Monday, August 24, 2009

An Invitation To Rest

"Come to Me, all you who weary and burdened, 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."
Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus spoke these words after He had been teaching and performing miracles in cities that didn't repent and didn't receive Him. He had denounced those cities and turned to the crowd following Him and invited them to come to Him. This was a new message that the crowd was hearing. It was the first time they were not given more laws and traditions to obey. They were simply invited to follow Him and to rest. How foreign this message must have been for those who had been bound by the laws and the traditions of the Pharisees. When Christ invited them to come to Himself, it was an invitation to come to a person, not an ideology, not a philosophy, and not an ever growing set of rules. It was an invitation to enter into a deeply intimate relationship with Him. 

The Jews who labored hard to keep the law must have been touched by His invitation. At the same time, the invitation had to seem strange because they greatly feared God and didn't view God as personal or approachable. I can so relate to that because, as a child, I had a distorted view of God. I knew He loved me and died for me, but I also pictured Him as distant and angry. I believed He was waiting for me to mess up so He could zap me. I didn't know what the zap would be, but I was terrified of it. While fear was a strong deterrent from sin, it kept me burdened down with the weight of trying to earn God's love and approval. It kept me from resting in His love and enjoying the opportunities I had to worship Him. 

Notice the word picture of the "yoke" used in the verse. A yoke is a molded piece of wood attached to two animals so they work together and go in the same direction. We are on one side of the yoke and Christ is on the other and we are going through this life yoked with Him. He is bearing the brunt of the weight of life as He is leading us in the right path. Just as a yoke was custom made to fit each particular animal, our yoke with Christ meets our specific needs and helps us to do the work we have been specifically called to do.

The verses also tell us Christ was "gentle and humble in heart." The Jews did not see Him that way, yet the gospels show those characteristics consistently. He left heaven and lay in a bed made of a feeding trough. He grew up the stepson of a Carpenter. He ate with prostitutes, tax collectors, and disabled people. He spoke with love and respect to people bound by sin. He intermingled with the despised Samaritans. He touched people who were sick with leprosy, blind both physically and spiritually, and those paralyzed and deprived of hope. He approached those bound by demons who were extremely different. Yet, His people rejected Him and He died the death of a criminal to demonstrate God's love to a broken, fallen world. When I am accused of something I've not done, my pride rises up and I'm ready to fight. Yet, He took our sin and died in our place on the cross to give us eternal and abundant life.

I love His invitation to learn from Him. We can follow His example to learn to love with a love that requires humility and grace. Humility brought us to the Lord. We came empty handed, depending only on His mercy and grace. One way to tell if we are walking in humility is to examine our attitudes. Do we look down on those who don't have money, use vulgar language, are disabled, or who have chosen a sinful path? Could we dine with various people and not worry about what friends might say? Hopefully, we can see past someone’s dress, language, race, sin or disabilities and see people who God created and deeply loves. During His life, Christ loved broken, selfish people like us. He wants us to do the same. Are we available and humble enough to allow Him to love through us? 

I love His promise of rest. We can be free from our sin to focus on God. We can be free from legalism to walk in His love. We can be free from people pleasing tendencies, relying on His love to empower us to love others.. We can be free from bitterness, experiencing peace that comes with extending grace and forgiving. We can be free from anxiousness, finding God's perfect peace. We can be free from discouragement, having hope. We can be free from hurt, experiencing healing. We can be free from fear and have Christ's boldness. We can be free from the weariness of self as we are transformed into Christ's likeness. We can be free of trying to earn acceptance and enjoy the acceptance that we already possess. We can be free from a lack of purpose and fulfill our God-given one. We can be free from trying to earn God's love and enjoy the love already poured lavishly upon us. The verb "take" implies something has been offered and that we must receive it. Christ has offered His teaching. It was not like the teaching of the Pharisees who added burden to burdens and guilt to guilt…it gives relief. It gives hope. It cleanses us. Our burdens become lighter as His love fills us and we live the life He created us to live.

Prayer: Father thank you for inviting us to come to You and for taking our burdens and our vain toil. Thank you for teaching us. You are gentle and humble…you washed feet, rubbed shoulders with the poor, touched lepers, restored sight to the blind, and taught the masses who were so hungry to learn. Thank you for your peace. We so need it in the face of storms. Thank your light and your truth, we need it desperately in this dark world. Thank you for loving us with an eternal pure love. It is so refreshing in a world that often hates. AMEN.

1 comment:

  1. I love the way you discribed the yoke. You have a way with words thanks for sharing that. It helps to know that the faith and hope we have in him is right next to us even though he might seem so far away.



Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!