Happy Lord’s day! Happy Lord’s day! I want to just begin by bringing you greetings from Christ Covenant. I know that you’ve met some some people from our church which is good. I believe some of you met Caleb last week. And today we’re joined by Ian as well. He’s in a tie, so hopefully you can say hi to Ian. And I know Gabby’s been with you guys for a while but of course especially my family; we bring you greetings, my wife Stephie is here and our three kids. This morning actually at our church we prayed for Christ Heritage Pastor Hongi, who’s my fellow elder and our Deacon Ray brings greetings to you guys and yeah, a year goes by really quick. So I saw you guys last year, and it’s December again so that’s great. And usually I’m not that overjoyed when I have to jump into a middle, the middle of a sermon series. But I must say that when Pastor Xley gave me the text in the gospel of Matthew, which you guys are going through, I was overjoyed because it is a wonderful text. So I want us to go there right now. It is Matthew chapter 11. Matthew 11, we’re looking at the end of the chapter in verses 25 to 30. Matthew 11 starting from verse 25. At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 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.” This is the word of God. Let’s ask for His help. Our amazing God in heaven, we ask you now that the very same Spirit that has inspired these words would minister to us and illuminate them to us and open up our souls to receive your divine truth. And we humbly ask oh God that what we know not teach us, and what we have not give us, and what we are not make us, for Your utmost glory and for our own good. We ask this in Jesus’ Name, amen.
Sometimes I get tired, sometimes. I wonder if you get tired, you probably do; you might even be tired right now, even a young energy-filled child can get tired and we see that all the time. Now, if your hair is turning grey, you may notice that you get tired more often. Preparing for a sermon can get me tired, I’m sure. Look at Xley, he looks tired right.. he, week in, week out prepare sermons, multiple ones a week it can be very tiring. And sometimes it seems a little strange to us to talk about the Lord’s day being a day of Sabbath rest when often times it leaves us so tired. Some of you had to do a bunch of stuff for school or for work before this Lord’s day and you wanted to make sure you were ready for the Lord’s day and by the time you woke up this morning, you were just a bit tired. Because people get tired and people need rest. We need rest from our works. Now work is good, working hard, doing things, that’s very good. It’s a blessing! In fact, idleness is bad and work existed even before sin. You see, we were made to work. After the fall, work still continued; before the fall, it was there but then we read in Genesis 3 that God cursed the ground because of sin. And He said in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life— thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you and you shall eat the plants of the field by the sweat of your face, you shall eat bread till you return to the ground. For out of it you were taken for you are dust and to dust you shall return. We’re left with a life of tiring, toilsome work but work is still a blessing. But the ground has been cursed, that’s the difference. Because of the curse, work now becomes burdensome. And you can say all you want.. work is a blessing, but you will find times in your life where you’re working hard and you don’t see it as a blessing, you see it as a burden. It can burn us out. Now, something similar can be said about good works; about our works before a holy God… obedience to God. You see even before the fall, we were bound to obey God. We had to work and if it weren’t for sin, we’d be doing it freely, we’d be doing it joyfully. But because of sin as you know, our good works are like filthy rags. We’re still bound to obey God, good works are commanded of us but whenever we try, sin taints and everything that we do. You see, obedience to God as a doorway to righteousness, has been shut ever since the fall. We cannot go back to the Garden ourselves and try to redo everything.
Ever since the of covenant of works was broken and Adam sinned as our representative, that doorway, that access to God, that path of righteousness through obedience has been shut on our faces. And today, those who seek to be accepted by God on the basis of their own righteousness, here’s one way to put it: they are ever working but never resting. Sinners are ever working but never resting. Now as we come to Jesus’s words at the end of Matthew 11, this is what we see: we see that Christ then, the last Adam, Christ calls upon all who are sick and tired of their futile attempts of earning God’s favour to find rest in Him alone.
