Every saviour brings a special experience to the people they are saving. All saviours, whether they be paramedics, surf-life-savers, or rescue helicopter pilots, bring with them the experience of relief, comfort, alleviation, peace and rejoicing to the people they are saving. These are the natural experiences connected with a saviour. A saviour brings the comfort of ‘everything will be okay now’. Saviours who don’t bring those experiences to the people they are saving are not true saviours. Either that, or those being saved have no idea they are in need of being saved!
In light of this, Jesus is called ‘The Saviour of the world’:
“We have seen and testify that the Father sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world.” (1 John 4:14); “We know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.” (John 4:42); “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21); “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)
Experiencing The Saviour Of The World
So, as the greatest and only Saviour of the world, what experience would he give to those he came to save? Isaiah 40:11 says it would be like this: “[Jesus] will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom and gently lead the nursing ewes”.
Who are the ‘flock’, the ‘lambs’, the ‘nursing ewes’? Not literal animals – Jesus did not come for them. These are expressions which figuratively refer to the people whom he came to save. If that’s true, then the people Jesus is saving should know the experience of being taken up into the arms of Jesus and carried in his bosom! This should be a familiar experience for Jesus’ people, should it not? But if that is not our experience as a believer, then surely this is a serious matter? Do we know the Saviour if we know nothing of the experience he brings to those whom he is saving? Properly knowing the Saviour goes hand in hand with properly experiencing the Saviour. You don’t know what you’re not properly experiencing, and you can’t properly experience what you don’t know.
Well, what about God – do we properly know Him? Isaiah puts us to the test in chapter 46 where he defines, for all time, what indicates a true God and what indicates a false god. Amazingly, he defines a false god as one that gives you a burdensome and wearying experience, because you need to carry it:
“Idols are borne by beasts of burden; these things you carry about are burdensome, a burden for the weary. They stoop and bow down together; unable to rescue the burden, they themselves go off into captivity… They lift it to their shoulders and carry it; they set it up in its place, and there it stands. From that spot it cannot move. Though one cries out to it, it does not answer; it cannot save him from his troubles.” – Isaiah 46:1,2,7
The Test Of A True God
The defining feature of a false god is it’s burdensome and needs to be carried on a person’s shoulders! The test of a god’s legitimacy is, who is carrying who? Who is on whose shoulders? A true God will not be found on the shoulders of people. A true God will be found carrying all His people. And so He is, as Isaiah goes on to reveal:
“Listen to me [my people] who have been borne by me from before your birth, who are carried by me from the womb: And even to your old age I am he, and to grey hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear, I will carry and will save.” Isaiah 46:3-4
“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens. Selah. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death.” – Psalm 68:19-20
The experience of the true God is one of being carried in His arms from before your birth and for your entire life until salvation. Now we must ask ourselves a very important question: How do you actually feel in your relationship with God? Do you feel you are on God’s shoulders, or God is on your shoulders? What use is all our Bible understanding about the true God if our experience of Him is like a false god? The true God in knowledge has become a false god in experience, if you feel like you’re carrying Him on your shoulders.
“To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike?” – Isaiah 46:5
Clearly, this means we are hearing about an utterly unique God, who is unlike anything we’ve ever seen! All we’ve ever seen is important people carried on the shoulders of less important people. But here we see the only important and only powerful God of the universe with all His people piled on His shoulders! The experience of the true God should be nothing like you’ve ever known or heard about – He is unique. Don’t come to Him and offer your strength to carry Him – He won’t allow it. Come to Him to be carried on His shoulders and give glory to His strength. Who wouldn’t want a God like this?
So, returning to the one who is ‘the image of God’ – the Saviour Jesus (Colossians 1:15), what is the experience of being carried in his arms? He is not physically here on the earth, carrying us, so in what way do we feel carried by him?
On The Shoulders Of Jesus
Being carried by Jesus is knowing that God has lifted the whole arrangement of our salvation off the shoulders of our performance, and placed the whole arrangement of our salvation on the shoulders of Jesus’ performance; that God has lifted the burden of our eternal existence off our shoulders, and put it on the shoulders of Jesus for him to carry, not us.
Over a number of years, I’ve realised that the greatest burden in my life is my sinfulness and my lack of holiness, which makes me doubt the only important thing in life – my eternal existence with God. What has significance without that? This weight of doubtfulness is lifted off my shoulders by the knowledge that, because I trust Jesus, his performance is carrying my eternal life, and therefore, what I do in sinfulness and fail to do in holiness is not hindering my eternal life because it’s not on my shoulders, but his.
Isaiah 53 explains this beautifully; a chapter full of the carrying Saviour! Consider verse 11:
“By his [Jesus’] knowledge, shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he will bear their iniquities.” Isaiah 53:11
Astonishingly, Jesus carries my righteousness and my sins! On what basis do I become righteous? It’s by ‘his righteousness’ that I’m ‘accounted righteous’, not by my own righteousness. It’s not my performance which is carrying my acceptance, it’s Jesus’ performance which is carrying my acceptance. All the anxieties of committing sins and all the anxieties of falling short of righteousness are no longer burdens, because my salvation is because of Jesus’ life, which has no sins or failures in righteousness. Why would I fear my eternal life because of my sins and my shortcomings in holiness, when my eternal life is not resting on me but on Jesus? I feel carried by the Saviour when I know that no failure in sin, and no shortcoming in holiness is going to cast me away when my life is in his arms. Isaiah 53 tells me that my heaviest burden in life has been placed on Jesus’ shoulders for him to carry because he can and I can’t.
Eternal life is God’s own life. Therefore, nobody has ever been able to carry the weight of their own eternity. But the shoulders of Jesus’ performance can carry the eternities of everyone who puts their trust in him because he lived God’s own life.
That Grace May Abound?
The question which naturally arises out of this for some may be, “Can we just go and sin then? Does this mean I can sin as much as I like?”
Does this message make you want to go and do that?
Do you see this message as an opening to leave the Father to freely sin? You may! But what that would indicate is that you have not yet discovered relationship with the Father or been touched by His grace.
When you’re in relationship with the Father, all His freedom, all His grace, all His love and all His salvation doesn’t make you want to go and leave Him for sin. Discovering relationship with the Father and His Son Jesus both frees us from all burdens and makes us want to be closer to them and more like them.
If we are ever feeling doubtful, heavy, worried, uncertain, burdened or joyless, you can be sure it’s either because we have never discovered the Saviour, or because in some way we have left the carrying arms of the Saviour and taken the burden of our salvation upon our shoulders once again. Feeling doubtful, heavy, worried, uncertain, burdened or joyless are not the experiences of those who are carried in the arms of the Saviour.
The Gospel is truly good news because it invites you to be carried by the Saviour. Let’s make it our deepest ambition and our most earnest pursuit to know and experience the Saviour, as he is truly meant to be experienced.