“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
The words of Jesus as recorded by Matthew were spoken to a generation full of people just like ours, for human nature does not change. Technology changes and modes of transportation change. Nations come and go on the political scene. Time marches on, but the fundamental needs of individuals do not change nor does the natural heart. Every person born is born physically alive and spiritually dead. Every person that comes into the world is stained by original sin for in Adam we all die. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” (Rom. 5:12). When we sin we die, first spiritually and then, apart from regeneration, we die the second death.
But there is hope for new life when we hear the words of Jesus saying, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). To whom was Jesus speaking? He was speaking to a large crowd that included Pharisees. The word “Pharisee” comes from a word which means “separated.” The Pharisees had separated themselves from others in order to keep the Law of God. It was a noble objective except for the fact that no one has ever been saved by keeping the Law. What then was the purpose of the Law?
The primary purpose of the Law was to reveal the character of God who is holy, just, and good. Closely related to that, the Law revealed God’s intent for the behavior of mankind by revealing the character of God.
God told Moses to say to the Israelites, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev. 19:2). The Pharisee’s said, “We will be holy. We will keep the 613 provisions of the Mosaic Law. We will honor God.” But they did not do that. Instead they became legalistic, self-centered, and adopted too high a view of themselves.
They condemned others for not being as zealous as themselves. Pride filled their hearts. They had zeal for God but not according to knowledge. The harshest words Jesus ever spoke during His ministry were directed to the Pharisees. And yet, to the Pharisees Jesus said, “Come unto me.”
Some did come such as Nicodemus who was a ruler of the Jews. “The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:1-2).
Perhaps you know of a modern day Pharisee. There are those who are religious, but not righteous. They have much knowledge about the Bible and about God but have never come to Christ for salvation or for sanctification. Jesus says to such a sad soul, “Come to me.”
As the invitation was extended to the Pharisees so it was extended to the Sadducees. The Sadducees were the liberal theologians of their day. What the Pharisees affirmed, the Sadducees tended to deny.
In particular the Sadducees denied the bodily resurrection of the dead. They lived without hope in the future. They also denied angels and future rewards and punishment. The Sadducees were the religious party of “No” during their generation, which might be one reason they rapidly disappeared from history after the first century.
There are modern day Sadducees, of course. There are modern liberal theologians who deny the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, and the divine inspiration of the Bible. And yet, the invitation of Jesus still stands. They too can come to Christ for salvation and be forgiven of all their sins including that of skepticism.
There were other groups that Jesus spoke to during His earthly ministry. As the Lord invited Pharisees and Sadducees to come to Him, so He invited the general population. Young and old, rich and poor, the educated and the uneducated alike were welcomed. Anyone who was tired of striving or who had a burden could come to Christ.
What are you laboring to achieve? What is your burden
Are you trying to be good? “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). Isaiah the prophet said, “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6). “Come to me!” is the gospel cry of Christ. “Come to me!”
Are you skeptical of religion? Has the wisdom of the world given you reason for concern? In many public educational systems, and in private conversations there is a concerted effort to destroy religious faith in order to silence the condemning voice of conscience. But the Moral Law of God is not easily dismissed.
Individuals who engage in inappropriate behavior find their activities burdensome after a while. Sin brings to the soul a heavy weight to bear. It is an invisible weight but it is very real. There is often a secret desire to have the burden of our transgressions lifted.
Many years ago, in 1952, a young merchant seaman was lying critically ill in a Glasgow hospital in Scotland. A pastor from the Seaman’s Chapel went to visit the young sailor. After a few minutes of talking the minister put his hand into a briefcase for a tract, not knowing which one would be pulled out.
In the providence of God the tract happened to be one based on The Pilgrim’s Progress‘, the great allegory written by John Bunyan.
The track had a colorful reproduction of the main character, Christian, coming to the cross with a great burden on his back. The pastor showed the young seaman the picture and told him the story in brief. The pastor said that Christian’s experience had been his experience too.
He said that when he came to the cross of Christ, his burden of sin rolled away and any sense of sin and guilt before God was removed. The young seaman nodded his head in the affirmative when the pastor asked, “Do you feel this burden on your back today?” The young seaman and the pastor prayed together. At the end of the prayer there was a smile of peace and assurance that lit up the face of the young seaman. He said that his burden was lifted too!
Later that night, sitting by the fireside with paper and pen, Pastor John M. Moore could not get the thought out of his mind. That day spiritual burdens had been lifted and the pastor started to write:
“Days are filled with sorrow and care,
Hearts are lonely and drear;
Burdens are lifted at Calvary—
Jesus is very near.”
