01 October 2017

Rest For The Weary

Rest For The Weary

Picture of John Warren Antalika, Deacon at GraceLife London

Article by John Warren Antalika

Deacon at GraceLife London

Our demanding society insists that the problem they show us is also our greatest problem, and the solution that they present is our only option. As people have embraced society's pressure, we often hear the constant refrain: "I'm tired!" Sadly, most people are looking for answers which will neither solve nor satisfy the real issues of life. The early Church Father Augustine famously said, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you." It is exhausting and futile to seek satisfaction in anything this world offers, yet Jesus invites all people to have eternal rest for their soul in Matthew 11:28-30.  

The Exclusive Source of Rest

Jesus declared that He is the only source of eternal rest, saying, "Come to Me all who labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" (v. 28). The Jewish scribes and Pharisees were laying heavy burdens upon the people, saying that these things are what they had to do to please God (Matt 23:2-4). No-one could actually meet these strenuous standards placed upon them.

Today, some people still bear the burdens of false religion, putting the onus on themselves to achieve eternal satisfaction. Some bear the burden of the world's pressure. Others look for rest in the approval of their family members, seeking to reach the standards of others or simply fulfilling their own selfish desires. Whatever they are pursuing will result in no rest, but only empty toil.

A person must first realise that they "labour and are heavy laden," that they are "the poor in spirit" (Matt 5:3) who need something outside of themselves to fill that which is empty inside of them. Sin has caused them to be separated from God. Only Jesus can give them rest, so that they no longer carry sin's heavy burden. In the pursuit of happiness, people may simply leap from one desire to another. "If I can just get there," they say, "I will find joy." But Jesus says that only He gives rest.

The Definitive Responsibilities for Rest

But this rest is not without work. Instead, Jesus says, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (v.29)

If anyone would come to Christ, an exchange must take place. He must give up his burden of trying to be right with God by his own merit, but rather taking on slavery and discipleship to Christ in a definitive and lifelong commitment. Christ does not simply give you freedom from work, but rather calls you to a submissive slavery to the Lordship of Christ and a consistent learning from Him as His disciple.

The confidence we can have in Christ as both our Master and Teacher is that Christ - the King of the Universe - is humble and gentle. Jesus was the most important person who ever lived, and yet carried Himself in a way that did not convey that He was impressed by Himself. If Jesus had used social media, He wouldn't post a picture of Himself for all to envy.

Christ can say that His burden is light, because He did the hard work, saying on the cross: "It is finished". His demands are easy. We do not carry our sins any more if we are in Him and submit to his Lordship. His yoke is easy to wear; His burden is easy to bear. Every other burden requires you to carry your own sin and the punishment for them; anything compared to that is certainly light. Christ bore the sins of those who respond to Him, on the cross. They no longer work to be right with God, because Jesus' righteousness is accredited to them.

The Unquestionable Recognition of Rest

Someone can ask, "But how do I know if I have rested in Christ?" Jesus answers in verse 30, "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

If you think God's love for you changes when we sin, then there's something wrong with your view of resting in Christ. That would mean God is satisfied with you only when you do right, and hates you when you do wrong.

Yet if you're resting in Christ, you will find God's commands easy: to take up your cross and follow him, to forgive those who have wronged you, and to obey God at home and wherever you are. 1 John 5:3 says that the love of God is this: "that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome."

Resting in Christ means you no longer have to carry the weight of your sins, and you find His way of living best. How you embrace and respond to God's commands tells you if you are indeed resting in His Son. We may look to this world to satisfy us, but if you want rest, you have to come to Christ, taking on His yoke and learning from him, embracing Him as master, teacher and Saviour.

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