That is the invitation, that is what Jesus is saying here. He’s calling upon all sinners who are sick and tired of their toilsome and futile attempts to impress God, to gain His favour, to merit His love and forgiveness and He calls upon them to instead find rest in Him. Now before we get to our two points that you’ll see in your liturgy. By way of introduction, I just I just want to remind us and reiterate the bad news; the idea that we are ever working but never resting. For the sinner no matter how hard we work to please God, no matter how good we try to be, our obedience falls short. We we know this; I assume you know this and so having to do good deeds has become burdensome. There’s a huge difference between you as a Christian delighting in the reading of the decalogue every Lord’s Day versus you pre-conversion, when you were told the Commandments of God. Now of course as natural hypocrites, we can fool ourselves into thinking that the law is not too heavy, that we can meet its standards and basically we become hypocrites. But if we’re honest, it’s burdensome because of our sin. I know the right thing to do, but often I just don’t do it. I even do things that I know are wrong. Now the interesting thing is that the Apostle Paul himself, speaks in that way about his own Christian experience in Romans chapter 7. Even now, even today, as Born Again Christians who have the spirit of God, sometimes the flesh still creeps up on us. And we do the things we know we shouldn’t do and we fail to do the things that we know we should do. We just don’t do it perfectly.
You see it was God’s design that man would obey Him continuously and thus find rest. Look at this pattern: this is the pattern that God designed for mankind. On the seventh day, God finished His work that He had done and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done so God blessed the seventh day and made it holy. So the pattern from the beginning, this was before the fall, was that man would work and work and work and obey and obey and thus find rest and have rest in God. So this pattern was for all humanity works and not just spiritually but physically works six days and then at the end of the week find rest. Rest with God, rest in God. God Himself worked six days then rested and enjoyed His beautiful creation. Now ideally, Adam would have worked and joyfully obeyed his God so that he could enter into eternal, spiritual, unhindered rest.
That was the idea. As Hebrews 4:10 says, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from His works as God did from His. So in one sense, the creation week is like an allegory, okay. We are God’s image-bearers: we are to work, we are to obey, we are to love God and if successful, we will be able to rest from our works and enter into God’s everlasting eternal rest. But that is not what happened. We can try, we can try to successfully work our way back back into the presence of God and find rest. But it doesn’t work. Sin is already here; sin has infected us thoroughly. Our most seemingly virtuous works are still tainted by sin. So humanity tries to be good, Israel tries to be good, they began to then look at the law of God as a means to righteousness. And outside of Israel, man-made religions arose laying down their own sacrifices, doing their pilgrimages, coming up with their four pillars to live by penance and indulgences and self-denial. It’s all hard work with the hopes of one day finding rest. But the rest never comes. What does the proverb say? A hope deferred makes the heart sick. So this is the bad news, right. Sinners are ever working but never resting. And Isaiah puts it this way: we have all become like one who is unclean in all our righteous deeds… all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment filthy rags. And so we are seeking but not finding, asking but not receiving, doing but not achieving, working but not resting. And it appears that we will never rest, that we will never find rest. Yet for those who actually recognise their hopeless condition, again, we say, Christ calls upon you: all who are sick and tired of their futile attempts of earning God’s favour to rest in Him alone. So there are those who will truly find rest as impossible as it sounds. But then there are those that will never find rest and the way that Jesus begins this passage is interesting. Because if we were to ask the question why is it that some find rest and others don’t? It’s a good question. This is how Jesus answers that question coming to our first point. This is A Rest Sovereignly Ordained.
This is not a free for all; remember, this is a rest as we’ll see later that’s freely given. So it’s not a free-for all! Every man for himself, everybody has equal opportunity. Let’s just see who is able to do what they can to find rest. No! Christ is a giver of rest and this is A Rest Sovereignly Ordained. So take note: Jesus what He does here is He praises His Heavenly Father for His sovereign grace in salvation. Which is the right thing that anybody should do if you understand sovereign grace. Matthew 11:25 reads at that time, this is right after he rebuked the unrepentant cities, at that time Jesus declared I thank you for Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth that you have hidden these things from the wise in understanding and revealed them to little children. This tells us a little bit about the heart of Christ. I mean He is so perfectly unified with His loving Father. I mean when we, because of sin, think about God’s sovereign grace and His predestination to elect some unto life, and to reprobate others or to leave others, pass over them. And thus, there are many who will die in their sins, their own sins of course, their own sinfulness is the cause of that. Nevertheless when we think of that sovereign decree of God, would we really find ourselves like Christ here saying I thank you Father that You have chosen to reveal the truth of the gospel effectually to some and hide it from others. Now you, you’d have to be pretty aligned with the goodness of God and the heart of God and the intentions of God and the purposes of God and truly all about the glory of God to be able to thank the Father in that way. Because often times, our feelings are mixed about predestination, right. Our feelings are but why not, why not the others; why hasn’t He chosen the others? Why doesn’t He just choose all of them? And that’s just evidence that we struggle to realise, and we struggle to wrestle with the gravity of our own sinfulness. Because I’m sure you’ve had it heard it said many times before, the question should not be why does God choose some and not the rest? It should be why does God choose any at all in light of what Adam has done, in light of us willingly, willingly following in the footsteps of the first sinner.
