The things we carry — even subconsciously — weigh us down. God calls us to His rest. A seat at His table is ours by grace through faith. Even in faithlessness, the faithful One sends goodness and mercy after us. This is true for any day that we might encounter. (Matthew 11:28; Psalm 23:6)

Speaker: John Love
Sermon # 12623
Date: 2023-11-29
Time: Wed 7:00 PM

Pastor  Love –

Good evening.
Honestly, how many of you would like to stand? Okay. Okay. You can be seated. It’s just an
honesty test. That’s all it was. But I know that when that happens to me, honestly I think, no. I
just sat down. It takes a lot as you get older just to get back up again. So, let’s open with a
prayer. (Prayer).

Just turn in your Bible with me to Matthew 11. If you noticed when you came into the chapel tonight
and here on the stage, how beautifully decorated the church is. The people who do that do
such a great job. Without my glasses, I glanced over at this wall tonight and I thought, is that a
new climbing wall? It looks like one of those climbing walls. You know, they have those you put
your foot and take the next step up. I thought, why would they do that in church? Then, I put
my glasses on and said, oh, it’s a climbing wall! It’s beautiful. Thank you. It’s just a strange way
that I have at looking at things.

In Matthew 11 – by the way, my daughter told me – she called me a little while ago. She said, what
are you doing? I said, I’m on my way to church. She said, you can’t go to church. I said, why?
She said, you have a cold. I said, yeah. She said, you’re going to give it to everybody. I said, well,
isn’t that what it means to be a Christian? That you share everything with others? So, come on
up afterwards. I’ll give you a nice hug. Give you something to take home.

No, I’m kind of at the end of a cold. I think I gave it to all the basketball players last night in New York during the
chapel service! Unfortunately, I only gave an embrace to the other team! When it came to the
Knicks, I gave them a little fist bump. I said, I’m feeling good. We killed them, so it was great.
Matthew 11, you know this verse because this was the invitation that all of us first received when we
came to Christ. In that 11th chapter, Jesus said, vs. 28-30. I remember receiving Christ several
decades ago. I remember those words very clearly, because that’s how the gospel was shared
with me through an invitation like this in Matthew 11.

I heard the word “rest” twice in those verses, and I knew in my heart that’s exactly what I needed. Because I was like – the prophet Isaiah described the wicked which I was at that time. All of us were before Christ. And he described
the wicked in Is. 58 this way, “the wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest whose
waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace saith my God to the wicked.”

That was a description of my life, my heart. And I remember hearing these words just as if Jesus
himself were speaking to me and saying come to me. I’ll give you rest. The rest that your heart
longs for. The rest that you’re looking for, searching after. That moment when we came to
Christ – do you remember that moment? When the burdens were lifted. That’s what it was like.
It was almost as if I was carrying so much that I didn’t even realize I was carrying in my heart.
Not on my shoulders but in my heart. It was like all those burdens were lifted off in a moment
when I invited Christ to come into my heart.

You say, what were the burdens? Guilt, shame, a past that I couldn’t shake. I reputation in some
cases for some of us that people would never let us forget. Maybe just a moment of failure
that’s happened in our lives that the devil takes advantage of and tries to turn it into a
monument that’s erected to that failure just so we’ll never forget it, just so it looms greatly in
our hearts, in our minds. It’s almost as if even though we see light at the end of the tunnel, he
reminds us of what we’ve done and kind of resurrects that past, brings it before us.
And we realize – I know I did – that this is no way to get through life, especially when we know
this now, but especially when we have a Savior. And that’s what we are getting ready to
celebrate, that God sent his Son into the world.

What the world needed, God provided through his Son, a Savior.
We don’t need to – people say all the time I need to get my act together. I need to straighten
my life out. I need to make some changes. I’m looking forward to New Year’s Eve, so I can make
some new vows and some new promises and some new resolutions. But none of that is
necessary. What people need is a Savior. And that is exactly what we have in Christ. And he
came to do just that, to remove the burdens and to replace the burdens with what? With
forgiveness. With forgiveness.

