Resting In Jesus
Notes of a message preached by Pastor Alan Redpath on Sunday, March 3, 1957.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” —Matthew 11:28–30
The sequence of teaching in this chapter throws light upon these well-known words. The Saviour had pronounced in severe tones the doom of the impenitent. The cities which had seen the working of His power were rejecting Him. All this He understood, yet in the midst of discouragement and opposition, He turns from upbraiding the crowd to praising the Father, a lesson for Christian workers. He praises God that all truth has been revealed to babes, and because He Himself is meek and lowly in heart, the Father had delivered all things to Him.
The trouble with men is they do not know the Father, therefore they are restless and dissatisfied. To all such Jesus says, “Come unto me, and know the Father. I can bring you to Him and finding Him you will have rest.”
Such is the background of our text. In the midst of much that is discouraging and opposed to Christianity today, He still makes the same plea in words which are a mixture of tenderness and authority. He looks in tenderness into the history of every heart and sees its toil and sorrow. Yet there is a wonderful sense of His power and ability to succour and help. He stand with open arms to embrace the world and says, “Come unto me.”
I want to re-echo these words here, however faintly, and in doing so particularly to notice the repetition running through them. Notice, (1) the two-fold description of these addressed; (2) the two-fold invitation; (3) the two-fold promise.
1. Two-fold Description
“All ye that labour, and are heavy laden.” The one word expresses active toil, the other a passive endurance. In its surface meaning these words are an invitation to all who know how ceaseless and wearying and empty the energy of life is to come to Him and rest. But this two-fold description goes deeper than that. It points to two relationships of God’s love. We labor with noble effort to do right, yet after every effort there is the burden of conscious defeat; a laboring for right, yet a burden of wrong.
I am sure I am speaking to no man who has not honestly attempted to do right. I am equally sure I am speaking to no man who is not conscious of a weight of sin, neglected duty, mean thoughts, foul words, deeds of which we are ashamed. Universal sinfulness is not uncharitable dogma; it is putting into words what is the experience in every heart. So you carry a burden which clogs your every effort to do right. And Christ speaks to all who have tried and tried in vain to cease from their efforts, and no longer carry the burden of sin. “Come unto me and I will give you rest.” Such an invitation includes the whole race—in it you may insert your name for it is “all ye that labour.”
2. Two-fold Invitation
“Come unto me…take my yoke upon you and learn of me.” These two are not the same. The one is the initial act of coming, bringing us into a new relationship to the Father through the Son. The other is a continuous attitude by which that relationship is proved and revealed.
When Christ says, “Come to me,” He means for you to put your trust in Him. “He that cometh to me shall never hunger.” Coming is believing. He is the object on which faith rests—no mere creed or dogma. Intellectual consent may make you believe a creed, but there must be more than the brain at work to enable you to grasp a Person and trust Him. For such a faith your whole heart goes out to Him in love and trust. That is coming to Him. Have you come?
But notice also the continuous attitude. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.” The yoke is His authority and this call is addressed to all who in their weakness and sinfulness have found in Him a Saviour. It bids them live in joyful obedience to His will. These two things, the initial act and the continuous attitude, must be combined before you can understand the Gospel. Some people think Christianity is only a means of escaping penalty of sin and are ready to come to Him for pardon, but not ready to listen afterwards when He calls you to absolute surrender, to Christ-likeness of character. If you part these two things, you have only a half-truth. In the one case a foundation but no building, in the other a building but no foundation. “Come to me for pardon, and that is all”—would mean an indulgence for the future, and a foundation without a building.
“Take my yoke upon you and learn of me.” Pure living after the pattern of Christ, our example, would mean a building but no foundation. There are crowds of professing Christians upon whom it has never dawned that His summons is two-fold—trust and obey.
3. Two-fold Promise
The two-fold promise of rest. “I will give you rest…ye shall find rest.” The one is the rest of coming; the other the rest of obedience and faith.
In coming to Him there is rest—the rest of forgiveness received into your heart. Do you want that? Then come to Him and you will receive it. Cast all your cares upon Him and refuse to take them up again. He is a refuge in the time of storm. Place all your confidence in the Christ of Calvary whose blood was shed for your sin, and look to that sacrifice as your ground of sure acceptance and forgiveness. That act of going out of yourself to Him brings rest to your heart.
But that is only half. The deeper rest is that of obedience and surrender. “Take my yoke upon you…and ye shall find rest…” This is deliverance from unrest of self-will. There is real rest in submission to Him and in abdicating the control of my whole self—in surrender to all His will. Of this rest, the majority of Christians know nothing.
They are likened by the writer to the Hebrews to the people of God who by faith kept the Passover and passed through the Red Sea, yet they could not enter into the land because of unbelief. They believed not God’s promise, therefore were disobedient. Unbelief is always the cause of disobedience. He calls us to absolute surrender. We shrink because we do not believe. He is able to keep us.
There are crowds of Christians who never get further than conversion. They are glad to be brought out of Egypt, the land of bondage and sin, but there is no desire for holiness of life and victory. Their motto is a comfortable hope for the future—with no sacrifice for the present. They separate these invitations of Christ—they come for pardon, they refuse to wear His yoke.
Note that it was on the very borders of Canaan where God’s people hardened their hearts and it is often the experienced Christian who refuses the call to holiness. They say it is too hard, they are content to be carnal, to remain in the wilderness of a worldly life. They are a menace to Christian testimony, a danger to the glory of God.
Where do you stand? Have you come to Jesus as the Saviour from sin and trusted His work on the cross for pardon? Have you welcomed Him as your king, entered into the experience of His rest of victory and power? This is receiving not only the Christ of Calvary, but the Christ of glory and fullness into my life and trusting Him to live in me.
How can this experience be mine? “He that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own work, as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:10).
Entering His rest, taking His yoke if you like, is the ceasing from self-effort, and the full surrender of faith to God’s working. Not I working for God, but God working in me. Is continued failure your experience in all your effort to live for God’s glory? Then cease from self and every effort to try to show how good it is when God actually says it is corrupt. Yield self to die with Christ, yield yourself to God’s working in you, “striving, (as Paul says) according to his working which worketh in me mightily.” Exchange the wilderness life of self-effort for the victory life of rest in which God works. Jesus came to give it to you. He lives to fulfill it in you, for it is His heavenly life itself which He pours into the yielded vessel. Only believe. Oh, what blessedness to rest like that.
“My Saviour, thou hast offered rest:
Oh! give it, then, to me!—
The rest of ceasing from myself,
To find my all in Thee.
“This cruel self, oh, how it strives
And works within my breast,
To come between Thee and my soul
And keep me back from rest!
“How many subtle forms it takes
Of seeming verity,
As if it were not safe to rest,
And venture all on Thee.
“O Lord, I seek a holy rest,
A victory over sin!
I seek that Thou alone shoudst reign
O’er all without, within.
“In thy strong hand I lay me down—
So shall the work be done:
For who can work so wondrously
As the Almighty One?”
The unconverted man says: “Not Christ, but I”; the worldly Christian says, “I and Christ” (I first); the earnest Christian worker says, “Christ and I.” The Christian says, “Not I, but Christ.” Which are you?
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you…and ye shall find rest…”