And he continues in verse 26, yes Father, for such was Your gracious will, your gracious will. He’s praising the Father for His sovereign grace and salvation. Now we often use that word “sovereign” right. What is sovereignty? Well you could just define it as supreme power, authority. We often use it to describe God’s meticulous control over all things which is now actually overlapping with providence. But the idea is that He has oversight over all and here Jesus praises the Father for His sovereign choice of revealing the gospel effectually to some and not to others. And in the passage before, remember what He did? He just rebuked the unrepentant cities like in verse 22: but I tell you it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. So He is very much aware that the reason why people will go to hell… and we got to get this right, is not because God did not choose them, ok. That, that’s not it! The reason why people God the people go to heaven is indeed because God has sovereignly ordained them to life and has graciously given them eternal life through Jesus Christ. But really the cause of anyone going to hell, the cause is sin. The the cause is that they are under the federal headship of Adam, the cause is that they are actual transgressors; they are conceived in iniquity and they have personally and truly sinned against their God. That’s the cause!
Now when you think about predestination and reprobation, we often say that predestination is like a a positive decree or election that is: God is granting something to the person that they didn’t deserve in the first place. God is not indebted to them. And then sometimes we call reprobation a passive decree, meaning, God is not doing any injustice to the person. The only way that you would come to the conclusion that God is being unjust to the reprobate is to demand of God that He must give undeserved grace. That would defeat the definition of grace. Grace is undeserved, grace by definition is unmerited favour.
So what God is doing in election is He’s being gracious and kind and merciful to the undeserving sinner. And what He’s doing in reprobation is He is simply being holy and just towards the undeserving sinner. There is no injustice. Let us remember Proverbs 16:4 the Lord has made everything for its purpose even the wicked for the day of trouble. But wait a minute! If God is sovereign over who repents and who doesn’t, if Jesus is here thanking the Father for revealing gospel truth effectually to the hearts of some and not to others, why would He find fault if someone doesn’t repent? Well, if you have come to the doctrines of grace and the advent of young, restless reform stuff on the internet, I’m sure you have been hammering away at Romans chapter 9 which is a very important passage when it comes to understanding God’s sovereignty over salvation. But I think often times we miss the heart of the Apostle Paul when he writes these words; I know I have many times missed this in the past. If you turn with me to Romans chapter 9. I’m referring to how the Apostle Paul begins this discussion. Romans 9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. You see, here we go again. It reveals once again a problem with our own sinfulness. On the other hand, when we think about election and reprobation and we are not sorrowfully moved by the fact that indeed many will remain and die in their sins. We’re supposed to be affected by that thought. We’re supposed to be moved to sorrow by that thought and unceasing anguish like the Apostle Paul does. Now, thinking about that, what is the usual tone that we read Romans chapter 9? Are we taking Paul’s word seriously in the way we use Romans chapter 9 to hammer against those who do not understand or do not appreciate the doctrines of grace? Are we quick to run to.. ‘who are you oh man who are you to speak against God?’ Well the clay or what is moulded say to its Moulder, why have you are we quick to get to that? Missing the way that Paul begins I could wish that I myself were a cursed and cut off from Christ. He knows this is an impossibility! But this is his sorrow and anguish. He’s expressing the fact that he truly wishes that they would be saved, the Israelites. They were the ones who to whom belonged adoption and the glory and the covenant and all of these things and yet he’s able to in verse 5, end by still saying: according to the flesh is Christ who is God over all blessed forever, amen. I think he’s sharing with the heart of Christ here in the way that he still continues to praise and glorify God at the end of that. But it is relevant that! We get past that carry the tone over but we do need to read on speaking of God’s sovereign choice of Jacob over Esau, while they were still in due. We read in verse 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad, in order that God’s purpose of election might continue not because of works but because of Him who calls. She was told the older will serve the younger as it is written Jacob I loved but Esau I hate. And speaking of how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, we read in verse 17 for the scripture says to Pharaoh for this very purpose I have raised you up that I might show my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the Earth. So then He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills.