As Jesus spoke to the multitudes that day so long ago He spoke indiscriminately. Several years ago I received an inquiry as to whether or not the gospel should be offered to all, or only to the elect. I was astonished by the question itself and surprised that such a debate among Christians was going on. Of course the gospel is to be offered indiscriminately for the servant is no better than the Master. We read in Matthew 11:7, “And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes.” Generally speaking, where there is a multitude of people there is a mixture of good and bad, saved and lost. To the multitude Jesus spoke spoken indiscriminately making a sincere gospel offer. Our witnessing and our preaching of Christ must be general.
The story is told that one day a friend said to Charles Spurgeon, “If I believed like you do [about election], I would not preach the way you do”. To which Spurgeon replied: “Well, if the Lord had put a yellow streak down the backs of the elect, I would go up and down the street lifting up shirttails, finding out who had the yellow streak, and I would give to them the gospel. But God did not do it that way, he told me to preach the gospel to every creature.” Every person must be told about Christ for He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Light. Of course not everyone believes this. Some believe that the way of salvation is Christ plus baptism.
I spoke to a Lutheran pastor who confessed that he believed when he was baptized as a baby he was converted. Salvation was his to lose. Some believe that the way of salvation is Christ plus church membership. As important as the local church is, the church does not save. The Catholic Church holds multitudes in psychological bondage by teaching them that the way of salvation is through the church.
To be put out of the Catholic Church through an act of excommunication is to be put outside the sphere of saving grace. To that we say, “No”! Christ is the Way of Salvation. Christ alone.
“We have heard the joyful sound,
Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Spread the tidings all around:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Bear the news to every land,
climb the mountains, cross the waves;
Onward! ’Tis our Lord’s command;
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!”
Some people believe that the way of Salvation is Christ plus good works. But what does the Bible say? The Bibles says that it is “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).
Good works are important. “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men” (Titus 3:8). When it comes to the matter of salvation, it is Christ alone that saves.
When Christ saves He does so as a single person. This is another way of saying that there is only one Savior. Many people have been taught to believe that others can save such as Mary, the mother of the humanity of Christ. Jesus Himself declared that He is the only way to heaven. “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9).
Recognizing that Christ alone saves is important for whoever does the saving shall receive the glory. God will not share His glory in the matter of the salvation of souls and so we read. “Yet I am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no Saviour beside me.” (Hosea 13:4)
Before Jesus was born, an angel announced that He would be the Savior, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
After the birth of Christ, the angel repeated himself. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
In many places in the Bible the affirmation is made that salvation is through Christ alone, and Christ, as the Savior is the one Person who acts alone. There is no infusion of the spirit of Mary into Christ as the Catholic faith teaches.
Nor is Mary a co-redeemer or a mediator with Christ. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time? (1 Tim. 2:5). The gospel invitation is to come unto One Lord, One Savior, One Redeemer, and One Mediator, Jesus Christ. For those who do come there is a divine promise. Jesus said, “I will give you rest.”
John Newton was a rough, dirty sailor with a foul mouth and an appetite for rotten living. He hated life and life hated him. He was captain of a slave ship. Then someone placed in his hands a copy of Thomas a Kempis’, The Imitation of Christ. He also had the gift of a good mother who told him about the Savior when he was young.
Then, John Newton was saved. John went all over England sharing his faith. Well past his retirement age, he had to have an assistant stand in the pulpit with him on Sundays. He was nearly blind and spoke in whispers, but nothing could keep him from preaching while he still had breath. One Sunday, while delivering his message John Newton said, “Jesus Christ is precious.”
He seemed to be lost and so he said it again. His helper whispered to him: “Pastor, you have already said that twice.” Newton turned to his helper and said loudly, “Yes, I’ve said it twice, and I’m going to say it again.” The stones in the ancient sanctuary fairly shook as the grand old preacher said again, “Jesus Christ is precious!”
I trust that is your testimony because in Christ we have
a love that can never be fathomed,
a life that can never die,
a righteousness that can never be tarnished,
a peace that can never be understood,
a rest that can never be disturbed,
a joy that can never be diminished,
a hope that can never be disappointed,
a glory that can never be clouded,
a light that can never be darkened,
a purity that can never be defiled,
a beauty that can never be marred,
a wisdom that can never be baffled,
and resources that can never be exhausted.
Come to Christ. Let Him lift all your burdens. He alone can do it.
I commend to you the Reformation principle of Sola Christo, Christ alone.