Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV) “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.”
I have been burdened, ironically, with this verse lately. Burdened in a non-burdensome way, but in a freeing and restful kind of way. I have been mulling this over, chewing on it for a few days now and thinking about what it does mean and what it cannot mean.
There can be two very big misconceptions (at least) when we hear, “come to me” or “follow me” from Jesus. One misconception is that we have to clean ourselves up and be pretty close to sinless so that we can come to Him and follow Him without hypocrisy. Another misconception is that Jesus is okay with who you are what you are entrenched in and you can follow Him and carry along with you all of your blatant, unrepentant sin.
This verse cannot mean endorsement for sin. When Jesus was face to face with the woman caught in the very act of adultery, he said, “Go and sin no more.” He didn’t pass out condoms. He didn’t come face to face with drug users and give them clean needles. He never had a meeting with a drunk man, tax collector (thief), or a man who loved his money and stamped an endorsement on their lifestyle. Nope, he said “follow Me.” As in: leave it all, and be like me.
But it also cannot mean that we can’t struggle, sin, or even be entrenched in sin to come to Him. But in coming to Him, by necessity of following, we begin to do what he does. We begin to go and sin no more. It also isn’t a one time coming to Him, like the start line of a race and then the rest of the race we have to remain sinless and sin-managing. We don’t get saved by grace and then have to do all the sin-managing on our own by good effort and works. We all struggle with sin, some private, some very public. Some discreet, some loud. But in coming to Him, we choose daily, moment by moment to leave our sin and be like Him.
So, friend with an alcohol problem. It’s not really an alcohol problem, it’s a worship problem. Come to Him. You are looking for rest from life’s problems in a bottle, but you won’t find it there. You will find rest in Jesus. Friend with a food problem. You are looking to food to satisfy you and comfort you. But Jesus says, come to Me! You are heavy laden, you are weary because you are trying to find comfort outside of Me. Come to Me and you will find rest for your soul.
What does it mean to come to Jesus? Realize that everything you have been and are apart from Christ is sin. Repent of your desire to find rest in anything but Him. Leave your sin. Ask God for that grace to purpose to be in Him, to trust Him, to obey Him.
Don’t hold your sin in one arm like a dirty teddy bear and link arms with Jesus with the other arm. Jesus used the analogy of an ox with a yoke. When the oxen were yoked to each other, there was a bondage there. It was being tied to another and you were one in purpose and in the labor set before you. Jesus was saying, be bonded to me, be tied with me. Be one in purpose with me, do the job I have for you. But not alone! I will do it with you. Let me show you the kind of Master I am. Kind and comforting and giving of rest. Easy to be yoked to.
Jesus said you can’t serve two masters. You either love one or hate the other. You can’t serve both God and money. So, then, you can’t serve any sin and be yoked with Jesus. To continue the oxen analogy, you can’t be yoked to one ox (sin) and be yoked to a completely different ox (Jesus) at the same time. But don’t misread me. It’s not that you are to do something with your sin. Jesus has done something with your sin. At the Cross. And so, when you repent, you are just agreeing with Jesus. “Yes, I agree that you took my sin. This very sin that I am struggling with right now. Or this sin that I am taking such delight in and enjoying. This sin that I don’t even want to give up, that I love so much. This sin, I give to you and I agree that you have taken my sin and freed me.” In the simple act of coming to Jesus, over and over, we confess that He has taken our sin from us once and for all and has cast it as far as the east is from the west. As for the sin you struggle with today, he takes from us today as we confess and align ourselves, yoke ourselves to someone who promises to do a pretty great exchange: our sin for His righteousness. Our burden for His rest.
So, Christian struggling with a sin that has ensnared you, unless delight drives your efforts of disciplining yourself out of your sin, it won’t last. There will be much labor, much weariness, and not much rest from your sin. But come to Him, where there is rest for your labor and heaviness. Take delight in the easy Master and come to Him. Have your burden of sin replaced and take delight in the gentle yoke of One who, in love and by grace alone, not by anything you have done or can do, is calling out today, “come to Me.”