And then finally God does address that question. We frame it this way: why do some find rest and why do some never find rest? Well this is how He answers it in verse 19: you will say to me then why does he still find fault for who can resist His will. But who are you oh man to answer back to God? Well what do the moulded say to its Moulder? Why have you made me like this? Has the Potter no right over the clay to make out of the same lump one vessel for honourable use and another for dishonourable use? What if God desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power as endured with much patience… listen to this: vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. In order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy which He has prepared beforehand for glory even us whom He has called not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles. Now these really are hard pills to swallow, and if you do not understand that this sovereign God is good by nature, you would think that sounds like a corrupt tyrant. But if you do understand the goodness of this God, if you’ve come to understand that for those who love God, all things.. this is how He uses His sovereignty to love you and care for you: All things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose. And if you understood your own sinfulness, then you’d know that there is no injustice here. We are the ones willingly and restlessly waring against God, we are the ones deserving of wrath, and those who turn to Him are saved from their sins. And for eternity, there will be people in heaven and there will be people in hell but in both instances, the good God is exalted and glorified. His love and mercy and grace, His forgiveness, these attributes are going to be put on display for eternity because sinners saved and and redeemed by the blood of the Saviour will be praising Him forevermore. And also His justice, His righteousness, His goodness in that sense will be displayed for all eternity because deserving sinners will be under His wrath till no end. This is how the good God is glorified in these things. Therefore, for you believer in Christ: the doctrine of predestination ought not be a matter of controversy but a matter of worship. You need to move on from the controversy, right. You need to move on from simply viewing this as a theological debate that we need to get right and you need to see what Jesus sees and you need to view it as an occasion for worship. Not a controversy, but an occasion to praise God. That’s how the scripture frames it like in Ephesians 1: 15-6 in love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of His will to the praise of His glorious grace with which He has blessed us in the beloved. It should in the same way cause you to glorify God when you think about the fact that the reason why you believe now is because He has elected you from eternity. In Christ, He has chosen you before time and at the same time you should be truly heartbroken for those who will remain and die in their sins for they have not been blessed with you in the beloved. And we should handle this beautiful doctrine with care just like our confession which we read states. We read in chapter 3 paragraph 7 The Doctrine Of The High Mystery Of Predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care. For those of you have come from non-reformed backgrounds that have come to the doctrines of grace, how many of us can actually truly say that throughout this time that I’ve come to understand these things, I have handled the high mystery of predestination with special prudence, with care? What does that mean? That men attending the will of God revealed in His word and yielding obedience there unto may from the certainty of their effectual vocation be assured of their eternal election. So that, this doctrine can be a matter of praise and reverence and admiration of God and humility and diligence and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel. That is to all who have placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and are now following Him. Did you catch that? Predestination is not meant to be a discouraging conversation. It’s meant to be an encouraging doctrine. It’s in the Bible to be used not to lose and confuse. It’s in the Bible to get you to see the comfort that you have, the certainty that you have, the assurance that you have in the sovereign grace of God which has brought you from darkness to light. The first thing mentioned in our confession is that, that we might be assured of our eternal election. Not, not bring us to a point of confusion am I chosen, am I not chosen all that. But that we may be assured that is the purpose of why God revealed this to us. You know that Charles Spurgeon quote probably the sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which the child of God rests his head at night, giving perfect peace.
