“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-31
Read this with me: Come. Take. Learn. Find.
Have you ever been invited to something and you thought you were attending one thing and it turned out to be an entirely different event? I have friends who thought they were attending a black tie event only to show up dressed to the nines when everyone else was in casual clothing. Another friend was invited to spend the weekend at a beach with some friends and found out once she and her husband got there that they were required to sit through a timeshare presentation. Kelly Shoults was recently surprised when she thought she was bringing her daughter to a youth band practice to find out she was actually coming to her own birthday party.
Some surprises can be fun, but most people want to know what they are getting into when they are invited somewhere. I know I always want to know if something is “Come and Go,” or if we are committing ourselves to a three-hour event, so I know how to plan my day. Some invitations include cake and punch while others involve a buffet meal. It’s good to know what is included in the invitation so that you can anticipate and plan accordingly.
It’s also good to understand why you are being invited to something. Sometimes you get invited to something because of who you know. For example, I was invited to join the Putnam County Rotary because I knew Bill Ellis. How many of you know who Nicole C. Mullen is? She is a contemporary music artist. She sings, “I Know My Redeemer Lives,” and “When I Call on Jesus, All Things Are Possible.” Well, she was recording a live DVD concert in Cincinnati when we lived there. Nicole had twelve back-up singers scheduled to perform with her. Six were Caucasian. Six were African-American. Well, the bus with the six Caucasian singers broke down on the way to the event. Knowing she couldn’t cancel the event, and wanting to have equal racial diversity on her team, she put out an SOS to the radio station that had been advertising the event. I was a worship pastor then and had a relationship with the radio folks and they called me. I was invited to find five of my closest singing friends and inform them to get a black shirt and a pair of jeans and head downtown Cincinnati for a rehearsal in two hours. We were officially part of the “LIVE FROM CINCINNATI” DVD and were listed as the “Nicole C. Mullen” back-up singers! So, because I knew someone, I got an invitation to do something special that others who didn’t know that person didn’t get to do.
You may also be invited to an event because of what you do or what you can contribute to the person or event which you would be attending. I’ve been invited to several things only to find out later that the reason I got invited was because I was going to be asked to do something when I got there that I may or may not have known about ahead of time.
Have you ever been invited to something at the last minute? Perhaps someone forgot to include you in an event and when they realized it, the party was starting in an hour, but they’d love to have you come anyway? Even when you knew it was an honest oversight, wasn’t it a struggle not to feel like an afterthought?
This morning I want to explore with you what an invitation to come to Christ includes and what the reason is for that invitation. I want you to know for yourselves, but I also want you to know so that you can share it with those on your “guest list” for 2012.
COME to ME!
To “come” means: to draw nearer, to move toward, move with a purpose, to advance, to go forward, rise in rank.
The invitation in our Scripture this morning is issued by Jesus Christ by God Himself. What an invitation! The God of the Universe says, “Come near.” Recognize who it is that is inviting you. Recognize what an amazing offer it is.
I’ve been in situations where I’ve thought, “How did I get invited to this gig?” I have found myself startled to think that someone thought enough of me to invite me to a special event. I knew I wasn’t really in the same status or group as others who had been invited and to be elevated in someone’s mind to the point where they wanted me to be in the room as well was an amazing joy in and of itself.
It’s not, however, that God is inviting us to come to where He is, but that He has already come to where we are. Have you ever thought about the fact that in all of the other world religions the pattern is that people are seeking God. Only in Christianity do we see that it’s really the other way around. God is aggressively seeking us! Luke 19:10 Jesus says, “I have come to seek and to save that which was lost.” We can only come to Him because He has first come to us.
Sin separates us from God. That’s Bible. That’s the problem. You can’t come near to something or someone when something is in the way. We could never accept an invitation to come to God because our sin nature stood in the way. So, Jesus came to remove the sin barrier. The price that you and I are supposed to pay, the price that sin demands is death. And Jesus paid the price with His own blood when He died on the cross. He was qualified to do so because He was perfect (Hebrews 4:15). He never sinned! You and I, not so much. But now there is no barrier standing in our way. The only reason someone will die and go to Hell is that they simply refuse the invitation “to come.”
