In my view, anyone who elevates the Bible above all other literature, cultures, and morays is doing it a disservice. The Bible should be interpreted in context alongside all the other bodies of knowledge handed down through generations. Was the gospel Paul preached written prior to him preaching or did he claim a new Spirit revealed gospel? In the 1st century, he was labeled a heretic by the religious community. His gospel survived because he fashioned it to answer a dilemma regarding the salvation of Gentiles and their status with Jews. It was in his mind a new revelation and he suffered to give it Birth. We have such challenges to salvation in our time that need bold voices to speak and reveal what God is saying in our time. Anyone who lives by scripture and verse has not allowed the Spirit to speak. Even Paul cautions against such dogmatic positions. I’m sure Paul did not envision his letters being canonized in a book by an oppressive regime and given as the final Word of God in any matter. In fact, Paul urged people to pray and ask the Holy Spirit for understanding and deeper insight. Even the Law of Moses was not final for Jesus in many sermons reinterpreted it and issued a new edict based on a higher knowledge of God’s Intention. We should be students of the Word engaging our total being in a conversation with God and the Word people have shared regarding God’s Word revealed to them. The Holy Spirit empowers such boldness and I pray for more disciples like Paul who will take the steps to hear a fresh word from God in this season and not a stale cultural bread steeped in the past.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
I learned so much from watching the hit television show “The Preachers of LA.” II can’t wait to watch “The Preachers of Detroit.” These shows highlight the flamboyance of certain high profile preachers and the ministries they share within their communities.
Yet some people get the message confused with the messenger. However, the fact remains that the messengers of God come in all different shades. No two messengers approach the task the same. Each of us has to obey God and relay the message the way god has shaped it within our heart. And you cannot be the barometer as to whether we’re pleasing God or not. Only sinners who are weary and heavy laden can judge whether the message is valid.
Well, John the Baptist felt the same way about Jesus’ approach. He questioned whether Jesus actually was a messenger of God. John sent questions to Jesus about his authenticity. John wanted Jesus to validate his claim to be the Messiah. Albeit the Holy Spirit had shown John the sign that Jesus was the one prophesized about in the Scriptures, John still wanted Jesus to verify his claim. Why? Their lifestyles and approaches to ministry were so different.
John lived an aesthetic lifestyle. He denied himself the pleasures of this world. He lived in the wilderness, ate wild locusts and honey and never cut his hair. From all appearances he lived as a Nazarite in the Old Testament. A Nazarite was forbidden to touch dead bodies, marry a foreigner, or drink wine. John came preaching, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” So did Jesus, but Jesus lived a different lifestyle.
Jesus came eating and drinking, hanging out with sinners, attending wedding parties, in addition to attending synagogue and participating in the worship of God, the Father. Jesus had a life that he used to influence sinners to discipleship. He used every avenue he could to reach people. His was a different approach than John, the Baptist. Yet, his message was the same. “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand. The Great Invitation remained the same: Accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and Follow Him.
Well, if that is true, and it is. Why don’t people respond to the message rather than the messenger?
First, immature people are listening to the message [v.16-17]. They are immature in the sense of not being ready to act on the message. Most of those who hear the word of God concerning repentance and salvation have not yet attained the conviction of sin being despicable to God. They don’t realize how much God hates sin, nor do they hate sin. Most people just want to be appeased and given a sense of release from the weight of sin for that moment. But in order for you to appropriately hear the gospel, you must have reached a point of hatred and disgust with the sinful life you’re living. You need to be sick and tired of being sick and tired. You must be ready for change, not temporary change, but eternal change. You must be ready for rest. This is what is means to be weary and heavy laden. This is what it means to be ready for God to intervene in your life. And until you seriously come to hate the sin you’ve committed then you’re like a child being entertained. You may laugh or you may cry, but you’re not going to change.
Second, the message is being shared in ways that seek to please people and deal with their present situation rather than their eternal destination [v.18-19]. Jesus has stated emphatically in these passages that until a person is ready to change, they will always criticize the messenger rather than deal with the message. It doesn’t matter how holy the messenger lives in the eyes of people, or how loose the messenger lives in the eyes of people. What matters is whether the messenger is being faithful to the God who called him/her to deliver the message. Socrates stated, “To Thine Own Self be True.” I now add, “To God Be True.” In other words, be true to what God told you. Tell it the way he told it to you; approach the people he sends you to the way he tells you to approach them. Don’t try to fit some preconceived notion of people. People will get you off track; people will get you killed; people will get you fired. Don’t allow anyone to cause you to make yourself more important than the message God has given you to offer. It is the message that will deliver those who are ready to respond. Keep your focus on eternal destinies not temporary, emotional highs and lows. God is concerned about both, but his message is intended to get a person’s spiritual life in proper order. For it is the spirit that dictates how well a person will live in this temporary world. Seek only to please God as you do his work in the earth.
