Summary: True simplicity is a focus on the fundamentals of love, faith, service, and patient endurance. Getting caught up in theological guesses or emotional highs diverts us from "this one thing I do".
Some things are so simple they are hard to understand! Some things are so direct and obvious that we don’t want to accept them as they are. We want to make them complicated.
Have you ever tried to describe to someone how to tie a shoestring? It seems simple until you start to teach it. Left over right, under with the left, pull both strings until tight, loop on the left, wrap with the right, loop in the hole, pull the loops -- what a mess! It’s so simple, and yet it’s hard to understand and even harder to teach. So many things are so simple they are hard to understand.
They tell me that computer programs are written with nothing but zeroes and ones. They are the simplest form of logic, either yes or no. And yet I assure you I do not understand computer programming. It’s not that it’s so complicated. It is that it is too simple. My mind wants more than just lines of zeroes and ones. So many things are so simple they are hard to grasp.
Living life God’s way is so simple that most of us cannot understand it. Living life God’s way is so clear that we won’t accept it. We go off trying to make it more complicated than it really is. We have thousands of laws, hundreds of customs, scores of etiquette rules – why does it really matter where you put the knife and the fork anyway? – and, on top of all of that, we have expectations. Do you know what I mean by expectations? I mean all those things that we are expected to do if we want to fit in. If you are going to fit in with the tailgate party crowd, you need to know how to manhandle your ribs and how to guzzle your beer! If you are going to fit in with teenagers, you’d better know which band is cool today – and it’s not the one that was cool yesterday. Fitting in. We even have expectations here at church, don’t we? The unwritten rules for being at church – when to stand and when to sit, when to sing and when to sit, when to clap your hands and when to sit. Does it sound like when to sit is the most important thing? Oh, you know how to be church folks. You know the fitting in rules. But they can be complicated.
But none of that has anything to do with living God’s way. Living God’s way is so simple that we don’t want to accept it. Over against our gazillions of laws and customs, God hands us Ten Commandments, short and simple, and then, as if even that is too much, Jesus simplifies the ten down to two. Love God and love your neighbor; do that and you’ve got it!
And if you respond that nothing is really THAT simple, I say again that some things are so simple they are hard to understand. Because we do not understand, let alone commit, we get ourselves all knotted up in needless complications. Because we are afraid of committing to the simplicity of God’s way of life, we go instead for messy, burdensome ways. We get lost in the thicket.
Back in the 19th Century a group of people made a decision for the simple life. The group was called the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing. They were commonly called the Shakers, because when they worshipped, they became so full up they literally shook. The Shakers are about gone now, but they left us a legacy of beautifully simple furniture, wonderful clear architecture, and music that takes us straight to God. The best known of the simple songs of these plain folk is called “’Tis the Gift to be Simple”. It will be our theme for this message.
’Tis the gift to be simple,
’tis the gift to be free,
’tis the gift to come down
where we ought to be,
and when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained
to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
to turn, turn, will be our delight
till by turning, turning we come round right.
Simplicity. The church at Thyatira had had a good thing going. In their earliest days they had known who they were, they had known what to do, they had a simple, straightforward way of life. The Lord says that He knows their works – love, faith, service, and patient endurance. Very clear. And it was working. He says, “I know that your last works are greater than the first.” It was going well.
But all of a sudden things got complicated. Things heated up. And the simplicity of their life together was threatened. I want you to see the stuff that invaded Thyatira. It is serious when we are tempted to forget the simple things of life in Christ. True happiness is found in living simply. But Thyatira was in danger of forgetting. Yet, as the Shakers taught us to sing: