Slowing Down to Open Up

The Third message in the With All My Heart series.
(Find the other messages from this series here)

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We’ve been talking about loving God with all of our heart based on the passage where Jesus says that this is the greatest commandment. We opened up by looking at the fact that if we are going to love God with all that we are and our emotions are part of who we are, then our emotions should be part of the redemption work that God does in us- beyond that, I believe Jesus was speaking to that very area of our lives when he used the word “heart” in Love the Lord with all your heart.

Last week we talked about starting where we are- Many of us know that we need to be more like Jesus, but we don’t know how to get there because we don’t even know where we are at and to know where we have to start we must face who we are.

I want to open up this week with some personal application that serves that idea of knowing where to start and also points us in the direction that we are headed today.

When I was 12 years old my father was transferred. He worked for Delta airlines and they did a major company reorganization. Many people were laid off.  Dad was able to submit a list of cities he would be willing to relocate to and Norfolk was on the top of the list because that is where my mother’s family is from. I started Junior High or Middle School in a new state, city, and school. I attended a large Christian school that was part of the church that we attended where my grandfather had been the pastor for over 30 years.

My grandfather retired within the first year we were there and a new and much younger pastor took his place. My first two years there I got into so much trouble.I had anger issues, I was rebellious, I argued with my teachers and parents all of the time. Toward the end of 8th grade, God got a hold of my heart and he changed me. I was a different person. I alluded to this moment a couple of weeks ago.

So now that I was different I plunged into the life and ministry of that church. The church had a very large bus ministry. There were 10 school buses that went out every Sunday morning to the surrounding neighborhoods bringing in about 400 kids. I started serving on one of these buses.  I was a runner. When the bus would stop I would run to the door and knock on it and walk the kids back to the bus.

To ride the bus before church I had to be at the church earlier on Sunday than I was at school on Monday. Then we would attend Sunday school, then church, and the church services were typically an hour and 45 minutes long, then afterward we would take all of the kids home, so you would be gone for at least another hour-

Then on Sunday nights we not only had Sunday night service, we had a class before Sunday night service called CBC. So I would attend that, then attend Sunday night service which was longer than hour.

Later on I would start going on Bus Visitation which is when you would go through the bus route on Saturday, reminding all the kids that you’d be by the next morning and looking for new families to invite to be on the bus ministry…

Through this time, I was incredibly busy. However, I regularly felt this pull like I wasn’t doing enough. I wasn’t volunteering enough. I wasn’t doing enough to reach the community… There was a time that I felt guilty for not singing in the choir of the church- and I can’t even sing!

I had a profound misunderstanding of God’s grace and goodness. I knew that He was the one who forgave me- I knew that I couldn’t earn my forgiveness, but I still had this underlying belief that I needed to work hard to gain his favor…

Through this period I served a lot, but I grew very little. I was volunteering all of the time,  but I spent almost no time with Jesus.

We are capable of serving without growing.

In the passage I want us to read first this morning we are going to see that Jesus has another run in with the Pharisees and Religious Elite- the same people that asked him what is the greatest commandment and the same people that he told, you want to tell everyone what to do but you don’t even know where you are at…

This run in is over the Sabbath and what’s permissible on the Sabbath… In Mark 2 we have this building tension between Jesus and the Pharisees, these people who were always saying, you’re not doing enough!

In the middle of the chapter they give Jesus a hard time because he eats with thieves and prostitutes. Then they ask him why his disciples don’t fast like a lot of other disciples do-

BTW, this is a favorite tactic of Pharisees, comparison. “You’re not doing as much as this person” tip statements…

Then they give Jesus a hard time because the disciples are plucking grain as they walk past a grain field and it’s on the Sabbath.

Think about what type of person says, let’s see if he heals this guy because if he does we will have reason to find fault. They counsel together on how to destroy Jesus because he healed a man on the Sabbath!

Let’s talk a little bit about what’s happening here. In Mark 2 when the disciples pluck grain or corn as they walk through the field, that was breaking a law that the religious leaders had added to the law in the Leviticus.

When God gave the people the law, they started to run into scenarios that weren’t clear, so whenever they did, they would add another law. The Sabbath laws got pretty crazy. Let me give you some examples.

You were not to drag a chair across the ground because that could be likened to plowing ground for a garden.

You were not to climb a tree because that could be likened to harvesting or pruning if you were to break branches or tear off leaves.

People who still hold to these laws today go to extreme lengths to keep from breaking the commands. Making a fire or lighting a lamp was prohibited in Jesus’ day, so any lights in the house that you will need on for the Sabbath are left on the night before.

My refrigerator that Nicole and I bought this past December has a Sabbath setting where you can turn off the light so that you can open the fridge without turning on a light.

I want you to see the irony here.  A day that God set aside to be holy and to be a day of rest became a burden to the people because of all the laws they had to be careful to not break.

We often confuse busyness with spirituality.

In a couple places in the gospels the Bible tells us that Jesus is moved with compassion because the people are weary- they are wandering like sheep without a shepherd. What does Psalm 23 tell us about our Lord the shepherd, he makes us to lie down in green pastures…

At one point Jesus says, come unto me all you who are weary and I will give you rest for my burden is easy and my yoke is light. Jesus says to the Pharisees, Sabbath was made for the man.Not man for the Sabbath.

In the Sabbath we have a picture of the rest that God wishes to bring to our hearts and souls. 