Third, the options being presented are not exclusive enough [v.25-27]. It must be made clear that there is only one way to find peace from the weight of sin and guilt caused by alienation from God. We live in a world that offers many ways to salvation, peace, and rest. Yet, the church is charged to represent Christ and Christ alone. The people don’t respond to mixed messages. We must be consistent in the fact that there is only one way of salvation acceptable to God according to the Bible. That way is through faith in His son. Without such faith, rest cannot be obtained. Jesus is the only one who can connect a weary and labored sinner to the Father and only the Father can give rest. Only the Father can lift the burden of sin; only the Father can forgive, restore, and refresh a life broken by sin.
Who then can respond to this exclusive spiritual message of rest and peace?
First, only the weary can respond [v.28]. The word “weary” means, “worn out; having one’s patience, tolerance, or liking exhausted; causing tiredness.” If you are just looking for absolution from guilt but you really enjoy the sin, don’t come to Jesus. The fact of the matter is you’re not ready. You have to be a person who’s sinful life causing you grief, pain, and worry. Your sin must cause you to walk the floor at night crying out to God for help. Your sin must cause you to cry bitter tears at inopportune times and in inappropriate places. Your sin must cause you to not only ask for forgiveness but also cause you to resolve never to do it again. You need to not just want to be let off the hook; you need to be ready to destroy the behavior that put you on the hook in the first place. You’ve got to be worn out with the sin. If you’re not weary, don’t fake it, wait.
Second, only those willing to change can respond [v.29]. A clear definition of insanity is “to keep doing the same things you’re doing now but to keep expecting a different result.” Jesus offers the sinner a lifestyle that is no longer independent. Jesus offers to take the sinner by hand and heart and lead them into a place they have never entered before. It is a place of rest. Rest, much needed rest, from the heartaches and mental anguish caused by sin, guilt, and shame. Jesus invites the repentant sinner to a new way of living. Jesus invites the sinner to begin a relationship with God by following him. It is this relationship with God that offers rest and peace to a sin sick soul. This is a call to change! It is a call to rest! No more judging or criticizing self; no more beating up on yourself. It is looking through eyes of faith at the God of salvation knowing that He loves you. Once Jesus allows you to see the love of God, rest and peace follows. There is no greater joy than knowing that God, your creator loves you regardless of what you’ve done or where you’ve been. There is no greater peace and rest than knowing that your God will always be there for you and that he will help you grow and succeed in life.
This is the Great Invitation. Jesus invites you to change. Jesus calls you to stop living your life apart from God and to begin living your life in His presence. Jesus assures you that when you accept his invitation; rest and peace shall be your reward. Your soul will be filled with the radiating glory of the goodness of God, the Father. Your spirit will be made alive, quickened, by the spirit of the Father. Your live will begin anew. God will be your God and you will be adopted into his family.
How then shall the weary and heavy-laden respond? First, come to Jesus [v.28]. You’ve tried alcohol, drugs, women, work, and the world. Now, walk out of that quagmire of confusion and decide to receive faith in God’s Son. Simply turn around and listen to what Jesus is saying to you right now.
Second, become a disciple of Jesus Christ [v.29]. Decide to embrace Jesus as Lord. The Word of God says, “That if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord; and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead you will be saved.” What you do is confess that your efforts have failed, and left you weary with guilt. Confess that you have found no other way able to release you from the guilt of sin, and then call on the name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.
Third, learn from Jesus Christ. A disciple is one who is under discipline of the teacher. In other words, you exchange your way of doing and being right for that of what the Word of God says you should do to be right. As a disciple you constantly change to comply with what the word of God asks you to do. As a disciple you embrace change as a way of life. Jesus sought to please the father by obeying his word and so do you. Jesus sought to be a blessing and so do you as you prosper in the things of God and in this world. As a disciple you seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness. As a disciple you belong to God in Christ.
Finally, as a result of coming to Jesus, becoming his disciple and learning from him, you enter a period of rest and peace. Rest from the bondage of sin that caused you to be restless and worn. Rest from the power of repeated and habitual sin dominating your life. Rest from the constant search of looking for a way out. Rest from the fast paced life. Rest from worrying about where you will spend eternity.
Everyday in every way your life will begin to get better because you know Jesus Christ. This is God’s Great Invitation. He wants your life to be peaceful, restful, and successful. Will you come to Him? Are you weary of sin? Are you willing to change? If so, come to Jesus, become His disciple, and learn his way of doing and being right. He is here for you right now. Why not lay down your heavy burden and let Christ pick you up and bring you out of your pit of despair? I assure you that the love of God will be found in the face of Jesus Christ. Come to Jesus!