“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.” Matthew 11:28-30
This, if any, is the invitation of a lifetime. The freedom from striving to be good enough for God, the freedom from a lifetime of bondage to sin and suffering that threatens to overwhelm us and take us down to the depths of Sheol. This is not just any invitation.
Jesus offers us, in this tiny passage, freedom from our struggles with our own sinful natures. You see, His offer is this: “Cease your striving, come to Me, and I will give you rest from trying to save yourself by the law. My burden, believing in Me, and trusting in Me for your salvation, is light compared to the burden of trying to save yourselves.”
It is easy for us to see the strivings of the Pharisees when we read Matthew, but harder still for us to see our own strivings. Often, we as Christians pride ourselves on our abilities to avoid trouble, avert temptation, or our own moral fortitude. We forget that, while moral uprightness IS a virtue, it is a virtue not of ourselves, but bestowed by the LORD to us, that we would not continue to live in bondage to sin and suffering, but would instead be transformed by His great love for us and find rest for our souls in the sacrifice of Jesus.
Take a moment. Are you striving? Do you feel that your own holiness is important to your salvation? Do you feel that your own spectacularly high standard is the standard by which God will judge others? If so, take time to really take stock and realize a few things. First, to not see your own inherent sinfulness means that you are not being honest with yourself. Second, since you are sinful, you have two options: One is to try to save yourself with whatever good works you can achieve. The other is to trust Jesus with your burden, and take His offer for rest. If you do that, the final step is to realize that the freedom given to you by Christ is a gift that you can’t earn. By doing so, you realize that the rest He gives you from the law is the same rest He gives everyone. Therefore let no man boast of His sinlessness and blamelessness, for the rest of Christ Jesus is not to be bought by works, but rather, to be celebrated and praised in songs of thanksgiving. Then, go out and do your good works empowered by the One who has brought true rest to your soul, knowing that your work is an outgrowing of the wonderful, matchless gift of grace from Christ, our Savior.