So the doctrines of grace gives us occasion to praise the Lord and it’s supposed to help us be at rest. It’s supposed to help us see that because my salvation belongs to the Lord from start to finish, I should not be anxious, I should not worry, I should not morbidly look into my own sinfulness and list down all of my shortcomings and try to perfectly clean myself so that I can have assurance that I do truly belong to God, that I really am a child. You’re, you’re working backwards! It should be an occasion for us to go: my sins past present and future I’ve been nailed to the cross of Jesus Christ; that cross was ordained from eternity past and in Christ I was chosen. That’s why I’m trusting in Him right now. That’s why I’m actually struggling with sin right now, that’s why I’m so concerned about my Christian walk right now, and a little bit worried about some of these indwelling sins. It’s God working in me. It’s supposed to direct you back to the origin and source of your salvation. And it’s supposed to cause you to thank the Lord for His sovereign will. This of course does not discount us being serious about obedience. This does not discount the necessity of holiness in our sanctification and the pursuit of righteousness, but this should stop us from basing our standing before God like the Pharisees honestly did upon our current performance. For if that is the basis of finding rest in Christ, our day to day performance or how much better am I doing today compared to two weeks ago then really what’s going to happen is you’re going to lose your salvation every week or every other week if you’re holy enough. So it’s supposed to direct us to the right place, the right source, the grace of God which then causes us to walk in His ways. That beautiful prophecy in Ezekiel 36, right. That that God would take out a heart of stone and put in a heart of flesh and He will place His Spirit in us that we might obey His statutes, that we might begin walking in His statutes. We need to give credit where credit is due. This is God’s sovereign work but one of the reasons why I love this passage if you’re back in Matthew 11, is because after Jesus praises God the Father for His sovereign will in revealing the gospel to some and not to others, in the very same breath, in the very same paragraph, He then reveals to us, second point, that this is A Rest Freely Offered.
It’s a rest freely offered. He doesn’t offer rest to those who work hard enough and that’s the whole point of unconditional election, right. It’s not about your hard work, it’s about God’s sovereign goodness. He doesn’t promise rest upon obedience. He doesn’t just make rest possible if we do our part. He says I will give you rest, verse 28. Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Jesus invites those whose souls are burdened by sin to come to Him for rest. That’s Jesus’s invitation. He is a giver of rest. Now let’s let’s take a closer look at that word rest. In the Old Testament, when we read earlier from Genesis 2 when God rested on the seventh day the word used is Shabbat which means to cease. Shabbat does not mean Saturday or 7th by the way. It means ceasing it means resting. 13 times in the Old Testament that word is used of observing the Sabbath, which is a holy day of rest and God was very practical about that with Israel, like for example when He would give manna, He would give two times the amount on the sixth day so that Israel could cease collecting manna on the seventh day. They could rest from that work and they could focus on the holy rest of God. Now there are common old Hebrew words for rest as well as that. But this one Shabbat is especially relevant for our context. Now, the word here in Matthew 11:28 for rest it comes from the Greek word “anapauo” which means to soothe or to refresh. Like when you have a wound and a refreshing balm is placed on it to soothe the pain. It’s when you finally cease from toil. These are two slightly different words Old and New Testament but both contribute to our understanding of God’s rest. Jesus is speaking to Jewish people or, in their day, a spiritually overburdened people. They really were. But we know from many of Jesus’ encounters with the Jews that many of them were okay with that. They were okay with their burdensome law-centred religiosity.
And do you know why people are okay with that? It’s because it’s more convenient, it really is. When the Reformation happened, one of the things that the reformers said about Rome is that Rome had made the law easy and the gospel hard. Do you get that? They were saying that what the Roman Catholic church had done is that they had taken the law which is a perfect standard of righteousness which we fall from and we cannot attain to; what Roman did is that they had made it easy. They had turned it into something that you could actually do, that you could actually achieve, that you could actually accomplish, which is out of foolishness. And then what they did with the gospel which biblically is a message not about what we do but what Christ has done, a message of a person who is to be received with open palms with nothing to bring, freely receive, that is the posture of faith. But what Rome had done is all of the sudden they made the gospel hard. It’s something you need to achieve. It’s it’s something you need to attain to, even after you die, there’s still some more gospel to be done, so that the grace could be in full fruition, and you can finally make it to heaven. That is similar to what the Pharisees were doing to be honest.
