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January 10, 2010

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

Back in the 4th century, there was a man by the name of Augustine. He was raised by a godly mother, Monica, who prayed for him. Augustine left home and threw himself into a profligate life.

Augustine says in his Confessions “I was in love with love and I hated safety” (3.1.1). He left the safety of a praying mother. He hated it. He wanted to get out there on the edge. He followed the passion that was in his own heart and soon found that he was a slave to these passions.

His mother kept praying for him and some years later he came to Christ. It was Augustine who said “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.” Augustine knew this from his own experience, and we know it too. The human heart is full of longings. We want to be loved. We want to succeed. We want to be happy.

What the heart wants, the heart gets

The prevailing desires of our hearts are different. One person wants love above everything else, another wants revenge. One wants to be independent, another would do anything to avoid being alone.

One wants to be where the action is, another wants to get out of the rat race and enjoy some peace and quiet. One is desperate for security, another is tired of security and wants to take a risk. That’s where Augustine was when he said that he hated safety.

The longings that drive the human heart differ, but all of us are moved by the desires of our hearts. Our hearts are restless! That is why we live with constant questions, and why some of us are asking all the time:  Am I a good mother? Can I deliver what is expected of me? Does anybody care about me? What should I do next?

Where human restlessness began

You can trace human restlessness all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Satan made two false promises: “You won’t die” (Genesis 3:4), and a second: “You will know what is good and what is evil (Genesis 3:5). With these promises the serpent enlisted the man and the woman in his rebellion against God.

Then “the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden… and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8). Can you imagine the two of them holding their breath in the trees? Adam’s chest is pounding and there’s sweat on the palms of Eve’s hands. They are scared stiff of God. They don’t want him to find them.

Their hearts had been at peace but now they’re in turmoil:

“The serpent says I won’t die, but God said I will—what happens if I die? The serpent says I will know what’s good and what’s evil, but how will I know what’s good? And why am I hiding? Why am I so afraid? This is exhausting!”

The restlessness and turmoil of the human heart has been our condition ever since. So when Jesus says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” He is talking to us!

I have three aims for this message: I want you to see who Jesus is, I want you to hear what he says, and I want you to receive what he offers.

Three Qualifications: Knowing Who Jesus Is

A promise is only as good as the trustworthiness of the person making it. The credibility of this promise rests entirely on the capacity of the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver the rest that he says he will. I want you to see why Jesus is able to deliver this remarkable promise.

God always works through His Son

“All things have been committed to me by my Father…” Matthew 11:27

It is a fundamental rule of leadership that if you give someone a job, you don’t go and do it yourself. You may work with that person, but if you have committed a task to someone on your team, you will not do it without them.

Imagine you’re a team leader in charge of a remodeling project, and you give David the responsibility to do the painting: “David, you’re in charge. It’s your job to make sure the painting gets done.”

David picks out the colors and gets the materials. You may work with David, but you won’t do the painting independently of him. What is trusted into a person’s hands is their responsibility.

What has the Father committed to the Son? All things—the Father always works through the Son. You say “There is a lot of human history before the birth of Christ, you must be talking about the New Testament…”

“What about the creation?” When God creates, he creates through his Son: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:1, 3).

“What about the Old Testament?” When God speaks, he speaks through his Son: Peter says that the Old Testament prophets tried to find out the time and circumstances to which “the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing…” (1 Peter 1:11). The Word of God spoken by the prophets came through the Spirit of Christ!

“What about salvation?” When God saves, he saves through his Son: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

“What about judgment?” When God judges, he judges through his Son. Judgment is in the hands of Jesus Christ.

“The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son…” (John 5:22).

God always works through his Son. He always has, and he always will. All things have been committed to the Son by the Father!

The Son has exclusive knowledge of the Father

“No one knows the Father except the Son…” Matthew 11:27

Many people know the President of the Unites States.  People who know him can tell you about him, and if they wanted to, they could introduce you to him. But with God, it’s different: “No one knows the Father except the Son.”

When Jesus says “Come to me and I will give you rest,” it would be easy for us to hear that as “If you feel a need of Jesus in your life, you can come to him and he will help you.” All of this is true. But the real reason for coming to Jesus is much bigger.

The great argument for coming to Christ is that without Jesus you don’t know God, you can’t find God, and you don’t have God. You have no hope without God.

Jesus Christ is the only being in the universe who can change that. Anyone who thinks they can come into an eternity with God, apart from Jesus Christ, is tragically mistaken.

Jesus can reveal the Father to us if He chooses to

“No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” Matthew 11:27

Jesus doesn’t have to reveal the Father to anyone. Nobody tells the Son of God what to do. He chooses to reveal the Father to certain people. He can bring you to God, and he invites you to come to him!

There has never been anyone like him and there never will be again. That’s why he can say this to you. That’s who Jesus is. Now what does He say?

Two Conditions: Hearing What Jesus Says

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened… Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” Matthew 11:29

Every time the Word of God is taught, Satan is also at work sowing seeds of unbelief. His argument is simple: “Jesus says ‘I will give you rest.’ You don’t have rest, so obviously the whole thing is hollow. It’s only words.”

Come to me

There is something for you to do: “Come to me.” He tells us to “come.” There is a movement for you to make. Either you will do this today, or you will not, and Jesus says that what you experience will be directly tied to this.

Jesus does not say “Practice spiritual disciplines.” He says “Come to me.” Jesus was speaking to the most religious people in the world, whose faith had become a burden to them. They were doing their best to live godly lives, but

they felt crushed by their own attempts to please God.

James Denny says:

“There are plenty of men and women who get nothing out of their religion; it troubles, perplexes, and oppresses them.” [1]

They don’t know what to do with it! Is that you? Some of us are weary and burdened by the sheer pressure of trying to live up to a standard of godliness. You are exhausted by it. You are doing your best, but your life is a relentless treadmill and you are weary.

