Doing Good

“…Jesus of Nazareth … went around doing good…”

What if you decide to do good? If you model yourself after Christ as he said to do, you should adopt his method. Peter is quoted above. Here is more: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and so he went around doing good…” Jesus promises this same Holy Spirit to his followers: “…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Did that happen? Not long after Jesus said that: “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them.

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Not only so but Peter explains the phenomena as predicted by the prophet Joel to those who wondered at those who were affected. The apostles expected the Holy Spirit to fill everyone who believed the message of the gospel they spread as charged to do so by Jesus. So the same power Jesus relied on is available to his followers.

So if we do good as empowered by the Spirit everything will go smooth. What? Not so? The message clashes with the common view of life many hold. Jesus had mixed reviews on his actions. Those opposed carried the day when they arranged his death by crucifixion. The story did not end there. Ignoring his detractors, Jesus revealed himself alive and well after his death to his surprised followers. After convincing them of his remarkable return to life, he commissioned them to spread his message even if they receive similar opposition.

What if we find this same reception. Yes, we speak to the Master: they reacted badly to my good act! He says, “I know, I had the same thing happen to me.” That is the test. If you go on doing good as well as you can, you find God at your side. Why? He is all about doing good in a bad world. If you quit, then you lose your purpose because your purpose is to do God’s kind of good in a bad world.

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We get general direction from the words of Jesus. Let’s be clear about this: not the Bible in general, but specifically the words of Jesus. He is the focus of everything. And we get more specific help from the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes this help is quite clear. Sometimes it is just a friendly push in a direction. You understand more as you go along. What I am saying is this: if you are trying to do the will of God as spoken by Jesus, God will not let you work alone. He will be right there beside you. Sometimes you will feel it. Other times, not so much. But he will direct you and he will redirect you if you go wrong.

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What? I could go wrong? Of course, you could go wrong. Or something goes wrong and you don’t understand it. In fact, something will go wrong. Then what? Quit? Okay, but again this is not faith. Faith goes on even when you don’t understand it. There will be opposition against the good you do. You will be tempted. You will get discouraged. You will have a setback.

But your very weakness is your strong point! Be weak toward God. I don’t understand this. I don’t know why this is happening. You told me to go in this direction and it has gone wrong. Guess what? It was always going wrong for Jesus. Read the gospels closely. Things were always going wrong. He was criticized for doing good. A lot. But be of good cheer, Jesus kept going. He never stopped.

If he couldn’t do good in this town, he went to the next one and did good there. He fixed things that didn’t work right. Like arms. Or eyes. Or legs. He gave us the clearest words of God ever spoken by a man on earth. That is why we can trust him always. He loved people. And some people loved him. Is that you? Is that me?

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Yoke

“Take my yoke upon you…”

The yoke is offered instead of labor with a heavy load. But how is the yoke rest-giving? Hard labor was the result of the curse on the ground. The man was not cursed nor is work a curse.

The Lord offers his answer to the hardness of labor. He offers a type of rest. But this is not a rest from labor. This shows that God was not interested in punishing men with hard labor. He put a condition in place to lead men back to God.

Men have tried to minimize the difficulty of labor over the millennia. Mostly by making others do it. Now we are turning to robots for menial tasks.

But Jesus addresses the issue directly. Being heavy laden sounds like an animal with all that can be placed on its back. How is a yoke better?

The yoke is designed for the individual animal. An ill-fitting yoke is useless. The yoke was made to lessen the effort or maybe enhance the ability of the animal. In either case, the hardness of the labor is reduced. The animal moves in a normal way doing useful work.

Jesus embraced life. He did his work without excessive labor. His ‘yoke’ is his method. He advises us to “learn of me”. He wants us to take on his method of working. He describes himself as “meek and lowly in heart”. What does he mean?

First, he is not proud. He has nothing to prove. Jesus has really no ego. He is always matching God’s will to people’s needs. He is careful not to fall into the traps that ensnare men. He follows a wisdom unknown or at least unused by men. His simple heartfelt response to human need with God’s power makes faith and love a continuous reality in his method of working.

How does the ‘yoke’ cure “being heavy laden”? Carrying a heavy load is a different kind of work. ‘This stuff must be moved to there as quickly and cheaply as possible.’ Jesus is not interested in this type of work. He is not interested in ‘stuff’. He criticizes the accumulation of wealth as a waste of time and effort.

He implies that carrying a heavy load is voluntary. What kind of load-carrying are we doing voluntarily?

Guilt. God does not make us feel guilty. Sin does. Accumulated sin creates heavy guilt. Jesus offers real forgiveness as relief for that very real guilt. He recommends reconciliation between people to fix broken relationship guilt.

Responsibility. Heaviness comes from shouldering too much responsibility. Some things are beyond your control. Many live with guilt for what happened to those under their care. Or maybe they didn’t take enough responsibility when the should have. This, too, can create a heavy burden.

Happenstance. “If only I had left earlier. I meant to.” “Why was I there at that time?” Vague guilt over uncontrollable events plague some of us.

Wasted time. A realization of time ill-spent can add weight to your burden.

Rash actions. Ill-considered or panic reactions can leave a heaviness behind. “I knew it was wrong (stupid/dangerous/wasteful), yet I did it without thinking.”

All of the resulting heaviness, Jesus offers to remove and replace with “his yoke”. The yoke allows the responsibility of the immediate. Under a yoke, there is no consideration of the past. The heaviness of past actions or non-actions is gone. Only the activity of the moment is important.

“Learn of me.” See how Jesus lives. Does he carry burdens of the past? How does he handle responsibility? He works as a son to a good and wise father. His work is therefore valuable and his time is never wasted. His efforts are maximized by God. He recommends “his yoke” and claims it will give soul-rest.

How can it give this? The burden is mostly on God. Jesus takes only the human responsibility of the moment. He is also aware of all external forces. They are under the control of God so he doesn’t worry about them. This is how he can say, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus wants to return us to the work as it was at first. Think of Adam naming the animals. Did he think: ‘Oh, there are so many. Will my names be right? How long will this take?’ No, he had none of these thoughts. As each animal came under his consideration, he named it. His work was valuable and a pleasure to do. God approved and the names stuck. God made them; man named them. God had given the man wisdom and he let him use it.

So we see that work is not a punishment. The yoke is the cure for heaviness of heart. The yoke is designed individually for each one. The yoke enables effective and valuable work. God wishes to remove all the heavy burdens we have accumulated leaving our burden ‘light’. Remember that God takes all responsibility for you. The burden of ‘you’ is on him as well. Let us continually follow his words: “Learn of me…”

“Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for you souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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