The Pharisees were making the law easy. They were obsessed with externalism. A perfect comparison in the gospels of that Pharisee versus that tax collector and that Pharisee saying I thank you oh God that I am not like this evil tax collector. Meanwhile, that quote of that evil tax collector was so broken because of his recognition and conviction over his own sinfulness. He could hardly lift his eyes towards heaven. And what does the gospel writer say? One of those men walked away from that encounter justified before God. He was the one who truly and penitently believed upon the grace of God and the goodness of God. And the salvation that He offers through through His Messiah. But the Jews were content with their externalism. The leaders believed they had the true religion of their forefathers even though they were wrongly beating people with the law as an illegitimate means to righteousness. And the people were deceived and they were taught to think that they could find rest through their own works. And that’s why Jesus qualifies His statement: come to me all who labour and are heavy laden. Those who are tired, those who are spent with labour, those who are fainting from weariness, those who are toiling in this cursed land. Like God said in Genesis 3 and have come to the point of saying I can’t do it anymore! This is hopeless! There, there is no hope in my work, those who recognise that they are heavy laden, burdened by their own futile efforts at impressing God, burdened by their own sinfulness, burdened by the yoke of the law. Those are the people who Jesus is inviting to find rest in Him. For only people who realise they are tired, will go look for rest. Rest from our works can be found, rest from trying to attain our own righteousness, rest in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. There are very well maybe some among us today who do not see the need for rest. You actually think that your good works are good enough. You actually think that the performance that you are bringing before God is good and right and acceptable and really you’re like the Pharisees whom Jesus condemned. You are like the hypocrites that Jesus was not afraid to be rough and harsh with and call them whitewashed tombs. For if you trust in your own righteousness, you are alienating yourself from the righteousness of God which is the only one that is acceptable to Him. And so you need to understand, we all need to understand that the gospel is not firstly, a message about our doing, but about our ceasing.
Kevin De Young puts it this way: any gospel which says only what you must do and never announces that what Christ has done is no gospel at all, not at all! Elsewhere, De young writes, because the secret of the Gospel is that we actually do more when we hear less about all we need to do for God, and hear more about all that God has already done for us. Do you, do you ever witness that happening? You may be accustomed to a kind of teaching maybe, wherein like 70% of the sermon is just a meticulous explanation of how to live your life and what you must do. And that feels good. I mean that’s why, that’s why podcasts of motivational speakers are so popular right now, right. We just are law centric by nature. We think we can be good. We love just being told this these are the steps just do it this way, and you will improve, and you will do many great things and have a wonderful life. You can do it. We love being told that. That’s why these.. like that’s why people like, like David Goggins or whoever, right. They just love being told motivationally, this is how you do it, this is how to live your life, here is a meticulous list of do’s and don’ts. And implicitly, we start to fail to distinguish between law and gospel. That the moment we fail to distinguish between law and gospel, our works versus Christ’s works. Our faith and Christ’s faithfulness, when we confuse these things, we lose the gospel altogether.
When we start to treat the gospel as any kind of means to impress God and this can happen even to a real Christian, you start to behave that way, think that way and act that way, and before you know it, you are burdened and tired all over again. But the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to come to Him and find rest. And Jesus says to all who are weary and burden, and if that is you, hear what He says come and I will give you rest.. the yoke of the law, yes the Ten Commandments! But really, any law including man-made laws of all the religions of this world including many evangelical churches and groups that that teach man-made laws as if they were God’s laws, the yoke of law is heavy and crippling! You know reformed churches often get criticised. Why, why don’t you demand or expect certain things for your people. You guys are so big on stuff like church attendance, and Lord’s Day attendance, and stuff like that. You know why don’t you have like all of these ministry rosters where you know people have to sign up if they really want to join the church so that they can be serious. They, you, why don’t you have some kind of really complex discipleship system where if you really want to be involved in the church, you need to get plugged in, because this is really the life of the church and this is what a real Christian must do. Now, in one sense, that is very innocent. We’re just trying to involve people but in another sense, the reason why we would not do that is because the Lord hath not said! It is because for any man, pastor, preacher, teacher, whoever, to stand before the people of God and to say anything in the likes of, if you really want to be a serious Christian, if you really want to get into it, if you really want to thrive with your relationship with God, you must do this, join this, do that, sign up for this and make sure you practice this, this, that regularly. That is burdensome law! Not because God’s law itself is bad, but because many of those things are not commanded by God at all! We’re just reverting back to the traditions and of the elders like Pharisees days. Because the yoke of the law is heavy; it is crippling, it will weigh you down to condemnation. You will feel tired before you know it spiritually. But Christ says in verse 29, take my yoke upon you; not your pastor’s yoke, not your denomination’s yoke, not not your specific groups’ yoke or specific way of doing things yoke! Christ says 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.
