We suffer from spiritual exhaustion which is the fruit of our human sinfulness.
JANUARY 17, 2022
Justin Holcomb: We suffer from spiritual exhaustion which is the fruit of our human sinfulness. Let’s talk about it on, Key Life.
This is Key Life. We are here to let you know that because of what Jesus has done, God will never be angry at you again. Steve invited our friend, Justin Holcomb to do the teaching this week. Justin is an Episcopal priest, an author and professor at Reformed Theological Seminary.
Justin Holcomb: Thank you Matthew. My name is Justin Holcomb, and I have the joy of teaching this week. And this week we’re focusing on something called the comfortable words. And these are four specific Scripture verses and in the Anglican tradition, where I’m a minister, these verses are meant to be read altogether and in a particular order by the minister, right after the confession of sin. So there is a logic and a flow. Let me give you those four verses and I’ll be repeating these, but the first one is Matthew 11:28, which is considered God’s invitation to us. Second is John 3:16, which is God’s disposition. Third is I Timothy 1:15, and that is God’s diagnosis of the human problem. And then the fourth is I John 2:1-2, which has God’s remedy for that diagnosis. Now, like any good confession of sin, you confess your sins against God and against your neighbor for things that we have done, sins of commission. And things we’ve left undone, things of omission. And these sins of things done and left undone, they are done in thoughts and words and in deeds. Let me just, let’s just review that real quick, we’re sinning against God and neighbor, things done left undone and things done in thought, word and deed. And that’s extremely comprehensive. And when you are going that comprehensive with regard to your confession and reflection on sin, it can drive your mind to a God who we think is ready to crush us and looking forward to doing that. And these comfortable words are doing something different. They’re presenting to you, a patient savior who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness and forgiving sin. And that’s important because if we have an image of Jesus as the Lord of doom, who’s gazing from his lofty place in heaven, happily ready to judge you as guilty and condemned, that can create great anxiety and fear. But these comfortable words are actually organized by Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the English reformation in the 1500’s. And he did these four comfortable words, as he did in this order because he wanted the people to understand, first and foremost, that Christ is the good shepherd alluring back his lost sheep by the power of his self sacrificing love. And I’m getting a lot of my thinking on the history of this and the importance of this from a wonderful resource by one of my friends, his name is Ashley Null, and he wrote a book called Divine Allurement: Cranmer’s Comfortable Words. And that could be a good resource for you if you want to study this more, but let’s jump into this first comfortable word, Matthew 11:28.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
In this first word, is about God’s invitation, is a gentle invitation to weary humans because human misery is caused by the captivity and destructive power of sin. And this is something that we are all cursed with, though the particular sins and the particular exhaustions may take different forms. And that’s why the invitation from Jesus is to all, come to me all. Jesus invites anyone who has felt weary and is carrying a heavy burden to come to him for rest. The human condition is to feel weary and burdened by the guilt of sin that we commit. But that’s not the only burden. We’re also weary because of the sins done against us. And in addition to the sins we commit, the sins done against us, we are burdened because of the effects of sin in the world, all around us. Just think of sickness, suffering and death. And that is why as a minister, after confession of sin, and we read these comfortable words and I declare forgiveness, I ask God to pardon and deliver us from all sin because the effects of sin are so rampant. This first passage acknowledges the depth of human longing for good news and our need for rest. And that’s the pastoral point of the first word. We suffer from spiritual fatigue and that fatigue is the most readily apparent fruit of human sinfulness, but there is good news. God favors the weak, not the spiritually proud or arrogant, Jesus embraces the meek and the broken, the humble ones who feel swamped with heavy burdens. Martin Luther captures this great and his wonderful quote.
God receives none but those who are forsaken, restores health to none but those who are sick, gives sight to none but the blind and life to none but the dead, he has mercy on none but the wretched and gives grace to none but those who are in disgrace.
That’s the end of the quote. And this message of the gospel is for all because we are all weary and we are all heavy burden. And it’s no small thing that Jesus spent so much time with tax collectors, lepers, outcasts, and other sinners, which is how it’s referred to in the gospels, just a catch all phrase, that Jesus got the reputation for being a glutton and a drunkard because he spent lots of time with people who would have been considered spiritual losers of his day. And this message is all over the Bible.