When I travel, I don’t pack very well. Because I don’t know what it is, I always take way too
much for me, right? I know that some of you may be like that. You might not want to admit it.
Always the bags are too heavy, and I have too many. I always used to travel with one friend of
mine, and every time we would get to the airport, he would always ask me, do you have your
“just-in-case bag?” I said, what do you mean? He goes, you know. Just in case something
happens. Just in case they lose your luggage, or just in case you have to do something different.
You have that “just-in-case” bag.

And of course I had to admit when he asked me, well, I do. He said, why? I said, isn’t it obvious?
Just in case! Just in case. Because I think I might need those things, and I usually don’t. I usually
don’t even get through half of what I bring. I ask myself afterwards, why did you bring all that
stuff? Sometimes I say, next time, it’s going to change. And next time, it never changes. It’s
always the same. I just keep thinking what if something? You know.

We have a tendency to do that in our lives, in our hearts, in our minds. We carry bags from
yesterday so to speak. Bags of regret. Bags of fear, anxiety. Something that we just can’t shake
from our past, but we wish we could. We carry it. And maybe we don’t even consciously carry
it. Maybe subconsciously we carry it.

I often think of the woman at the well with Jesus in John 4. You remember as Jesus struck up
the conversation with her, he asked her at one point to go and get her husband. She said I don’t
have one. Then he said, I know you don’t. You’ve had five husbands. The man you’re living with doesn’t want to put a ring on your finger. And she immediately said I perceive you are a
prophet. And then when the conversation was finished, Christ revealed himself to her. She
went into the town, and she said to the townspeople – remember what she said? She said
come and meet a man who told me what? Everything about my life.

Now, did Jesus really tell her everything? The answer was no. But I think she had taken so much
energy that was conscious or unconscious to cover up that one part of her life that when Jesus
revealed it to her and not to condemn her but to release her from that burden. It was like it was
lifted from her, so much so that she said, come and meet a man who told me everything about
myself.

We can’t and we were not made to carry the burdens of guilt and shame in our lives. What
does it take and what did it take in our lives? Didn’t it take a revelation of righteousness?
What’s a revelation of righteousness? We know the word “revelation” means you pull back the
veil. We all needed an understanding of what righteousness was because we didn’t have it. I
certainly didn’t have it in my life. I mean, did we once in a while do that which was right? Did
we occasionally do that which was right? Yeah. Some people maybe they predominately do that
which is right, but do any of us always do that which is right?

The answer is no. The Bible tells us in Romans 3:20, no one is completely righteousness not even one of us. And in God’s economy, think about it, there’s no room for a relative righteousness which is what I used to have.
If somebody asked me are you good enough to go to heaven? I would immediately point out
how bad other people were, and then compared myself to them and said, relatively speaking, I
think I’m a righteous person. But in God’s economy, there is no such thing as relative
righteousness. When it comes to righteousness, God himself is the standard. It’s like when it
comes to righteousness, God points to himself and says this is what I mean when I say
righteousness. In fact, the Bible says God is not only righteous, but his decrees are righteous in
Romans 1:32. His judgments are righteous in Romans 2:5.

His requirements of people are righteous, Romans 8:4. And his acts in Dan. 9:16 are all righteous. He’s right in everything that he does. When it comes to righteousness, God runs the table.
But when it comes to righteousness for us, we’re clueless. We don’t have it. I mean, we’re not
even close to it. And think about it. If you’re going to go to God’s party, if you’re going to show
up at his supper, guess what you have to have? Righteousness. For every seat at that table is
reserved only for those that are righteous and we needed a revelation of righteousness. Are
were we going to get it? It’s just not possible. The gulf that’s fixed between sinful men and a
holy, righteous God was so great that the chasm was so deep that none of us could ever get to
the other side.

And that’s when Jesus stood up in heaven and pleaded with his Father and said, Father, punish
me for their sins. Give me the penalty for their transgressions. I’ll take their guilt. I’ll take their
shame. Treat me Father like you would treat the sinner. And God did at Calvary.
1 Peter 3:18 says just that. On the cross, the just one took the place of the unjust ones. Christ’s
lifted up on Calvary’s cross to bear our sins so that we would not have to carry the burden of
guilt, shame, fear, anxiety. We could be free from it. And through the cross – think about this –
through the cross, God now has a way to make people righteous but it’s through faith in Christ
alone. You see, you don’t get a seat at his table without a perfect righteousness.

