Summary: Jesus doesn’t invite us to practice a religion, but to participate in a relationship.
In this series, we want unbelievers to understand that Christianity is not a religion. The way of religion is about impersonal rules, while the way of Christ is about a personal relationship with God. But we also want believers to understand that Christianity is not designed to be lived as a religion. Non-believers often conclude that Christianity is a religion because of the wrong way many believers are going about living the Christian life. God condemns the practice of religion by His people:
“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” - Isaiah 29:13 (NIV)
(Show Video - Thoughts on Traditions)
When we focus on man-made religious traditions instead of our love relationship with God, the church becomes irrelevant in the eyes of a world that is searching for truth. That’s why one of the best things
believers can do for unbelievers is to “lose our religion.”
Jesus doesn’t invite us to join a religion, but to a real relationship.
1. This is an invitation to faith - v. 28 - “Come to me”
Notice to whom this invitation is extended, “all you who are weary and burdened.” Notice also the promise of this invitation, “I will give you rest.” Circle the word “I”. Jesus is saying, quit trusting in your own energy and effort when it comes to the peace that you seek, instead, come to me, trust in me, have faith in me. I will give you rest.
This is for all who have not accepted Jesus as the way to real life. It is for all who trust in their good works, that is, all who are religious. The reason why people do not come to Christ is because they are religious. Even the “irreligious” in this world - even the agnostic, the atheist - is religious, and are kept by their religious effort from coming to Christ.
Religion is merely man’s efforts to justify himself. We see that in Luke 18 in how the Pharisee sought to justify himself before God.
“The Pharisee stood over by himself and prayed, ‘God, I thank you that I am not greedy, dishonest, and unfaithful in marriage like other people. And I am really glad that I am not like that tax collector over there.’” - Luke 18:11 (CEV)
The religious person’s efforts to justify himself are obvious, but so to, are the efforts of “irreligious” people. Everyone who has not come to Christ has yet to do so because they think they can justify themselves.
But what a burden it is to try and justify yourself. Even though you are able to say that you are better than someone else, you still know that things are not quite right with you! Jesus invites us to let Him shoulder the burden of justifying us, because he has already done so.
“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” - Romans 4:25 (NIV)
Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. Through His resurrection, He revealed that the penalty for sin was fully paid. When we come to Him by faith, we accept the sufficiency of His sacrifice to make us right with God. He invites us to quit trying to justify ourselves and trust in the work He did through His death and resurrection to justify us.
“He who has once entered [God’s] rest also has ceased from [the weariness and pain] of human labors.” - Hebrews 4:10 (Amplified)
To be justified means being able to relate with God “just as if I never sinned.” Christ’s work at Calvary has made this possible for us.
2. This is an invitation to follow - vs. 29-30
Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.”
Justification refers to being right with God. Sanctification refers to living right for God. Sadly, while those who have come to faith in Christ have rejected religion as the way to be right with God, they often mistakenly conclude that religion is the way to live right for God. That’s why Jesus emphasized the importance of relationship over religion in living right for God.
In Jesus’ day, a rabbi would have thousands of laws called “hedges” that he taught as his suggested way of living. This way of living was referred to as that rabbi’s yoke, and every rabbi had a distinctive yoke. Every rabbi would have his disciples, who would spend time with Him to learn how to live right for God.
Jesus invites us to spend time with Him also. But not in order to learn a list of “do’s and don’ts” but in order to learn His heart - “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” Jesus tells us that the secret to living right for God is spending time with Him, cultivating our love relationship with Him.