Although a very common word, in the context of Matthew “rest” means the opportunity to enjoy the perfect, unshakable confidence of salvation in our Lord in this life as well as in the life to come. When we rest in God we have absolute trust and confidence in his power meaning there is no reason to fear any situation or any man. Tonight I am going to show you how to enter into this place of God’s perfect rest.
Text: Matthew 11:25-30
1. Respond to Gospel like a little child
Read Matthew 11:25-26
(A) Jesus’ reference to his disciples as children in this verse is an indication of the humble response they demonstrated towards the Gospel (not age). The Bible says, that the disciples obeyed immediately without asking any questions when Jesus asked them to follow him. (Matthew 4:18-22; Luke 5:27-28)
(B) Children believe unconditionally which is why they are convenient victims in every society. It is not so with God because he has said his plans are not to harm us but to give us a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11). God is pleased with people that accepts the gospel like children (not childish). He reveals himself to such people. (Matthew 16:16-17)
(C) Jesus thanked God because he hid the Gospel from the wise and intelligent but revealed it to uneducated fishermen like Peter. Does this mean it is wrong to be intellectual and knowledgeable? Does this mean God does not care for the learned and the educated? Certainly not. But the problem lays within the attitude such men displays towards the Gospel. The learned man has two basic approaches to the gospel.
(I) The scientific approach
This approach attempts to prove the existence of God using scientific methods. It attempts to verify the authenticity of God’s great miracles using puny psychological principles. Unfortunately science can be used only to explore the creation. It cannot explore the creator. Psychology is an invention of man and doesn’t tally with the supernatural ways of God.
(II) The religious and philosophical approach
This approach attempts to define God through religious and philosophical principles. Followers of this method attempt to understand God through foolish debates. For them belief in the invisible God is just blind faith. Needless to say God does not reveal himself to such people. Anyone that wishes to enter into God’s rest he must become God’s fool.
Child like faith is a theme repeated over and over again in the Bible. In Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not try to stop them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Once again in Matthew 18:13 he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn around and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven!”
The Bible frequently refers to people that did not benefit from the Gospel because they refused to believe in Jesus (Matthew 13:55-57; Matthew 13:58). It is important that we receive the gospel whole heartedly, like little children. It is the first step to receive rest from weariness and burdens.
2. Surrender yourself to Jesus
Read Matthew 11:27
(A) A person that truly represents a higher authority possesses the power and the authority of the person that sends him. Likewise Jesus is God’s representative. He said that God has handed over all things to him. The bible reconfirms this (Philippians 2:9-11).
(B) Man was created as a perfect being. He enjoyed the presence of God in every second of his life. He found fulfillment and rest through fellowship with God. After he sinned however he lost fellowship with God which resulted in an inner spiritual vacuum. His restlessness stems from nothing but this. He cannot fill it unless he reconnects with God. Hence for centuries he has been pursuing God. Religion, philosophy, cult, occult actually are the result of his quest. None of these can reconnect him with God, because these cannot take his sin away. Jesus alone is capable of taking his sin away.
(C) Perfect rest does not flow out of an absence of weariness and burdens. Perfect rest flows only when I fully surrender myself to Jesus. Unfortunately most of us surrender only our burdens to Jesus. Not ourselves. We are very uncomfortable with the idea of surrendering ourselves. The problem lies with our natural understanding of the word “surrender”. In the battle field if you surrender you lose. Likewise we are afraid of surrendering because we are overwhelmed by the fear of losing our false sense of rest and security. But in the Kingdom of God you cannot become a winner unless you surrender. When you surrender you can exchange that false sense of rest and security to the real rest and security that Jesus alone could give.
I must surrender every area in my life to the authority of Jesus Christ daily. Some of these areas are finances (tithing and giving); Time (Prayer and meditation of God’s word); Labor (ministry) and passions (goals, plans, desire etc.) When I do he will give me rest in all of these areas.
3. Become Jesus’ disciple
(A) Finally I’d like us to consider a great and famous Bible text. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Underlined is the key phrase of this entire chapter. Many sermons have been preached out of this verse but all of them have two common mistakes.
(I) Misinterpretations – Many other sermons on this verse ignore the preceding verses and miss the actual meaning. (This is why I started my sermon all the way from the 25th verse.)
(II) Target audience – Out of context interpretations give the impression this statement was aimed at unbelievers. Actually Jesus’ statement here is not an invitation to receive salvation. It is an invitation to discipleship. In other words Jesus is asking people that are already saved to become his disciples.
(B) Being saved doesn’t make us disciples. To be saved we only have to believe and repent. But being a disciple means doing everything that Jesus taught us to do (Matthew 28:19). It has a cost (also see my sermon: The cost of being a disciple). The gospels indicate not everyone that believed were disciples. (John 6:14-15; John 6:25-71)
(C) The weary and the burdened are actually God’s own people that were burdened with oral tradition of the Pharisees throughout the centuries (Matthew 23:4). Not the unsaved or the working class. The “yoke” is a metaphor used to describe the discipline of discipleship. (A yoke consisted of a wooden crossbar laid across the necks of a team of oxen and attached with leather straps.)
Although we are not burdened and worn out by religious formalities today, we live in a world whose only religion is money, power and sex. (The world looks for everlasting rest in these). Being a faithful disciple of Jesus and living in this world is not easy, because often its religion challenges our Christian faith and lifestyle every day and pressures us into becoming its disciples. But Jesus said his yoke is light and easier because he is an ever presented help in times of temptation to compromise.
People attempt to find their ultimate place of rest in many things. Alcohol, drugs, wealth, fame and sex are just a few common examples. These things do give you a sense of rest but it’s not real and doesn’t last long. Finally you come to a place where you find yourself trapped in them. If this is your situation tonight I want to invite you to come forward so I can pray for you.
Image: Nicolas Alejandro