Paul said it in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him sin for us, so that we could be made the righteousness of God in
him.” When God looks at us – imagine this – he sees the righteousness of his own Son. That is
just incredible when you think about it. That means all of the baggage that we once carried, we
can put it down. No need to every pick it up again because it only weighs us down.

I think sometimes what we have a tendency to do even after we responded to the invitation of
Jesus at salvation, somewhere along the way we pick up those bags again. We pick up the guilt.
We pick up the shame. The devil reminds us of our past and we start to think about it. We start
to build that monument maybe subconsciously toward our failure when God says he’s put it
away from us as far as the east is from the west.

But the good news is as we continue the journey, we have this amazing promise, Psalm 23:6.
You’re familiar with the Shepherd’s psalm. It starts out by telling us the Lord is our shepherd;
we shall not want. But then it ends with this last verse, and you know what it says. It says,
“surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives. Some of the other
translations, listen to them. Says this, “goodness and love unfailing.” “Goodness and love will be
with me all my life and your house will be my house forever.” Another translation, “your
goodness and love chase after me every day of my life.” Another one: “Goodness, mercy, every
day dwelling in God’s house.”

I mean, it sounds like goodness and mercy are like God’s swat team. They just kind of come into
our lives just out of nowhere. Have you ever seen an image of a swat team doing their job?
They come from above. The people that they’re after, the criminals that they’re trying to catch.
They have no idea. Out of nowhere, out of thin air they come crashing through the windows or
breaking through the door or up from underneath. They just swarm the people that they’re
after. That’s the nature of goodness and mercy in our lives. Because if Jesus is the Good
Shepherd – and he is – then you know that goodness and mercy are his sheep dogs, and they
will pursue us. They will come after us.

And I love what it says here in vs. 6. It says surely. Think about that word. Surely. It carries the
idea of a great sense of confidence. And by the way, it doesn’t mean maybe. Imagine if God said
now that you’re saved and now that you’re a child of mine, maybe goodness and mercy will come after you. It’s a possibility. Or I have a hunch that it could happen. No, no such language.
God says in a profound way, certainly.

Absolutely. Count on it. Because after all, what are we talking about here? We’re talking about Acts 13:34, the sure
mercies of David. That’s God’s promise for us, not a possibility. Not a hunch. Not a chance. Not
maybe. Not if you measure up. Not if you’re good enough. Not if you deserve it. But absolutely
count on it. Put your utter faith and confidence in this promise. Goodness and mercy will follow
you all the days of your life.

That great thought followed by what the Apostle James said when he described God. James
1:17, listen to the way he describes God. God is the one with whom there is never the slightest
variation or shadow of inconsistency. I like that. Not even the slightest variation. In other
words, there is no changing with God. He is immutable in his character. He is unchanging. My
moods and your moods they may shift, but God never changes.

Our minds change all the time, but God never changes his mind the way he thinks about us. Our
devotion can waiver and falter and be inconsistent, but God’s love and God’s grace and God’s
mercy never falters, never waivers, and you will never find even as James says the slightest
variation or shadow of inconsistency. So much so that God even goes this far to give us a
promise that he even if we are and we all have to admit there have been moments in our lives
where we have been faithless. Amen. It’s happened. But even then, 2 Timothy 2:13 says when we
are faithless, God remains faithful. He cannot deny the unconditional nature of the covenant
that he’s entered into with us because of his promise. He is a sure God that promises sure
mercies and gives us the hope that goodness and mercy are going to be there every step of the
way.

And then, look at what follows that word “surely.” Goodness, mercy. And God knows that we
need them both. It’s the goodness of God, isn’t it, that brings us to a place where it’s necessary
to change our minds, Romans 2:4. It’s the goodness of God. It’s not the threat. God has never
brought me to a place where I want to yield my life to him because he has threatened me.
Imagine if he said he really wanted utter and complete devotion from our lives, – imagine if he
said listen, this is how I’m going to get it. You’re going to be completely devoted to me or I’m
taking your name out of the book of life. Oh, that might motivate us for a period of time. Fear
might get the job done for a short amount of time. But inevitably, we would just throw the
towel in. We would say I can’t do it. It’s not possible.