It it is very sad when preaching in in many churches is the only difference between the some evangelical preaching in Roman Catholic homilies, sometimes is the nature of the do’s. In the Roman Catholic context, it is pray more Hail Mary’s, right, do more confession, do more this, do more of that, meet with the priest ,holy water, whatever. Those, that’s the version of the do’s but sometimes in evangelical circles, it’s just exactly the same but we don’t like Mary, right. So it’s just you know.. just, just read your Bible more, all right. 5 minutes is not enough in a day; you better do 2 hours if you really want to be serious about it. Just, you know, just pray more, that’s it, yeah. Just more, just love your wife and, and your husband just more. You just need to do more, you just need to do more Christian things, right. Just be nicer, just be kinder, just do this, just do that. It’s all just about our doing. When scripture does speak a lot about our doing, but it always speaks of our doing within the context of firstly, coming to God’s doing. To what God has done; this is how great our God is. This is His grace, this is what God has done and this is what God is going to do into your life and transform you so that you might begin behaving this way. If you get that chronology wrong, you are no better than a law-based, works-based religion. Christ says take my yoke, not your own yoke. Not do, do, do what do I do. It’s what Christ has done. Take His yoke, a yoke was this wooden harness that they would put on the shoulders of an ox or oxen so that they could pull something heavy. But this is not your yoke. This is Christ’s yoke. Without Christ, we can’t handle a yoke. We’ll just weighed down like an ox pulling a heavy weight. We’re weighed down by sin and we can exert all the strength that we have, but life’s burdens are still too heavy. False religions have heavy demands, perversions of Christianity have heavy demands. Isn’t it interesting that the very next passage in chapter 12, I don’t know who’s going to preach on it, but it’s interesting right that it’s all about the Pharisees’ wrong view of the Sabbath?
Turning the Sabbath rest and perverting it into something that it is not right after Jesus says come and I will give you rest.
Self-help gurus place upon you the burden of self-improvement; atheism places upon you the heavy weight and burden of meaningless living and of trying to be a virtuous person for no reason whatsoever! Your idols, your earthly manmade religions. I want you to know all of them are harsh and mean and they’re overbearing and they are tyrants what these Idols demand of you in your life. They are overbearing and their demands will crush you. But Christ… Christ is gentle and lowly in heart. A bruised reed He will not break and a smouldering wick He will not snuff out. You know what He’s saying there? He has a huge heart for struggling sinners. He has this huge compassionate heart for, for anybody who is feeling the burden and weight of their own sinfulness. This needs to be heard both by non-Christian and Christian alike. You want to be in a sound biblical church that practices church discipline for example, right. And, yes you know, once upon a time, I was in a context that didn’t do this, right; finally we’re actually doing it! This is biblical. Matthew 18 style, this is right. This is good! Got to rebuke them, we got to bring the two or three witnesses; bring it to the church do all these things, right. But what do we do with those who are caught in serious sin, but are genuinely remorseful, but are genuinely penitent, that are like a bruised reed or a smouldering wick, whose faith is there.. it’s there but it’s struggling, it’s trying to hang on for dear life and not fall away. Jesus says a bruised reed, He will not break, reed, He will not break; a smouldering wick, He will snuff not out. He is not that kind of Lord and Saviour. So if you are like that bruised reed and you are indeed feeling that burdensome weight of trying to impress God through your obedience, or the burdensome weight of your own sin that has recently been getting the better of you. Jesus says come to Him and He will unburden you. He will give you His yoke and you know what? His yoke, His yoke is easy and His burden is light. How is that possible? Because He’s carried it all for you. He’s… he has bore the burden on your behalf. He is God become flesh and He’s the one that has every right to snuff you out and to break you in half, to condemn you this very moment, yet He chooses to be benevolent and kind towards you. He’s that humble Son of God, who took the form of a servant so that He could take the burdens from your back and place it on His so that you can rest.
The gospel is a message of forgiveness, a message of God who declares sinners righteous by faith, of sinners being adopted into the family of God and inheriting eternal life and do not forget that the gospel is a message of rest.
When we turn from our sins and believe in Jesus Christ, we will find rest. The Heavenly rest which God intended for us, rest from our dead works, rest from our futile attempts at earning God’s favour, and now we take Christ’s yoke which is easy. It’s not that He no longer requires obedience. That requirement doesn’t change but now, since we have been united to Christ, obedience to God can finally be a free and joyful endeavour because the law of God does not come to us by the hands of Moses under the old covenant. The law of God now comes to us by the hands of Christ under the New Covenant and He hands to us the statutes of God, the law of God already fulfilled, already obeyed, already done.