God rejects the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
A broken and contrite heart, God will not despise.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.
There’s an incredible moment, at the beginning of Ernest Hemingway’s short story, The Capital of the World. A father comes to Madrid searching for his estranged son Paco, but turns up empty. And in an act of desperation, the bereft man places, a short ad in the city paper, and it says. Paco, meet me at Hotel Montana, 12 noon, Tuesday. All will be well in all is forgiven, Papa. And when the man arrives at the hotel at the appointed time, he can’t believe his eyes. Crowd of 800 young men all named Paco, awaited his arrival. These 800 men are anxious for restoration and reconciliation with their father. And this image captures the hope and desire of the broken hearted and crushed in spirit, who need to hear from God, all will be well in all is forgiven, come and rest. One way he gives us rest, applies to us in the forgiveness of our sins. We have rest in this life because we are forgiven of our sins, as Romans 8:1 tells us.
There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Another way he gives us rest, is that God cares about the sins done to us. As we are harmed and mistreated by others. God offers hope and healing, that all will be well one day. And being his people establishes our identity and worth. In Zechariah, there’s a promise that it says.
Whoever touches you touches the apple of God’s eye.
In touching here, refers to harmful touching or plundering of God’s people. In this passage says that it is tantamount to injuring God. So, when we are sinned against, we have a category for that, apple of his eye is a remarkable expression. It represents one of the most important and vulnerable parts of the body. But to strike a blow at God’s people is a strike at God, wounding him in a most sensitive area. Apple of his eye describes something precious, easily injured and demanding protection. And we will be marked by one of three things in life. What we have done, which feels like guilt and condemnation. What’s been done to us, which is usually expressed in shame or by what Christ has done for us in his ministry of reconciliation, which brings to us forgiveness, hope and rest. And that is why this first comfortable word is so important. Whether you are weary from sin that you’ve done or sin done to you, we will have eternal rest when God will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more mourning or death or crying, pain, weariness or even burdens, but that is the rest to come. And there is rest, now. We are invited to cast all our anxieties and cares on God, because he cares for us. The peace of God that passes all understanding, keeps our hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God. And God takes some of the future rest, of eternal life in heaven with him, when everything is made right. And sometimes he brings that future rest and breaks into the right now experience of our exhaustion, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, so.
Come to Jesus, all who are weary and heavy burdened, and he will give you rest.
And Jesus invites you to him. He’s not pointing you back to yourself with advice of weariness management or techniques for rest maximization. And of course there are great techniques and advice for dealing with weariness in the here and now, but Jesus is not opposed to those, but he’s addressing the deeper exhaustion we all experience. So in that moment, it’s all about him in who he is and what he has done and his disposition toward you. He wants you to come to him. To all of us who are burdened exhausted by our sin for its effects. The first gift of the comfortable words is that God acknowledges our misery. We do not have to hide our longing and need for good news, even better. God loves to respond and provide the rest we need for our exhaustion. Let’s pray. Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray, to give more than we either desire or deserve. Pour upon us, the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things with our consciousness has prayed and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Thank you Justin. That was Justin Holcomb teaching about comfortable words. I don’t know about you, but I need to hear that, if that’s you too, we invite you to join us again tomorrow and for the rest of the week. There’s a phrase we use here at Key Life, radical grace, but it’s tricky, right? Like, is there any other flavor of grace? Is there a not radical grace? Is there a grace where you would just describe it as, pretty good? Well, to answer that question, no, there is no other kind of grace. The radical is there, simply because we so easily forget. If you could use a reminder of how truly amazing grace really is, we have a free booklet, we’d love to send you called Radical Freedom: Surprising Faithfulness. It’s a newly reprinted excerpt from Steve’s classic book, A Scandalous Freedom. Get your copy right now by calling us at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail Steve@keylife.org to ask for that booklet. If you’d like to mail your request, send it to
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