What are the reasons we give for not accepting invitations? We say we’re too tired. We say we’re too busy. We say we have a prior commitment. We say we don’t have anything to wear. Some of the same excuses are given for not coming to Christ, yet that doesn’t minimize the amazing opportunity or incredible invitation that has been issued. Everything needed for us to be able to accept the invitation has been done by God Himself. The only reason you or those on your guest list won’t make the party in Heaven is because they choose not to come.
First, if your guest accepts your invitation to come to Christ this year, what are they coming to? There are several invitations tucked inside the invitation to come. When we come, we are also invited to take, to learn, and to find.
TAKE-We are invited to take Christ’s yoke upon ourselves. When a yoke is put on an animal, it becomes subject to the master’s control and is in the master’s service. The master can then direct and guide the work that the animal does. Notice that the invitation is for us not to receive a yoke, but to take one. We are invited to put it on ourselves! It’s a voluntary body, mind, and spirit decision on our part to let God become our Master.
While researching Christ’s yoke, I stumbled upon an amazing sermon by Charles Finney from 1861. (http://www.gospeltruth.net/1861OE/610102_christs_yoke.htm). There he articulates that to take Christ’s yoke is to (a.) accept His will as the constant rule in our lives. It involves (b.) living in a constant state of submission to Christ and His service in total faith and confidence in Him. It literally means we are placing every moment of our lives into His hands. Why in the world would someone want to do that? Why would someone want to give up control of their life to God? Doesn’t that sound like slavery? Doesn’t that sound like drudgery?
First, let me be clear about one thing. Those who aren’t in Christ ARE NOT in control of their lives. They are slaves to sin. Check out Romans 6. You are not your own master. You are either serving Satan or you are serving Christ. You are either yoked to sin or yoked to righteousness. Anyone who thinks they are in control of their eternal destiny or daily circumstances is deceived. Christ offers us freedom from a yoke that is intended to destroy us. That’s Satan’s agenda. He wants to steal, kill, and destroy. Sin will breed destruction. The yoke Christ offers is completely different. Listen to me!! The invitation to come to Christ is the invitation to trade bondage for submission. Which would you rather experience?
Jesus invited people to take His yoke because the yoke they were wearing involved hard burdens imposed on them by the Pharisees of the day. Matthew 23:4 talks about the heavy loads the religious leaders wanted to put on people’s shoulders with all the requirements they had added to the law. At the center of the Pharisee’s yoke was law and burden. At the center of Christ’s yoke is a Person and a relationship with someone who is “gentle and humble in heart!” Hallelujah! Jesus isn’t a bully. He isn’t a taskmaster. Oh yes, He has expectations. Oh yes, we are to obey His commands, but let me tell you what a joy and thrill it is to be yoked to Jesus. Let me tell you why He could say His “yoke is easy!”
It would be an awful and burdensome thing for an animal to wear a yoke that didn’t fit. It would be awkward and cause it to be unproductive. It would be painful and could cause it to have wounds from being rubbed raw or from being too heavy. One problem with the ridiculous laws of the Pharisees besides the reality that no one could ever keep all their demands perfectly is that their yoke was a “one size fits all” yoke. Every person was expected to cross the T’s and dot the I’s they outlined for the masses.
Listen, God didn’t create you to be one in a herd of cattle. He created you for a special and unique purpose. You are here to make a difference. You are here to discover and possess a destiny. You aren’t a number to Him. He knows your name. He knows your longings. He knows your strengths and weaknesses. The yoke He puts on you will be suited to your needs. It is the yoke that will bring you contentment and fulfillment. Oh hallelujah! That’s why we need to share with our non-Christian friends that knowing Jesus isn’t about a religion, but a relationship because only by being in a relationship with Jesus can I accept that which is tailor-made for me!!! His yoke is easy because it’s tailor-made!
Look at your neighbor and say, “My God loves me. My God knows what’s best for me. My God can help me experience it!” If God loves us, and knows what is best for us why would we not want to say, “Give me the yoke!” “I want the yoke.” “My best possible life is to wear the yoke.” “Add some sequins, and bedazzle my yoke and put it on me, Jesus.”
