Wednesday, December 15, 2010

His Yoke is Easy, His Burden is Light (Even When We Are Distressed)!

Not long ago, it came up in a conversation with a loved one that all this difficulty in relationships and difficult church situations can't be right. All the arrogance we see around us, born of a false view of God and his ways, plus the struggle with our own sinful hearts, causes forlornness. All this just can't be right, was the conversation, because of this: Jesus said, "Come unto me all you that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest; take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

But here's why these words of Jesus don't make it wrong that we are, both of us, distressed and struggling so often. The first reason why is this one: Jesus was talking about the salvation from sin he offers.

He had, in Matthew 11:1-24, just pronounced a ringing indictment on the unbelief and hardheartedness of the Jews in failing to recognize both the forerunner (John the Baptist) and their Messiah. The cities in which he had done most of his miracles were included, because they did not repent (v. 20); if the miracles these cities had witnessed had been seen in Sodom, said the Lord, Sodom would have repented and would still be here today. How favored these cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum had been, yet by their lack of repentance, their damnation was sealed.

The the Lord in vs. 25 begins to speak of God's goodness in revealing himself, not to these lofty cities, but to "infants." "Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does any one know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal him."

Having made this great statement of praise dor the Father's freedom and pleasure in sovereignly revealing himself to those whom he would, Jesus then extends his invitation-- not to be refused--to those infants, those little ones, those weary ones (us!): "Come unto me."

The weariness and the heavy burden is the guilt of sin; the rest he offers is the forgiveness and the removal of it. His easy yoke is his commands, which are our delight (Psalm 40:8) and not burdensome; his "burden" for us is joy, the joy of our salvation!

This is not a one-time benefit, but is meant to sustain us throughout all our journey in this pilgrim passage. Who can ever "get over" the wonder of a Savior who has canceled the debt of sin?

The other reason why these words of Jesus don't make it wrong that we are distressed and that we struggle so often is this: it was the way of our Master himself, of his apostles, and of all the faithful and suffering church since then. I'll just close with these words from Scripture:

"In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence" (Hebrews 5:7).

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies" (2 Corinthians 4:7-10).

"It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?" (Hebrews 12:7).

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" ( 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

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