But God never makes that kind of a promise. He says it’s with absolute certainty that you can
trust what I have to say. It’s the same confidence that the Apostle Paul spoke about when he
was persuaded. Remember in Romans 8:38-39. He was what? He was persuaded “that never
death or life nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor
height nor depth nor any other creature shall be able to separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.” Does that sound like persuasion? Does that sound like confidence?

Does that sound like certainty? It’s the same way as Jesus.
We all used to read our King James Bible. And we would always come across Jesus saying these
words, “verily, verily I say unto you.” The first time I read that I was like, what is a “verily”? But
Jesus was saying essentially listen. I’m telling you something that is absolutely true. It is highly
certain. It is eternally established, and it is totally factual. You can take it to the bank. That’s
what he was saying. You can count on what I am telling you.

And in the same way, the psalmist says, listen. You started out with God taking those burdens
and lifting them off of you. And instead of giving you the burdens of guilt and shame and fear
and worry and anxiety, – no! He’s given you forgiveness. He’s given you rest. He’s given you
peace. And he’s never going to allow those things to come back into your life. Don’t pick them
up again. Just keep walking with him because you have this certainty that goodness and mercy
are going to be there every step of the way.

It's like Job saying what? In Job 19:25, what did he say? Listen, I may not know a lot about
what’s happening in my life right now. I may not really understand why these friends have
come to counsel me and they are all like physicians of no value he called them. I may not really
understand what’s happened to me or my family or my life. But I’ll tell you this. I know this. I
know my Redeemer lives.

He could say it with confidence. And we should say the same thing. It’s like the Apostle John writing his epistle in 1 John 5:13-14 and saying, “these things are written that you may know that you have eternal life” and that you might have confidence as you navigate through your life even when the storms begin to rage. It’s like Abraham in Romans
4:21 saying that he was what? Fully convinced that what God had promised, he was able to
perform.

Think about it. Persuaded. Convinced. I know. I’m confident. It’s certain. Surely, certainly,
goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. Goodness to supply every need.
Mercy to forgive every sin. Goodness to provide for us. Mercy to pardon for us. We need them
both. Goodness and mercy. The escorts of God’s flock.

And if that doesn’t reinforce our faith, how about the next words. What does it say? “All the
days of our lives.” What kind of days do you suppose we’ll face? Then just line up the
adjectives, right? Long days. Hard days. Difficult days. Perilous days. Dark days. Exhausting days.
Days when we get tragic news. Days when our heart breaks. Days when relationships break up.
Days when a family breaks down. All kinds of days. Days at home if you’re a young mother with
toddlers. Days at a dead-end job that you wish you could find a way out of. Days of loneliness.
Days of sickness. Days of illness. Days of disease.

But what’s the promise of God? All of those days. There will not be some exception to that
promise. There will not be some days that will not fit into that promise. Goodness and mercy
will be there all the days of your life, and they will follow you. They will pursue you. They will
chase after you. They will hunt you down, and goodness and mercy will finally catch up with
you and they will carry you through the day. It’s his promise.

I think that truth is as old as the book of Genesis. Wouldn’t you agree? You think about it. You
open in the book of Genesis. God makes man. They’re in the Garden and they sin. What
happens? They hide. And God speaks. Adam, where are you? Well, how did Adam hear that
question? Cause God was following him. Goodness and mercy were in the Garden in the
presence of the heart of God.

Moses can tell you about goodness and mercy 40 years in the wilderness. What did God do? He
followed him into the wilderness. Jonah. The fugitive on the boat. That’s not a storm brewing
out there, Jonah. That’s God. And that’s not a giant fish. That’s God waiting for you. That’s
goodness and mercy ready to reveal itself to you in that great fish. The disciples in the boat, in
the storm, in the gospels. Look who was following them into the storm. That’s not a ghost.
That’s Jesus himself.

The Samaritan woman who we mentioned a few moments ago. You’re not alone in life. Jesus
followed her to that well. I love the best part of that story in my heart is John 4:4 when Jesus
said to his disciples as they were going out to get some food, he said I must needs go through
Samaria. I must go there. There is a woman there whose burden is so great, whose guilt is so
overwhelming that I have to lift it. And I’ll meet her. I’ll speak with her. I’ll provide for her the
rest that her heart longs for. And goodness and mercy will find her at that well.

