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“Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for.  Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labour.”

So then who has done the hard work?  Those who have gone before us, yes, but who amongst those who have gone before us?  If you are looking to the heroes of faith like the prophets who were killed by Israel or to those who were martyred for holding onto the word of God and their testimony, yes.  However, if you are speaking of Israel or the general church, then, no.  For the Israel that disobeyed so repeatedly that God had to hand them over to Nebuchadnezzar did not do the hard work, but the easy work of sliding down.  Likewise for those of the church population who continuously compromise on the truth about Jesus and His teachings, seeking convenience rather than obedience, popularity rather than solidarity with the Son of the one true God.  Theirs may be the doctrines, the traditions and the rituals, but theirs is not the hard work.

Rather, it is those who poured out their life to preach the good news without compromise and held onto the little they knew with the faith they had who have done the hard work.  They are not found on gilded altars or fine buildings with masoned stones, but in patches of plain Earth covered over with common grass.  So even as we reap the benefits of the labours of those who bore the heat of the day, let us be sure whom we are looking to.

Surely no one has laboured as much as Christ, our King, in His ministry, in His death, and since His ascension, in His intercessions at the right hand of His Father.  For a Man to minister to crowds as He did in the villages and cities of Galilee without the modern conveniences of our jet-setting evangelists, to hang on a roman cross for six hours and then to endure two millenniums of watching His teachings diluted, disobeyed and discarded whilst those who do so continue to use His Name to bolster their semblance of righteousness before men… now, elect, that is hard labour.  So keep this in mind as the days of distress increases upon this Earth and you find yourself having to labour at what little task the Lord has assigned to each of us individually and corporately.

If you find the task of interceding for one another, for our enemies and for whatever that each day may bring tiresome, always encourage yourself, looking not to the crowds or miracles or signs or wonders, but at the Man Himself.  The Man who was never too tired or too weary to speak about His Father or to reach out and heal yet another blind man, yet another woman with the issue of blood, yet another few hundred of the lame, sick, crippled and the demon-possessed, even though He Himself was tired and grieving over the loss of His own cousin, John.  The Man who could not even find a place to eat without the house being filled with people needing His attention or having His critics murmur about the people He was eating with or about the condition of their unwashed hands.  Consider Him who walked those dusty roads of Galilee, going up to Jerusalem and back again, up to Jerusalem and back again for those three or so years.  Are you labouring in your daily life?  No, for that which we are doing is light and easy indeed.

When the responsibility of your life – your obligations of the ordinary and the supernatural – weighs heavy on your shoulders so that you feel the need to work for your daily bread and the need to read, practise, write and obey the Bread of Heaven crushing you, then look at the Man who carried His cross on that path to Calvary.  Until you have walked that path in His condition, your load is indeed light.

If you find forgiving those who have sinned against you hard and challenging, almost impossibly unbearable, again look not at the cross, no, for to look at the cross is to insult the Man who carried the cross and who worked out forgiveness upon it, writing each and every painful stroke of that word with His blood and sweat.  No amount of pain or effort you go through and experience can compare with those six hours upon the cross by the Man who let Himself be lifted up on it.

No, indeed, when you learn to look and see the Man beyond the glory of the Heavenly throne, the horror of that manmade tree and thrill of miracles, signs and wonders, you realise the immensity of this truth:  “Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labour.” But what did He labour for?  What did those heroes who lost their all for the sake of the word of God and their testimony labour for?  For a fine sounding title that men may revere them?  For a barn made of marble and decorated stones with gold gilded altars?  To walk around in flowing robes, tall hats, fine linen and phylacteries?  To be surrounded and acknowledged by the populace as being holy and righteous?  To raise up a religious, political, military, economic system that could plunder and pillage the world?  Does anyone seriously think that the martyrs under the altar care for these things when their heart cry is, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until You judge the inhabitants of the Earth and avenge our blood?”

No, they laboured for the truth to be made known, the truth they came to know and live by, just as He laboured to reveal to us the truth, the whole and complete truth of God who is His Father and the love that so consumes that God “…gave His only begotten Son… to save the world…”

So then, the benefits of their labour – His divine labour and the sacrificial labour of the martyrs – are not that which are highly valued in the eyes of men who seek to benefit themselves… but lay in first seeing the truth for which they laboured.  Their truth, not some cleverly concocted story or fantasy based on some vision, dream or revelation, but the truth that can be confirmed and verified by witnesses and that which can be reproduced every time the teachings are obeyed and the conditions are met.

When Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” He never said anyone would be set free holding onto the teachings of Moses or be set free by them… but by His own.  Nor has He ever said that freedom comes from holding onto the teachings and traditions of those who come in His Name.  Rather, He emphatically warned that we should, “Watch out that you are not deceived.  For many will come in My Name, claiming, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ “ Rather, it has always been His teachings that hold the promised freedom, and if it is in His teachings, then it is His labours that hold the benefits.

So if we find that we have been believing and working and yet have not reaped the freedom and benefits that should come from holding onto teachings and labours that seem to be His… it is time to check and test not just our faith, as Paul suggested, but rather, check and test the identity of the Christ we are following and believing.

For He who said the words that began this letter was born in the northern spring when lambs were born so that shepherds stayed up through the night to watch the flocks, and born of a virgin who did not remain a virgin but had four sons and a few daughters by her husband after He was born.  This is the same Jesus who commanded His disciples, “And do not call anyone on Earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and He is in Heaven.” The time of His birth is verified by the wisdom of Caesar Augustus who would not have been foolish enough to order a census of his empire in the middle of winter, but in the spring when people could travel to where they needed to be to be counted.

For, elect, there are now in our time many different ‘christs’, some who even bear the same name as our Jesus, in complete fulfilment of the prophetic word of Jesus, “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.” There is one whose birth is celebrated mid-winter, whose mother remained a virgin after His birth and who permits His followers to call many men ‘father’, as if they are children of prostitutes who do not know who their father is.  For what that christ laboured, I know not, and so what benefit those who follow him will reap, they know not, for he is not the Christ of Scripture.

But we know who our Christ is, and we know His labours, and so we know the benefits of His labours that we will reap unto ourselves if we abide in Him and His word abides in us.  As we have held onto His teaching, we have come to know the truth and the truth has set us free in ever increasing degrees day by day.  Indeed, the psalmist was true to say in his dismay, “All men are liars,” for if those who say they follow the Christ would lie about His first day of life and lineage, whose word can you rely on except the word of God?  So, let us stand with Paul in agreement, Let God be true, and every man a liar. So, let us not seek to reap the benefits of the labours we do not know, but rather, reap the benefit of the labours of the One we know, and if that labour is true, then the days of distress that are unleashed will reveal their benefits… if not, then let us perish as all who are deceived should perish unless God has mercy.

Look then to the Man whose labours’ benefits you are reaping and truly you will say… He has borne the heat of the day.

Elect, who is your Christ?  He is the One who was born in the northern spring when Caesar Augustus held the first census of the roman empire, born of a virgin who did not remain a virgin… and we who follow Him acknowledge or call no other men ‘father’, for we have only one Father, and He is in Heaven.  He is my Christ… this Jesus of Nazareth.

So, who is your Christ?  When was he born?  What sort of woman was his mother?  And who does he let you call ‘father’?  Speak, so that I may come to know your christ as I would share the Christ I know and follow so that God is proved true.

Amen.

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