeting. By their own testimony they found the freedom in the Spirit they had sought. But the reproach of coming outside the camp of their Christian denomination was too high a price for them to pay for the liberty they said that they wanted. Then I saw that although Jesus did promise that we would find if we would seek, he did not say that we would love what we found. He said that if we asked it would be given, but he did not say that we would receive the gift. And he said that if we knocked, the door would be opened, but he did not say that everyone to whom the door was opened would walk through it.

Another lesson I learned from that dream and from other experiences is that our flesh knows that if we make a show of seeking for God we will be praised by men, Christians most of all, but if we find God and love what we find, then men will cast us out of their company, Christians most of all. Our flesh knows that if we are known as one who asks for the things of God, men, especially Christians, will honor us, but if we receive what God gives in response to our asking, then men, especially Christians, will despise and slander us. And our flesh knows that if we make a great noise with our knocking on the door of righteousness so that everyone knows we are knocking, we will be revered as great men of God, but if we dare to walk through that door when Jesus opens it, men will call us children of the devil and persecute us, Christians most of all. It is a great temptation to the flesh to ask, seek, and knock to be seen by others as doing so. None of us knows who really is seeking God from the heart until God responds; only those who receive God’s answer to our prayers are seeking Him.

To the Jewish slaves of his time, heavily laden with the doctrines commandments of men, Jesus offered hope: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." The people's answer had come! Their mournful prayers had been heard! The way of escape from proud, heavy-handed, money-hungry religious rulers had been made! But who would come? "The common people heard him gladly", wrote Mark. Yet of those who gladly heard, how many would actually follow the true Shepherd into peace and eternal life? After three years of the most powerful demonstrations of the love of God for His people that the world had ever witnessed, only about one hundred and twenty followed Jesus to that rest which he had promised (Acts 2:4). Thousands upon thousands had seen his power, heard his wisdom, and felt his love, yet only a few at last showed that they truly hungered for what he came to give: the holy Ghost.

When Jesus came, the rulers of the Jews figured that his unwillingness to join one of their parties was an indication of a stubborn spiritual disease (Isa. 53:3-4). But there is another reason besides rebelliousness to "come out from among them"; that is, submission to the call of God. Only when the scattered saints are at last subdued by God’s grace to His will, will there be no divisions among us. Unity in the faith can never be attained within Christianity. Christianity, my dear brother, is that filthy thing which has continually disrupted the peace and unity which the saints once enjoyed. Come out with me, and be free!

When we know God as He desires for us to know Him, we will also know that the traditions, doctrines, and ways of worship which Christianity laid on our backs were not of Jesus. Only then, when we learn that precious truth, can we dare to obey God and go "outside the camp, bearing his reproach". Only there, outside the camp of carnal man’s approval, can we begin to fathom the depth and beauty of our Father’s grace. Only there, outside the camp of the praise of men, will the saints find again "their resting place" and be able to dwell in peace together beneath His sheltering wings.

"Forsake the foolish and live", my brother. Christianity is not the Church. Come out of it "and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty" (2Cor. 6:17-18). Amen.


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