At that time Jesus declared, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
This passage has always somewhat reminded me of the poem on the Statue of Liberty.
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
And that is what must of this nation is made up of, the refuse of the world, but yet they managed to create the freest and most prosperous nation the world has ever known.
I'm sure you've heard before that the sermon that preaches best is that which preaches to the speaker. Well I don't know if that is the case but this has been the message God has been boring into me for the last two years. It's taken two years because I'm stubborn.
Tonight I want to speak to you about the rest of Christ. An aspect of our lives that can easily be overlooked if we are not reminded often.
Those of you that know me know that I'm a person that likes big ideas. I enjoy listening to pastors that have what might be considered a “radical” edge to them. Ideas like the fact the with millions of Christians in this country we shouldn't really have to worry about gay couples adopting because we've so freely welcomed orphans into our family. Or that widows can depend on the church for all their needs and not a welfare system. Or maybe the idea that it doesn't really matter how pathetic the Church of Christ may look at times that we can hope in the promise that even “gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”
Like every promise of God these are big ideas and unless we understand the words of Christ here in Matthew 11 we have no hope of not being overwhelmed by them.
As I said God has been teaching me this for the last two years because two years ago I was overwhelmed. Some of you may remember that I had really began to do a great deal of street evangelism then which is a wonderful ministry.
But it became my sin because even though I hold to this great reformed doctrine in theory, in practice I was acting as a humanist as though it depended on me. But not just me but all those around me and since I was going out alone so often I was becoming bitter to my brothers. It lead to many nights of weeping and blaming God for the lack of fruit. In my self righteousness I even managed to compare myself to the weeping prophet Jeremiah.
It all came to a head at some point and I had a spiritual breakdown, but then God in His mercy began to teach me what these verses meant and tonight I'd like to share that with you.
This first point I will make very quickly. The one we rest is Jesus the Christ. The one who is fully God and fully man. The only one who could ever be our eternal high priest and our perfect mediator. The one who died for our sin and the one who rose again to reign forevermore. The one only the Father truly knows and the one who can reveal the Father to us. The one who is was, is and evermore shall be. This is your Lord and your God who speaks these words.
I say that because before we go any further one point must be made clear. This is not just an emotional plea from a feeble prince. This is a direct command from the one whom all creation was created in, through, and for. He is the one says “Come to me and I will give you rest.”
Do not take the words of this King lightly. As much as it is a promise it may also be deemed a threat.
Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, "As I swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter my rest,'" although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.
This is not a idle command. This is a command on which your very soul clings.”Come to me” is not a simple request that one should refuse it and go about their life, because not to “Come”means that you must continue to “Go” on that path which you are already on, a path that leads to destruction.
Hear this command!
Though yes, I do believe it is also an emotional statement. It is rather similar to Christ's statement in Matthew 23:37
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
If we know anything about our God it is that He is holy and He is good. And part of that goodness is that he “desires that none should perish, but that all would reach repentance.”
So that when he gives such a command we can trust that He is truly sincere. He is not like a politician bragging and saying that if you just make Him Lord of your life all your problems will vanish. No, He is the creator and master of all things and thus He lovingly and firmly commands all to come to Him.
And there is your hope, both for us and all who would come.
Are you longing for your children to come to Christ? Are you praying for lost friend to be found by the Good Shepherd? Did you lose a child or suffer a miscarriage?
Then let this be the first place of your rest in Christ. Continue to pray, continue to grieve over their souls, but yet take immense comfort in knowing that you serve a God that longs and desires that they should be saved. And not only is He willing, but that He is able to save. If you ever doubt this simply remember that He saved one as guilty of breaking the Law as one's like you and me.
And in that we find our second point of rest, rest from the Law and the works of it.
When speaking of Israel in Romans 11:5-6 Paul states:
“So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
The Law was as a master under which we were all condemned, but yet in Christ we have a King where find rest in grace.
But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
But not only do we rest from the Law of the Old Covenant, but we also rest from the laws we have fashioned for ourselves.
Like the Pharisees we often “make void the Word of God” that we may keep out own tradition.
Friends do you realize there is always more to be done and always more that someone is going to think you should or should not be doing to live up to the right standard. By the way, the right standard is always their standard and not God's standard.
We could fill all our lives just with things scheduled within the church, and I would half bet that if you're not at one of those things someone is going to think you should be if you really want to be a better Christian.
Consider all the things we have that you may be a part of:
1st Sunday Fellowship
Men in Ministry preaching (like this message)
Well that is just Sunday.
There is also:
Tuesday night C-Group
Wednesday night C-Group
Thursday night C-Group
Friday night C-Group
Saturday night prayer meeting
A host of other prayer meetings.
Men in Ministry Meetings
Baby Shows (many, many baby showers)
Other fellowships here and there
And for a baptist church relatively few committee meetings.
So how many of these do you need to make sure you're at to be considered a good Christian?
Not a single one. Yes, the Lord says not to forsake the gathering of the saints and I'm not going against that, but in general you are not in sin if you do not attend this or that meeting or gathering of the saints.
Many people have worn themselves out, myself being one of them, trying to be at the church every time the doors are open. Why? Because we thought we were in sin or we were worried people would think we were in sin if we did not show up.
That is a lie that will burden the soul and body if let unchecked. There will be times where you will meet with the body more than normal, but that does not mean you must.
There are so many areas where we will add to ourselves a burden that Christ removed. Whether it be am I good enough spouse, parent, employee, friend or any other thing let us not forget in our striving to improve that ultimately that all must come from God's work and not our own.
In a like manner in Christ we rest from our sin. In Him all is forgiven and our sins are forgotten.
