Let us pray: Dear Savior, too often we take our faith for granted and too often we dwell on the many difficulties we face in standing up for You. Today move us to dwell on the positives! Remind us how much better it is to bask in the warm glow of knowing that we’re right with You and nothing can ever take that away. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, IN WHOM WE FIND ETERNAL REST
TEXT: Matthew 11: 27-30
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
When I was in college preparing for the ministry, my old roommate and I had an ongoing debate. I took the view that it was easier to be a Christian in the long run, whereas he adopted the position that it was harder. Now, I admit that it is a little like the “chicken and the egg” debate. That is, Christians are always persecuted for their faith and the Bible does tell us that: “it is through much trial and tribulation” that we shall enter the kingdom of God. At the same time, Christ also says: “without Me, you can do nothing.” That is, no true happiness and real appreciation of life is ever achieved without faith in the Savior.
So, which one of us was right? I could take the “cop-out” position and say: Both. However, on the basis of our text, that wouldn’t be accurate. You see Christianity is about looking to Christ alone and always trying to keep your gaze fixed upon Him and what He has done for us. It is about seizing the love and forgiveness that He hands out to us. It is about centering your life around that love and forgiveness instead of bemoaning how hard it is to stand up for Christ when the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh all say: “It’s a losing cause.” Finally, the point is: it is never a losing cause because Christ won all the marbles in the game of eternal life. He arose! He lives! And knowing that we, too, shall live eternally enables us to stand up to anything and everything.
As we examine this little lesson before us, I want each of you to ponder this question:
WHICH WAY IS EASIER?
Christ had recently received some sad news. Word came to Him that John the Baptist was dead. John had been beheaded by the evil King Herod. Why? Because John would not sugar-coat Herod’s adultery. The Baptist had become a thorn pricking both Herod’s conscience and the lives of those around that evil man. So, Herod silenced him. Do you think the emotional anguish of all this, besides dealing with rejection from cities that Jesus had recently preached in, do you think this bothered Christ? Of course it did! Do you think it bothered the disciples and reduced their emotional level to zero? Of course! Jesus could read their hearts. He knew they were dwelling on the ravages of sin. He knew they were dwelling on the impossible standards of right and wrong along with the faithfulness that God’s Law demanded from all believers. When they looked, both inside themselves, and outside themselves, at the lives of other believers like John, the disciples just wanted to pack it in and quit. Being a Christian was just too hard. It took too great a toll.
Jesus knew that they needed the Gospel. They needed to be reminded of the blessings that outweigh the burden of enduring sin. And so He says to them: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Of course, Jesus is also speaking to you and to me. What wearies us and burdens us in life? Is it believing in Christ? No! God’s love is not a burden. It is a joy. God’s forgiveness is not a burden. It is a blessing. Sometimes we forget that fact. Sometimes, just like St. Paul in today’s epistle, we bemoan our inborn sinfulness and how it inflicts terrors, second-guessing, and general worry upon our lives. Like Paul we know what’s right and wrong and more often than not we pick the wrong way against our Christian judgment. And then, we begin to live with regret over our own impotence. We begin to dwell on our sins so much that we spiral downward into either self-pity (which accomplishes nothing) or we question God’s goodness over loving us.—Thoughts like: why would God die for me? I have nothing to offer Him, so why does He even care about me?—Such things invade our psyche. And yet, to all our self-loathing, Christ says: “Come, and I will give you rest.”
You might be wondering why I’m preaching today about the conscience-stricken person when it seems most of the world has deadened their consciences? Well, I’m not preaching to the world at large, and neither was Christ. Like Him, I’m preaching to believers who are struggling. Believers who have had their consciences awakened.
To you the Lord says: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
When God gave Moses the 10 commandments on Mt. Sinai, He placed a yoke, a heavy wooden burden upon human shoulders. He did this to crush human pride. He did this to cause us to break down under the burden of always being perfect, right, correct, and holy before God. He had to do this, too. For just as the proverbial Phoenix can arose only from its ashes, so an erstwhile child of God can only arise from total despair over their own attempts to attain holiness. Literally, the Law beats such pride out of us. And now, in its place, God in the person of Christ gives us a new yoke to bear. But He says it easy and light.
What is this new yoke? It is the complete and total forgiveness of sins won by Jesus on the cross. It is the complete and total perfection that He achieved for us by His perfectly holy life. It is mercy, kindness, love, and His total sacrifice of self, forged in the crucible of total humbleness, of living and dying for you and me.
Does your conscience trouble you? Good! It means faith is still alive in you, even though you may have done some really awful things in your life. Do you feel unworthy of
God’s love? Good! For it means pride doesn’t totally control you. Moreover, it is only when any of us reaches that point that we’re ready to receive His rest for our souls in grateful faith.
There is not one single thing that you or I have ever done that Jesus didn’t die for and doesn’t forgive. Not one. Knowing that truly does bring “rest for the soul” doesn’t it? And by embracing that rest, clinging to it instead of fighting it, inner peace comes.
So, let’s go back to our question. Which Way Is Easier? To live in doubt and second-guessing, or to live knowing that you’re free to embrace both God and life itself, in love and thankfulness? Yes, the yoke of unconditional love and the burden of forgiveness can only bring lightness to our core being. Amen