Jesus is saying to you “Come to me! Rest is my gift to you.” It is not in your striving. He is not saying “Add more spiritual disciplines.” You can study the Bible and not come to Christ. You can stay at a distance from Christ in the very act of reading the Bible. You can even turn from your sins and clean up your life, and still not come to Christ.

If the traditional conservative wisdom is that you find rest by living a moral life and following the disciplines of faith, the contemporary liberal wisdom is that you find rest by following the impulses of your own heart. The counsel to find rest by following the impulse of your own heart rests on the massive assumption that your heart knows what’s good and what’s evil.

That’s what Satan said back in the Garden “You’ll just know…” and they fell for it. Follow the impulses of your own heart and your life will always be restless. Our hearts are restless because the heart is restless by nature.

You won’t find rest in spiritual disciplines, and you won’t find rest in your own heart. Jesus says “Come to me and I will give you rest!” Why does Christ say “Come to me?” Why doesn’t He say “Believe in me and I will give you rest?” Isn’t that the same thing?

The word “believing” might leave the impression that this is all in the mind. When Christ says “Come to me,” He indicates that there is movement. The prodigal son was in the far country, until one day, he said “I will set out and go to my father…” (Luke 15:18). There is something more than believing here.

Take my yoke upon you

The Bible uses a spectrum of language to communicate our life in Christ: Coming, believing, following, receiving, even eating or feeding.

Jesus puts it another way here: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me…” (Matthew 11:29). He is saying the same thing in a different way, because he makes the same promise: “I will give you rest” (v28), “You will find rest for your souls” (v29).

The condition is stated in two different ways: “Come to me,” and “Take my yoke upon you.” What do I have to do to find this rest? One way of saying it is “Come to Christ.” Another way of saying it is “Commit to Christ.” These are two ways of saying the same thing. Coming to Christ involves taking his yoke upon you.

The yoke was a wooden beam that tied two animals together, so that they walked and worked in tandem. By the way, be very careful who you get yoked to: What lies in a person’s life will lay itself on you. You will feel its weight. In business, in friendship, and supremely in thinking about marriage, ask the question: “What am I tying myself to here?”

Jesus says “Take my yoke on you. Bind yourself to me.  Walk with me.” Coming to Christ means taking his yoke upon you. This is not a passing experience. It is not merely something that happened to me back in 1964. It is a daily thing. It is an enduring commitment.

The idea that Jesus can be your Savior without being your Lord is a figment of the imagination that makes unrepentant sinners more comfortable in their rebellion against God. It appeals to the self-obsession of the boomer generation, but you won’t find anything like it in the Bible.

  1. I. Packer writes:

“If, ten years ago, [he was writing in 1991] you had told me that I would live to see literate Evangelicals, some with doctorates and a seminary teaching record, arguing for the reality of an eternal salvation, divinely guaranteed, that may have in it no repentance, no discipleship, no behavioral change, no practical acknowledgement of Christ as Lord of one’s life, and no perseverance in faith, I would have told you that you were out of your mind: ‘Stark, staring bonkers’ is the British phrase I would probably have used. But now the thing has happened… Wow!” [2]

“Take my yoke upon you…” Now this sounds like it is going to be tough. Maybe you are thinking “I am struggling enough as it is, and now you are telling me that Jesus wants to put some yoke around my neck?”

Do you think that your life would be easier without Christ?

Do you feel that if you cut loose from Jesus Christ your restless heart would be free? Is this what you think about God, that if you draw near to Jesus Christ, He can’t wait to lay some great load on you?

If you think that God is in the business of laying burdens on you, you have never seen the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Listen to what he says: “I am gentle, and humble in heart… my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).

To be yoked to Christ means that the Son of God pulls your load with you. I can’t think of any way to face the pressures of my life than this. If you are weary with your burden, what could be greater than to be yoked to Jesus Christ and have him pull that load with you?

One Promise: Receiving what Jesus Offers

“I will give you rest… You will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

This doesn’t mean sleep. We’re not talking about Tylenol PM here! Christ calls us to an active life—that’s what the yoke is all about. He is not sending us to sleep.

He is saying “I will put an end to your inner turmoil.

Bring your wounds, your hurts, your fears, your regrets, your disappointments, your anxieties, and your inadequacies to me.

Bring all that you are carrying with you right now. Bring the pressures and the perplexities of your life to Me. I will give you a peace that passes understanding—even in the midst of trouble. My peace I give to you.

Christ will “give you rest.” This rest is his gift. It is not a process. It is not like a prescription, or a formula that you could get from ten different places. He’s saying “You come to me. You walk with me and you’ll see.”

“You will find rest…” He’s not talking about what you believe about Jesus. This is what you will experience. Bishop Ryle says:

“Rest such as this is the privilege of all believers in Christ. Some know more of it and some less; some feel it only at distant intervals, and some feel it almost always; few enjoy the sense of it without many a battle with unbelief and many a conflict with fear; but all who truly come to Christ know something of this rest.” [3]  

I need to know more of this in my life. What about you? Let the weight of your burdens draw you near the Savior today.

As your load becomes heavier, you have more reason to come to Him. The more weary you become, the more you need to yoke yourself to Christ. This is a marvelous way to view the pressures of your life. Use them as a reason to draw near to Christ today.

I’m inviting you to take the Savior at his word today.

Come to him. Receive what he offers.

[1] James Denney, The Way Everlasting,  p. 310

[2] J.I. Packer, Serving the People of God, Collected shorter writings vol. 2, p. 211

[3] J.C. Ryle, Old Paths, chapter xiv, from the sermon “Christ’s Invitation,” Banner of Truth, 1999, p. 369



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