His yoke is easy because He will never prohibit you from experiencing anything that will be good for you and will never restrain you from doing anything unless it is for your own good.
Following God’s laws is the way to true freedom. A few decades ago, I think the majority of people would agree with that statement. How sad that we have come so far that me saying “Following God’s laws is the way to true freedom,” is now counter culture. Don’t let the world deceive you. Don’t let Satan trick you. Doing everything you think about doing, doing everything you feel impulsively will not bring freedom. Let me ask the parents in the house. Allowing your children to do whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want, will that bring them great freedom? NO! It will cost them freedom and bring them great sorrow! Freedom comes when we learn restraint. Freedom comes when we learn to wait. Freedom comes when we mature and can make right decisions. That’s the kind of freedom I am talking about when it comes to taking Christ’s yoke.
Let me illustrate. One universal thing Christ asks of us, one part of His yoke is that we be people who are committed to sexual purity. Sexual exploration and promiscuity is not freedom. It will cost you freedoms. It can cost you freedom in your mind as you deal with shame and regret or as you become so fixated on obtaining a one second moment of pleasure which often leads to inappropriate, obscene and illegal activity to try to get it. It can cost you freedom in freedom in your sexual relationship with your one-day spouse as you deal with memories of past encounters. It can cost you freedom in your physical body as you deal with the consequences of a sexually transmitted disease. It can cost you the freedom of time or the ability to obtain an education if you become pregnant at a young age and now your time is devoted to raising a child. Doing things God’s way frees us because it allows us to experience the fullness of things like a sexual experience in our body, mind, and spirit in an exclusive marriage relationship.
Christ’s yoke is easy because it will allow you to achieve your highest degree of usefulness and purpose. When farmers plowed using oxen that were yoked together, they would steer the animals in the best possible path in order to yield the best possible harvest or outcome. God wants to bless you, but He also wants to bless the world around you through you. If you aren’t yoked to Him, He can’t help you yield your best possible life and He can’t produce an eternal harvest through you.
Jesus said that not only is His yoke easy, but His burden is light. If you are carrying a burden, a heavy load, and you are walking, what happens to your burden as you continue walking? With every step does the burden get heavier or lighter? It gets heavier. However, when we are yoked with Jesus and walking with Him, our burdens will get lighter as we learn how to let Him handle our stuff. I Peter 5:7 says we can learn to cast our cares on Jesus. We can learn how to let Him carry our burdens and lighten our load.
People who are yoked to Jesus have Him to shoulder the burden and have the promise of Scripture that we won’t get bogged down and stifled by the burdens of life. On the contrary, we’ll learn to run and become better, stronger, and more efficient when it comes to handling life’s cares. Is. 40:28-31 says, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Take the yoke! It’s easy, and His burden is light. I firmly believe it is easier to be a Christian than to be a slave to sin. Take the yoke!
The second invitation in this big invitation is to “LEARN” of Christ. We don’t just put on a yoke, but we enter into a relationship. Christ says we can know Him. The more we know Him, the more we will trust Him. The more we trust Him, the more we will want to know Him and allow Him to control every part of our life.
Luke 10:38-42 has a neat story about learning of Christ: As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
I always feel like Martha gets a bad rap in this story because I identify with her. I’m a doer. I’m a worker. I’m a busy person. I like being busy, and it feels like Martha is getting her hand slapped for doing a well-intentioned, good, and necessary thing. However, Jesus wasn’t saying what she was doing wasn’t important or necessary. He was merely saying that at that moment, her sister, Mary, was doing what was more important. She was listening to Jesus speak.
Tucked in this invitation to learn of Jesus is an invitation to LISTEN TO HIM. The point is, when Jesus is speaking are you busy (perhaps with good things) or are you listening to what He has to say? How quickly can He get your attention? How easily is your own personal agenda interrupted when God has something to say? How passionate are you about hearing from Him?
