Happy Labor Day, to all my American readers. (Do y’all outside of the US celebrate today as “Labor Day”? Do you have something similar? Let me know in the comments!)
While I officially have the day off, I’m still going to be doing some work today (hooray, work-from-home life!). But my beloved wife and darling children actually let me sleep in until around 9, so I’m feeling pretty decent at the moment.
On this Labor Day, my mind goes quickly to the words of Jesus: “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)
Which brings up two things I need to tell you today.
Friend, one absolute certainty in your life is that you are a sinner. You know it. I know it. Everyone who knows you knows it. You do wrong things. You act selfishly. You speak or think or act in ways that harm others. We all do it, but that doesn’t make it any more acceptable or excusable. We all sin. It’s in our nature.
When we come to grips with the reality of our own sinful natures, the immediate temptation is to try to work harder to clean ourselves up and make ourselves appear good. There are all manner of standards we choose to use as our measure of “good enough.” But the only standard that matters is the one that our Creator set up–the one that we will inevitably fall laughably short of, relying on our own strength.
We are all sinners. We have broken God’s laws and rebelled against His rule over us. We deserve God’s judgment, every one of us. But in His mercy, God offers grace and forgiveness by taking the payment for our great sin upon Himself. Jesus the Son of God, wholly God and wholly man, lived the perfect life we were commanded to live, died in our place to pay for our sin, and then rose from the dead displaying His victory over death, hell, and the grave. If we will turn from our sin and submit ourselves fully to Jesus, trusting in Him alone as the payment for our sins and the provider of our only means of measuring up, we will find new life in Him. We are made new creatures. We are given new hearts.
If you do not know Jesus like that, I would love to talk to you more about that. Comment below and let’s chat.
Secondly, for those of you who have already repented and believed in Jesus, and you are seeking to follow Him daily, you need the reminder of that verse up there: Jesus offers you rest from the fruitless struggle of perfectionism. Your best efforts and religious activity will not gain you any more acceptance in God’s eyes than you already have right now because of Jesus’ finished work. You cannot add to His perfect righteousness in order to improve your standing.
Jesus wants your heart and your obedience, not your resume. He wants you to walk with Him, learn from Him, and grow in obedience and holiness with Him. The wooden yoke pulled by two oxen requires them to be shoulder-to-shoulder, in close proximity, working together–often with the older or more experienced ox modeling for a younger or weaker ox how to pull the plow correctly.
Jesus, the Lord of the Universe, invites you, Christian, to come in close and work together, and He will walk beside you as you pull the plow and serve Him the way He designed you to. He is not shouting at you like an angry boss or a cruel taskmaster. He leads through service, and He empowers through proximity.
The yoke is easy and the burden is light for you, believer. He’s done all the heavy lifting.