“Come to me, all who labour 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 vs 28 – 30
The dangerous myth that we must make ourselves right before coming to God is one which not only continues to shackle millions of Christians in an internal turmoil of guilt and shame, but also alienates those who desire to know God. Too many believe they must get their lives in order before coming to God. And because they quite rightly suspect they’re incapable of doing so, they stay away.
This is why I detest the perception of perfection we Christians all too often project. It is not only wrong and hypocritical, but a huge turn-off to those who would otherwise like to know more about Jesus. As a result, destinies are inevitably obstructed.
If you have a desire to know more about Jesus but are hesitant as a result of feeling you’re not worthy, then this message is for you. In the coming minutes, not only will you be free to draw nearer to Jesus, but you will realise that desire you have within is not just a good idea but one ordained by God as part of your purpose.
“Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden….”
I love the use of the word ‘labour’. For it aptly depicts a constant effort to get things right; a continuous struggle to be righteous. There are few things as demoralising as the pressure of having to do the right thing all the time in order to obtain and preserve God’s love and favour.
Imagine having to sit an exam on a daily basis, and being required to get at least seven out of ten in order to obtain God’s love. A score of less than seven means you shouldn’t expect anything good to happen to you; on the other hand a score of seven and above gets you a pat on the back, a thumbs-up, and a temporary pass to some of life’s more positive outcomes; only for you to be back at zero the next day with it all to do again.
Sounds a tad exhausting doesn’t it!?
Unfortunately, this is often the mindset of many Christians. Indeed, the pressure is so intense and so ongoing that it leads to a never-ending cycle of guilt, shame, falls, and torment.
This is why Jesus tells us to come to him as we are – with our stress, worries, challenges and failings.
He doesn’t require you to get yourself right before coming to him. If he did then what would be the point in him dying for you on the cross??
Furthermore, he demonstrated his desire for us to come to him just as we are, during his time on earth.
‘And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and the disciples.’
Matthew 9 vs 10
The word recline implies they were relaxed, comfortable, and happy.
How many (with challenges and struggles) would feel comfortable, relaxed, and happy in churches today? And not as though they’re being judged or frowned-upon for one failing or another?
Christianity is not a smug members club. It is an avenue for love, healing, and friendship – both within and without.
Several years ago, after a Saturday night of debauchery, and feeling intensely guilty and ashamed the following morning, I called the senior pastor of the church I was attending in order to tell him the bad news. I was expecting an absolute rollicking. But rather than get upset and lecture me, he simply said;
“Thank you for letting me know, Segs. Take a shower, get changed, and come to church. God still loves you. He always will.”
Those words not only laid the foundation for my getting back on my feet, but were of great comfort to me during the proceeding days whenever the devil attacked me with feelings of guilt and shame.
No matter what you’ve done, no matter how you feel, no matter what people may be saying or thinking about you, be rest assured that God loves you, and always will.
God not only wants you to break free from the shackles of guilt and shame, but also wants you to come to terms with this specific reality;
‘He anointed you to serve him, and the fact that you have challenges / struggles / failings does not disqualify you.’
You’re probably thinking, ‘what right do I have to serve God, bearing in mind what I’ve done and where I’m coming from?’
You have every right – not by anything you can do, but because of what Jesus has already done. He died on the cross not only for you to be forever secure in God’s unconditional love, but also to ensure your right to serve him is unquestionable.
‘Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him.
“By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
Matthew 21 vs 23
Jesus lives in you, and you in him. God anointed you with specific talents to serve him. The authority you have comes from God. Do not allow guilt, shame, or the judgment of others to prevent you from being who you were created to be.
The world will always say you have no authority, by reminding you of past and present failings. But God knew about your failings long before he anointed you, so he obviously sees something different to what the world and those around you see.
As you draw nearer to him, free of guilt, shame, and labours, he will begin to show you the marvelous sight he sees when he looks at you.