Having been raised Catholic and having attended Catholic school through the 8th grade, I was very well schooled on how much Christ suffered for me on the cross. In the church that I attended, it was a central point of theology that was much elaborated upon. This was not bad, in itself. But then, as a born again Christian, I was amazed to see the emphasis change to joy and celebration regarding the resurrection of Christ and our new life in Him. At times I almost felt guilty for sharing in this joy, as though it was inappropriate to experience joy or happiness about His resurrection when He had suffered so terribly on the cross for me.
But Jesus was not a victim.
Jesus was always in complete control of everything that happened in His life. Even in his death he was in control, choosing in His infinite love to submit to the will of the Father for us!
John 10:17,18 “Therefore my Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from my Father.”
Would it be reasonable for me to spend the rest of my life feeling remorse over the birthing pains that my mother endured to bring me life? In fact, it is often said that women are easily able to put that pain behind them for the joy set before them!
Our “born again” Christian life is meant to be a life of joy and celebration about the endless love of God for each one of us. Together with all the Lord’s holy people we are on a wondrous journey to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
This should, unashamedly, be the source of our daily joy.
Jesus’ declaration that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind is a statement of both spiritual and practical necessity for every Christian. (Matthew 22:37) The more we love God, the more we will trust Him and be willing to be dependent upon Him from moment to moment in our lives.
Love and dependency in relationship with God is essential to faith-based living. It is through this trust and dependency upon God that we are able to access the life-transforming power necessary for holy living.
Major Ian Thomas refers to this as the “threefold interlock.” Love for God results in dependency upon God which results in obedience to God.
A lack of connection and commitment to these dynamics of love and dependency in relationship with God will inevitably cause us to return to law-based thinking in different areas of our lives. We will, quite naturally, depend primarily upon rules, regulations and fear of punishment in an attempt to live a holy life before the Lord.
Matthew 22: 37-40 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.
Only Jesus ever fulfilled this commandment. And because of his perfect love for the Father, he lived a life of selfless obedience for the glory of God.
John 5:30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.
Jesus’ attitude of love-based reliance upon God is what faith is all about. It is the same for us. Faith that is most fruitful is best sourced in a love for God that produces continual dependence and reliance upon Him.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Apart from love for God we will have little motivation for obedience other than a fear of rejection or punishment.
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Matt 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
It seems to me that very few Christians have experienced much of the actual dynamic reality of these scriptures. All would agree that the Lord’s invitation to the weary and burdened to find rest for their soul sounds like a wonderful idea! And yet, I have talked to many people over the years that have wondered, “But how do I do that?” in exasperation.
Here are some things that I think I have learned about the “But how?” aspect of this.
There is a necessary prerequisite being conveyed to us in these scriptures in order for us to be both ready and able to enter His rest. We must first be truly weary and burdened from being yoked to the ways of this world. We must truly be weary of being yoked to performance expectations and legalistic gospel interpretations and trying to do it “our way.” And we must truly be weary of the burden of trying to conform to people’s standards of “We’ll accept you if you walk like us and talk like us and act like us.” And finally, we must be just plain weary of being weary.
The scripture then invites us to take His yoke upon us and learn from Him and discover that He is gentle and humble in heart “and you will find rest for your souls.” Gentle humility that is not just worldly or religious performance disguised as humility is rare. In fact, the real thing can only be developed in us by being yoked to Jesus.
It is only when we are truly weary of being weary and burdened from this world that we will be able to “learn” what is meant by being yoked to the gentleness and humility of the heart of Jesus. And only then will we begin to desire this treasure more than any earthly or religious ambition or personal acceptance derived from performing in this world.
And that is how we are able to find rest for our souls. His yoke is “easy” and His burden is “light” simply because the yoke he is asking you to place upon your shoulders is HIS yoke, not yours. The gentleness and humility of the heart of Jesus that we discover when we are yoked to Him is an easy and light load compared to the yoke of this world that we have been carrying on our shoulders all these years.
It is a yoke of unconditional love that is eternal and unchanging. A yoke of complete forgiveness based on the finished work of Jesus. It is the yoke of freedom from self-condemnation and guilt over past sins. And because it is HIS yoke, we are able to enter His rest.