The Apostle John even when he was exiled to Patmos, Jesus followed him into exile. Even
Lazarus three days in the tomb. Guess what? Jesus followed him into death and brought him
forth into resurrection life. Peter denied the Lord and went back fishing. You can say to Peter,
look over your shoulder the next day on the beach. That’s Jesus preparing a meal for you. It’s
God always active, always pursuing, never quitting, never giving up on us. We can give up on
him. He will never give up on us. We can change our mind about the way we want our faith to
navigate through this life, but he will never change his mind. And even if we kind of got out
there in life and God forbid that that would happen, but if it did, the one thing you could count
on, that you could be certain of, that you could be persuaded about, convinced of totally, that
goodness and mercy will find you. They will hunt you down.

In closing, I read a story about a shepherd. He had a flock. There was a gentlemen who was
responsible for another person’s flocks and there were hundreds and hundreds of sheep. And
he had this wonderful sheep dog. He would always follow the herd and always make sure they were gathered together. And if one would go astray, he would pursue that one and chase it
back into the fold.

On one particular day, this great storm arose. The flocks began to be frightened and they all
started to scatter in different directions. This man tells the story that he lost 700 sheep that
were not his. And they searched throughout all night long and went in every particular direction
and could not find the sheep. He had to go back and tell the owner. I have to tell you. I lost 700
sheep. He was preparing himself to face the owner.

But on the way back, they came across this great chasm between these huge rocks, and he
looked down and he saw the sheep dog there. And next to the sheep dog as he looked and got
a good glance 700 sheep. That sheep dog brought them to a place of safety. And they were
secluded and kept from any harm or danger, and every single one of them recovered.

I get the idea that God would do that for every single one of us as well. When the storms come
and they try to scatter us; when things happen in our lives to try to remove us from God’s flock;
when difficulties come and want to overwhelm us and tell us in essence to pick up those
burdens again. Pick up fear. Pick up guilt. Pick up yesterday. You know, that’s when the sheep
dogs say we’re here. We’ve been sent by God. Our names are goodness and mercy. We’re
never going to stop seeking you. Never going to stop coming after you. Never going to stop
chasing you down. We’ll hunt you until the day that you are safely in the presence of God, and
you find your seat at the table because it’s just the nature of God.

Go back to that verse in the book of James. I’ll say it again. God is the one with whom there is
never the slightest variation or the shadow of inconsistency. You can count on him. And so
words like “I am persuaded” should be in our vocabulary. Words like “I’m convinced” should be
in our vocabulary. Words like “It is certain.”

I will never forget the day after these burdens were lifted from me, and I came home, and I was
sharing the gospel with my mother and father and all my siblings, and I got a lot of them. I got
seven brothers and sisters. And my oldest sister, I said to her, listen. Interesting enough her
name was “surely.” Shirley! I said, Shirley, I want to tell you about Jesus because he saved me.
And she says, what does that mean? I tried to explain it to her the best way I could. I said to
her, listen. You can trust Christ. You can have the knowledge and the peace and the
understanding that you’ll go to heaven when you leave this life.

And she kind of looked at me and she said – she looked at me with that look that an older sister
would look at me and say, you don’t really think you’re going to heaven, do you? And she said,
you don’t believe that do you? I said, absolutely. And she said, you really think you’re that
good? And I said, oh no! I’m the most vile sinner that’s ever walked the planet. God saved me by grace through faith. It has nothing to do with being good or bad. It has everything to do with
the cross and what Christ did for me. Saved me. I am absolutely certain.

She laughed. She said how could you be? Nobody can be certain. First of all, you can’t even be
certain there is a heaven. I said, I’m certain there is a heaven. I’m certain there is a God. I’m
certain that there is a Savior, and I’m certain that he came to save me. And I’m certain that
when I leave this life, I’m going to step into his presence. I got a seat at the table and it’s by
grace through faith. She couldn’t believe it. I was convinced. I was sure. Why? Because of the
sure mercies of David. Count on them. Be persuaded. That’s how God wants us to live. Amen.
Would you pray with me. (Prayer).

 

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