God desires our relationship with him to be one of rest and delight. Look at Genesis 2 with me.

1Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.

2And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

3And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

God didn’t rest on the 7th day because He was tired. He ceased his work to delight in what He had accomplished.

Scripture makes it clear that God doesn’t get tired, he doesn’t grow weary. He doesn’t need to rest. When God finished the work of creating the world, he didn’t rest because he needed to- He rested because he wanted to.

The idea here is not that God had to take a break from all the work that he did, the idea is that he took a day to stop and enjoy the work that he had done, he took a day to celebrate.

So when God established the Jews as his covenant people, He tells them that they should do the same. Not because it’s a burden, because it is a gift.

This upcoming week Nicole, Haven, and I are headed to the National Association in Louisville and Lincoln is staying here with Nicole’s mom and dad.

The other day we were telling Lincoln, when Grandma and Grandpa watch you next week you’re going to need to lay down and take a nap. He said, “why? I’m a big boy.” I said “well grandma and grandpa will probably want to lay down and take a nap so you will need to too.” To that Lincoln replied, “Why? They’re not kids!?” To him it was silly that adult would want to take a nap.

If you have kids you’ve probably been in a situation where you are trying to get your child to take a nap and they don’t want to, meanwhile you would love to take a nap but you can’t. Think about the setting where God tells the Jewish people to take a day to rest. They’ve just been freed from slavery in Egypt.

As slaves they worked hard labor every day. When Moses first comes to Pharaoh and says let the people go, Pharaoh says no, they’re mine. In fact I’m going to make their work even harder.

So they’ve been driven hard, they’ve been forced to work so incredibly hard, now they have escaped and they come to this wilderness place and God says, stop right here at this mountain and wait while I talk to Moses for 40 days.

40 days! It’s no wonder that the people become restless. They’ve been working hard labor for 7 days a week and now they’ve been given a 40 day vacation at the mountain…

God meets with Moses in the mountain and he says, you are my people and you will take a day off every 7 days. Pharaoh says you’re mine and you’ll work even harder if I say. God says to them in the mountain, you’re mine and you will rest.

When the world shapes our identity we can never do enough. When God shapes our identity we are given rest and peace.

Look back at Mark 3.The Pharisees take counsel on how to destroy Jesus and verse 7 says that Jesus did what?

7But Jesus withdrew himself with his disciples to the sea

To the SEA! Jesus’ enemies are beginning to plot his death and he says, let’s go to the beach. What happens here in Mark 3:7 happens a lot through Jesus’ ministry.

Mark 1:12- the Spirit sent Jesus out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days

Mark 1:16 – Jesus is walking by the Sea of Galilee when he calls disciples to follow him.

Mark 1:35 – And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
Mark 1:37 – And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee.

Mark 2:13 -And he went forth again by the sea side;

Mark 2:23 – walking through fields with disciples on sabbath

Mark 3:13 – And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. 14And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,

Matthew 14:13 – When Jesus hears that John the Baptist has been beheaded, he withdraws by sea to a solitary place.

Mark 6:31-32 -Jesus says to the disciples, let’s come apart and rest a while…

Mark 6:46 – Jesus sends the crowds away and retires to the mountain to pray.

Mark 7:24 – And from thence he arose, and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon, and entered into an house, and would have no man know it: but he could not be hid.

Mark 9 – Jesus take Peter, James and John up to a mountain alone.

Mark 14:26 – Jesus and go to the Mount of Olives

Luke adds, This was Jesus customary place to pray when he was in Jerusalem. (Luke 22:39)

Mark 14:32 – They go to the garden of Gethsemane and Jesus tells the disciples, stay here while I go a little further. Jesus had the greatest task in the world. He had the most important job. Jesus is God’s son, He’s spent eternity with God. He has 3 and a half years to accomplish his ministry, yet he regularly takes breaks to pray and be alone with God the father.

If Jesus carved out time to spend time with God, You can and should too.

God says, you are my people. Take a day of rest each week.
Jesus says, you are my disciples, come to this mountain to pray. You are my followers, let’s walk along the sea and talk about my Father.

We live frantic lives. We live as though we are constantly trying to do enough. We live in a time when there is an unlimited capacity for more, more information, more news, more pictures, more stuff…

Even when we aren’t working, we work hard to be entertained. We work hard to relax.

Today it’s customary to leave the day you get off of work, drive 12 hours to the beach, pack the week full of activities, then come back the day before you go back to work, making the 12 hour drive and heading back into work the next day more tired than when you left for some “time off.”

When we offer a class on parenting, marriage, money, or some other topic, the most common reason I get for why people can’t attend is they’re too busy.

If our hearts are going to open up so that God redeems every part, we have to slow down and set aside time to simply be with God.

To open our hearts to God’s redeeming work, we need to slow down to be with God.

Hearts are saved in a moment, but lives are changed through a process.

Disciples aren’t microwaved, they’re marinated.

If we’re honest, for many of us, our relationship with God is a lot like our relationship with our spouse.

We marry this person because we love them so much we want to spend our lives with them and then we buy houses and cars that we can’t really afford so we need extra jobs and overtime. We have kids and sign them up for 27 sports teams because we want them to have fun, and we end up running around constantly short on money, sleep, and time- so we don’t really spend any time with the person we married.

Some of you, that’s exactly where you relationship with God is at right now. You love God, but you’re too busy for Him. God says, you’re mine. Rest. Take a day. Slow down. Let’s just sit and be together.