And you only do because of the mere fact now that you do love Him. Not that you’re trying to appease Him, not that you’re doing this to try to turn away His wrath, not because you still fear His judgment… but now God has given you a new heart and His Spirit lives in you and now you love Christ’s person and you cherish the will of God. So weary Christians, let us now work out of our rest in Christ. There’s a lot of Commandments in the New Testament. I encourage you to to never put the imperative what we must do before the indicative what God has done. Always read the commands of God in that context. Don’t jump to it going okay, that’s what’s been commanded, I just got to do this or else God will be mad. No! no! God is giving His commands to Christians because He is the God who is amazingly… who is working amazing grace in their lives and causing them to obey His statutes. It is Him who causes us both to will and to do that which pleases Him. It is Him who carries out that work to fruition from start to finish and now we can say for this is the love of God that we can keep His Commandments and His commands are not burdensome. You see the great shift when coming to Christ who unburdens us. Now the Commandments of God are not burdensome. Anytime you view it, as I must do this or else God will hate me and will be mad; you are misunderstanding what it means to be a child of God, what it means to have God as your heavenly Father and you will fail right from the very beginning. But when we view the law of God not as a burden that we need to lift and carry ourselves, but something that’s already been accomplished by Christ, but has been given to us as a rule of life that we may grow, that we may flourish, that we may glorify God. It’ll be a joyful endeavour!
Take the pattern of the Christian Sabbath remember, earlier we said under the old creation, 6 days they work then on the seventh day they found rest? How about in the New Covenant? Now that the new creation has been inaugurated, a new pattern, a new creation week has been given to us. A week that begins on the first day with rest In Christ, rest in the Lord today. This Lord’s day. Sometimes it takes a paradigm shift. Stop! Fix your calendars in your phones. Do not make Sunday the last day of the week. I know Microsoft can mess that up, I think Apple sometimes messes that up, right. Do not put Sunday in the last day. It’s going to mess with your mind. Do not view your work week as I’m going to do all these, I’m going to do all these so that I can have a good Lord’s day. No! Fix it! First day of the week is the Lord’s day. You begin your week with rest in Christ. This is a day of rest. Jesus is soothing your souls like, like a soothing balm. You’ve come to the Lord’s day after a week of of limping your way to glory as a struggling Christian. And now here you are, beginning your new week with rest in Christ.
Out of this, you shall now work. We’ve come to know God in Christ, which. genuinely, a humble King who is not domineering but leads us caringly like a Shepherd does His sheep. This is the Messiah who has taken our burdens, who has pulled our burdens with blood, sweat and tears to the cross of Calvary where He carried the full weight of our sin burden. He placed it on His back and He bore God’s judgment for us and on the third day, He did the death-defying work of from the grave that we may have an eternity of living rest in God. And the heart of this, Jesus is not harsh or unreasonable or overbearing. His heart is meek, His heart is kind. He comes to soothe, He comes with open arms to give us rest and so come and find everlasting rest in the gentle and lowly Saviour Jesus Christ.
Let’s pray. Oh loving Saviour, risen Lord, Jesus, we thank You for Your otherworldly hard work. We cannot even fathom oh King Jesus what it was like for You to make Your way to the Cross knowing full well what lay before You. Yet oh King Jesus we know You look past that to the glory that You would have at the right side, the right hand of your Father. The glory which You welcome us into now and so we pray oh King, our Lord, that You would draw people to Yourself to find rest right now. That this Lord’s day and observing this Christian Sabbath would not be burdensome law to us, but a life-giving command that helps us to understand how every spiritual blessing is now ours in Christ. Thank You oh great King, Our God. May we be a rested people so that out of that work, out of that rest, we may work for Your glory. And that even in doing those works, we would not be weighed down, but lifted up by Your Spirit like on eagle’s wings, help us that we might walk with You; that we might do those good deeds that You have pre-destined us to to do, oh Lord. Help us and sustain us by Your Spirit and we ask oh God that moving on from now, if there is any time where we revert back to a law-centred view of our faith, of our religion, of Christianity, rebuke us, correct us oh Holy Spirit.. convict us that we might begin, firstly with a person in work of Christ before anything else. We ask this in the Son’s Name, amen.