One nuance in this story is the opportunity we see to LEARN ABOUT GOD’S GRACE. Here Martha was busy, perhaps thinking her efforts would be applauded, that her works would be celebrated, that Jesus would be impressed with her investment in entertaining Him. Let me remind you that nothing we can do will impress God and cause Him to accept us or love us any more than He already does. We are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) and nothing else! This is a lesson we have to learn over and over and sometimes over again. You can’t bring anything to the table in your relationship with God. He brings it all. Jesus was communicating to Martha that He knew her house wasn’t perfect. That wasn’t what He was after. He wanted to share Himself with her and her sister that day.
We need to LEARN HOW TO BE SINGLE IN OUR PURSUIT OF WALKING WITH JESUS. Jesus said Martha was worried and upset about many things. Isn’t it easy to become distracted? Isn’t it so easy to be consumed with getting all of the stuff of this earthly life done that we leave the most important thing which is learning of Christ, undone? I know we’re all busy. There is no shortage of things competing for our time. How much time are you spending in Bible study, prayer, and listening to God? Why not take advantage of our Sunday School and Wednesday night classes? You have nothing more important on your weekly schedule than learning about Christ. That’s the most important thing you can do every week! One of my new friends, Pastor Dianna Vinscavich is a great Bible teacher. She is starting a class in the Devonshire Community Room (right behind the hardware store) on Thursday evenings for three weeks on “How to Study the Bible.” Taking advantage of opportunities like that would help anyone in their pursuit of walking with Jesus.
But Jesus doesn’t just want to cram our heads full of information. He wants us to learn of Him as a disciple does. We are to walk with Him, watch Him, listen to Him and then begin to do the things He does. It’s learning with application. We aren’t merely students, but disciples. We learn of Him for a purpose. We learn of Him so we can learn what our individual purpose is. We learn in order to learn things in the spirit realm that can be applied to our physical realm to help us be overcomers not only in the life to come but in this life as well.
People who are willing to learn are people who have realized they don’t know what they need to know. It’s a humility that is expressed on our part when we accept Jesus’ invitation to learn of Him. We need to learn how to love one another, how to raise our children, how to spend our money, how to balance our life, how to speak for Christ in ways the world will understand, how to worship God in a way that is fitting of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, how to resolve conflict, how to make decisions, and on and on. And the more we know of Jesus, the more we realize we need to know so much more. Educators will say you need to be a lifelong learner. As your pastor, let me add to that statement. Be a lifelong learner of Jesus. He wants to teach you how to have the best possible life.
Come. Take. Learn, and FIND! This whole invitation of Jesus is like a progressive dinner. It just gets better. One thing is preliminary to the next. We cannot take if we will not come. We cannot learn if we will not take, and we cannot find if we don’t do all three that come before it. Saying “yes” to one invitation leads to the next opportunity and the culmination is finding rest for our souls! By accepting all of these invitations, you will find a release, a freedom, a wholeness, a sense of wellbeing in the deepest place of your being, your soul.
God didn’t rest on the seventh day of creation because He was tired. He rested simply because the work was done. People on your guest list need to know that the work has already been done. Jesus Christ has paid our debt. We can rest from works righteousness and trying to be good enough to obtain God’s favor. We can rest from trying to win the approval and applause of others because the only One who truly matters loves us with perfection. We can rest from fear, worry and anxiety because we can have confidence that God will take care of everything that is of concern to us. What is true rest? It is Christ living on the inside of you, living out His life through yours.
I’ve told you what is included in this invitation to come. You get to take, learn, and find. Amazing. Perhaps even more amazing is the reason why you are invited at all. God simply can’t help Himself. His love for you exceeds any encounter with human love you have ever had. Have you ever had the encounter of “pouring your heart” out to someone to try to tell them how much you loved them? Didn’t words just fail you? Wasn’t it difficult to communicate clearly? God the Father poured out His heart when He watched Jesus die on the cross. As Jesus’ blood poured out, the Father’s heart poured out. He didn’t just say He loved us. He proved it.
(Romans 5:8) “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
(John 3:16) “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
There has never been a more profound or sacrificial display of love. (John 15:13) “Greater love has no one than this-that one lay down his life for his friends.
So that’s it. You’re invited because God is in love with you and He died to prove it.
“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.