The "Token" Rule of an Absent Lord (Part 1)
Updated: Feb 7
The title of this post comes from a book by Peter Masters from Metropolitan Tabernacle (where Charles Spurgeon ministered) called Steps for Guidance. I came across this phrase as I read the opening chapters of the book. In the particular chapter Masters points to the danger of claiming the Lordship of Christ with words, but not living under his rule and guidance. Under the guise of Christian freedom some have become slaves of their own passions and desires. Masters writes that for some "license and self determination quickly become the rule, and Christ is robbed of His Authority and Headship" (Peter Masters, Steps for Guidance pg. 30)
Jesus Christ has come to set us free from sin and death. Christians are indeed free in Christ. But why would Christ set sinners free? Why would He set us free from sin and death? Is it so that we may live as we want free from any consequences of our sin, and free to repeat them as often as we like?
Would that really be freedom?
At best, this would only be a "token" freedom...
When we consider how Christ presented this freedom He offers, we see that He does this by calling those enslaved to sin and death to Himself. One of these instances where Jesus calls sinners is recorded for us in Matthew 11.
Matt 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
We must notice that Christ is calling people who serve and work for other masters. We must not fail to see this invitation as a direct challenge to any and all who would claim to have authority over the sinner. Jesus does not need anyone's permission to call sinners to come to Him. He is the Lord of lords and the King of kings, they need his permission.
Furthermore the sinner needs to recognize that Jesus is calling him to leave his former way of life. Coming to Christ involves leaving things behind. What would motivate us to leave? Well Jesus frames the purposelessness of life and work without Him perfectly. Without Jesus our lives are endless and meaningless labor under cruel and harsh conditions.
We must also note that Jesus' invitation is truly universal. Any person who is burdened with much work and exhausted is called to come to Jesus. As He challenges any and all authorities other than His own, He offers rest to all who would come. This rest is His personal gift to all sinners who would come to Him. Receiving the rest, involves receiving the Lord. He is not like the courier guy that drops the package off at the door and leaves. He is the Lord you need to embrace. The Lord who brings you the gift of His kingdom, if you will have Him as your King. The picture becomes clearer as we consider what Jesus says next.
Matt 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in
heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Jesus says all who would receive his rest must take his yoke. You may think to yourself: "This seems contradictory!" Jesus promised rest, but I need to take up His yoke. How does it add up? A yoke involves work and labor, it implies a Lord-servant relationship. But you see it cannot be otherwise! Jesus is the only Lord that can free you from all other cruel and harsh masters that lead by fear, guilt and resentment. The wages of following any other Lord than Christ, is death!
You see Christ is not offering us autonomous freedom. It is not a freedom to be left to ourselves, because that would not be freedom, it would be judgement (Rom 1:24)! He offers us freedom to be his servants as we accept and embrace His Lordship and take up His yoke. He is after all the Good Shepherd, the gentle and lowly in heart King who is able to give rest to your soul.
The question is will you come to the real Lord to receive real freedom? Or are you satisfied with the "token" rule of an absent Lord? Are we satisfied to pretend that the desert is in fact the promised land while we worship any representation of the reign of Christ (like Israel did in the wilderness with the golden calf, pretending that the calf is the Lord and that they have reached the promised rest Ex 32:1-5)?
More importantly, will God be satisfied that his people worship Him in this "token" manner? What would God do with such people?
Exodus 32:10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”