“Hey, after you’re done unloading all the groceries from the car and putting them away can you move the piano over by the fireplace? You’ll need to relocate the couch and loveseat to a different place in the living room to make room for it. When you’re finished with all of that I need you to take all of those cement patio blocks and make a nice walkway from the garage to the back door. I wish I could help but I am busy bossing you around. If you really want to be the right kind of person and meet my approval, you’ll do what I tell you to do.”
How would you like to be in a relationship with that person?! No way you say? Me neither. No matter what you do it’s never enough. They do nothing to help you. They only burden you with more things to do, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll get their approval.
That’s how the Jewish leaders taught and treated the people of first century Judaism. They weighed the people down with all kinds of religious rules and regulations and told them that’s the way to get God’s approval (actually meet their self-righteous approval). Jesus indicts them for almost the entire 23rd chapter of Matthew. He speaks to the people in Matthew 23:4, “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger”.
We get weary when we exert lots of energy into our Christianity but feel like we’re not making any progress – we’re spinning our wheels. We get weary when we try to do what is right in the sight of God and slip up here and there and feel like it was all for naught. We get weary when we follow God’s word but no matter what we do it’s never enough – there’s always something else we should have done or not done. We feel like God is never pleased with us.
If you feel that way welcome to the nation of Israel when Jesus arrived on the scene. The Jewish leaders did that very thing to the precious people who wanted to live by faith and please the Lord. Add to that something worse: their entire religious system was based on works of merit NOT grace and faith; therefore, the people were bogged down like nobody’s business. In the context of that man-made, ungodly, rigid, religious regimen Jesus says some of the most relieving and revitalizing words, “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 English Standard Version). Here is The Message translation, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
Jesus is teaching the God-made way: be saved by God’s grace as you put your faith in Jesus. Those who live by grace and faith will outwork a legalist any day of the week – they’ll run circles around them. Like Paul says in I Corinthians 15:9-10, “For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me”.
Read Titus 2:11-3:8 and then listen to Come to Me by Jamie Grace. Then serve the Lord with renewed energy and gladness today as Jesus walks with you in grace and faith.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.