As John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
"Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin."
Yes, dear saint when the king looks upon you He no longer sees a sinner on whom His wrath is upon, but a saint in which His Spirit is found.
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
How amazing is this God! The one who takes enemies and adopts them as sons sending His Spirit into us crying “Abba, Father”
We so often focus on our sin. And yes there is a place for that, but only as it points us to the one who redeems us from those sins.
And finally let us remember that not only has He given us rest from the Law, our works, and our sin, but that has given us rest from our shame!
Many of you know that I am a reformed homosexual. I like the word reformed because it partly describes what Christ did in me to give me a heart. Like all sexual sin with that comes a great deal of shame. For many years after coming to Christ and even at times of spiritual attack today I am overwhelmed by this great deal of guilt and shame. The same feelings I had before Christ because His law is written on all men's hearts. It was so overwhelming at times I remember picking up a knife and holding it to my wrist wondering why I should continue to live.
But in Christ oh the joy that floods my soul. In him am I delivered,, and in Him do I rest from that shame.
That is how good He is. That now only can He forgive my sin, but that He would take the shame.
Like a prisoner whose record is ex-sponged there is not even a trace of it.
We are like Israel coming out of slavery in Egypt. But our former masters were much more cruel than Pharoah could ever be. They work load was doubled, but yet ours would have never ended. They made bricks without straw, while we made eternal chains of sin.
But as Moses said to Pharaoh so God commanded our heart of stone. “Let my people Go.” And so out of bondage. We have come to Him in who we find rest. We have run from that City of Destruction and walk towards a Celestial City.
And like the Israelites who took with them the gold and riches of their former masters so we too may escaped with something infinitely greater, Christ Himself.
But we rest not just for the sake of resting. Rest is only useful we it leads us to the work we are meant to perform. When we are well rested we are only then truly fit to be ready for war, only then can we truly serve.
We are part of the body of Christ. All called to serve and work with one another.
If the feet are trying too busy doing the work of the ears then we will never move the Kingdom forward. If the teachers are too caught up in hospitality ministry then the Church will not be properly taught. Each part should work primarily on that which they are meant to do.
Of course at times you may be asked to work in other areas, but it should not be your normal function.
When we are well rested and have put off the other burdens which hold us down then we can do what God has called us to do.
Our text reads, “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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Yokes are meant for work. Yokes are wooden beams placed between two animals to hold them together so their work is increased.
We are yoked together with Christ Himself! Of course the yoke is easy! Imagine you a college freshman at Jeffco and through some strange program you end up teaming up with the best and brightest minds in their field who are much older with a great deal of wisdom.
While you may do some work it is these others who will complete the project.
Now consider that you are working together with the One who created the universe.
Who do you really think is going to be doing the work?
The point is that God Himself will complete the work that He has planned and all that you must do is be obedient and rest in that promise.
Whatever God wills He will bring to completion. He will finish what He started. And He will do it for your good and his glory.
If you are in Christ every sovereign decree from God will be for your good and His glory.
When you get a promotion at work it is for your good and His glory. When you lose your job it is for your good and His glory. When you are healthy and when you have cancer it is for your good and His glory. When you have a child or lose a child it is for your good and His glory.
Whatever the circumstance in life we rest in knowing that every promise of God will be completed.
And let that rest bolster us on. Let it send us to run until the race we have been given is finished.
Consider those who have already run before.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
In Him you rest and in Him you run.
Run. Run as you have never run before! Run to Christ! And as you think of that cloud of witnesses surrounding you. Think of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Think of Joseph and Job. Think of David and Daniel. Thank of John, Paul, and Peter.
Think of them standing there cheering you on as you run and proclaiming “His promises are true. His rest is eternal. I know because He brought even one like me a liar, an adulterer, a cheat, and He brought me to the end. And He will bring you there too.”
And as they cheer also look to the one in front of you. The one who is ever with you, and yet the one to whom you long to see. In the distance, at the finish their sits Christ. He is seated because His work is already completed. There He seats waiting. Waiting and commanding that you Come and rest!”
As I close let me offer a few suggestions that you may remember the rest Christ gives.
First, look to history. Both in and out of the Scriptures you will continually see God's gracious providence.
I understand many have been taught that history is just boring facts and figures, but when we view it correctly we will see it as a record of God using both triumph and tragedy to bring about His sovereign will.
Let me read you a quick passage of a historical figure who greatly understood God's sovereign rest.
It a brief letter from Stonewall Jackson after the death of his first wife at the time of their stillborn son.
“I have been called to pass through the deep waters of affliction, but all has been satisfied. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord. It is his will that my Dearest wife and child should no longer abide with me, and as it is his holy will, I am perfectly reconciled to the sad bereavement, though I deeply mourn my loss.
“Oh! The consolations of religion! I can willingly submit to anything if God strengthens me. I have joy in knowing that God withholds no good things from them that love and keep his commandments. And he will overrule this Sad, Sad bereavement for good.“
That is just one example of many historical figures along with many event where you can more deeply understand rest in Christ.
Also you may look to who are in Christ. As I said earlier yes, you may look to your sin, but only as a springboard that it should point you to the cross where it is forgiven. Think on it that God has made you holy and righteous. That He has redeemed you and restored you. That you His adopted son, an heir of God and co-heir with Christ. That you are part of a holy priest in the Kingdom of God. Think on what He has made you.
And of course think on Christ. He has made a promise that will not be broken, a covenant that cannot be revoked. He sealed it in His own blood and will bring it to fruition.
Think on these and they will lead you to the never-ending rest of Christ.