Far More: My Yoke is Easy and My Burden Light

Why have we started down this road toward buying land upon which to build a future building for Journey Church?  Because Jesus has entrusted His church with his revolutionary message of hope and grace to deliver to a world that desperately needs to hear it.

We want there to be this kind of church in this part of the country.  And we know that in order for that to happen we are asking you to give sacrificially in order to love people who you haven’t yet met.   We know we are asking much from you who call Journey home.  We wouldn’t ask if we didn’t believe it to be God directed and utterly worth it.

There was a time – and I’m not joking about this – when Jim and I thought about – what if we just do a church until we don’t have any place to do it anymore and then we just say – thanks for coming everybody.  It’s been fun!

But we’ve come to see that as ridiculous and unfair to the people who will be sitting in this church in the coming weeks, months years – who right now have no idea that God is wooing them.  There are people right now – maybe in your family, on your block – they have no idea that a year from they will be worshipping God.  It’s not even on their radar.

I can say this with utmost certainty, because seated in this room right now are people who a year ago had no clue that they were going to have this renovation of their heart.  And it thrills us and we want to be that church for generations to come.

And the simple truth is that a building will help us – there’s no doubt.  Right away we will see huge differences in a couple of important areas.

It will help us with our kids ministry.  One of the most common reasons people even think about church is because they want their kids to know something about God.  Right now – show me hands – how many of you started to come to church because of your kids?  Right?  You didn’t know God had something for you too.

Well, though we love our school facility here and are so, so thankful for it, it leaves room for improvement when it comes to children’s ministry.  I mean, right now – we have people dropping their kids off in a science room.  Hey kids let’s put down the bunsen burners – Hey kids – don’t lick those test tubes!  Don’t drink the hydrochloric acid kids!  That’s not fruit punch.

Our nursery – it’s basically a plastic cage.  It’s like a plastic penitentiary for toddlers in that room.  The Toddler room is filled with a bunch of Baby Face Malone’s are like, “How much time you doing?”  “I’m doing 60 minutes.”  You’ll never pin it on me, coppers!

We don’t even have the possibility of Wednesday night children’s ministries.

Another area where we will see a marked improvement is in the area of connectedness.

We will see a big difference in the opportunities to connect with other people at church.  There are inherent barriers to having a connected church family unless there is a space and time to do it.  And though we make great use of the cafeteria over a 30-minute period – it’s difficult for people to just sit and talk in this building. I mean we literally ask you to fold up your chair on the way out.

There’s a wonderful team of people – feel free to join any time, who help us tear down all this equipment and roll our carts filled with kid’s stuff down the hall into a storage area.  It’s task time after church.  It’s go time!  No connect time.

I will say this though – one of the best ways to connect with others at church is to find a place where you can serve – and Saturday afternoons at 4pm – though in the summer we try to move it to 9am – come up and help us set up – you will get to know us and make some friends – it’s not hard work – and feel free to bring your kids and let them run around the gym – we’d love to see you anytime.  If you want to receive a text reminder about setup – mark it on your card – and maybe once a month drag your family in the car and bring them up to serve.  It’s helpful on many levels.

So all that to say – a building would be helpful and good towards being a church for people who don’t like church. It will make drastic improvements in kid’s ministry and connectedness.

And finally – and we don’t say this often – but the truth is our church exists at the mercy of the school.  Should something ever happen in any of these churches – should perhaps property get seriously damaged – or God forbid a child get seriously injured in any of these churches that meet in their school buildings – who would blame the school board for kicking all of us out?

A building will ensure a space for us to continue to be able to help people discover the real Jesus for generations to come.

Now someone might say – couldn’t we do it without a building?  Yes – there are places all over the world who have adapted to not being able to meet in public spaces.  I sat in a house church in China in 2009 and worshipped in a living room with about 50 Jesus loving Chinese people.

But in our culture, we are still a brick and mortar society.  My neighbors are not going to be excited to come to the church that meets in my living room.  That’s just weird, right?  Come to my church in my living room.  Ok, nut job.

But I’m preaching to the choir – I know.  We all would love to have a building for the future.  And so I know you believe in it – you have been giving sacrificially towards it – and I’m asking you to continue to do so.

Now let’s take a look at something Jesus taught us – after all- the most important thing that will happen in that building is that the good news of Jesus will be taught and preached.  In all corners of the church, people will hear the good news.

This morning I get to talk about a passage that I just love.  Love, love, love it!   It’s one of those things that just causes me to relax – smile.  It’s like a spiritual deep breath.  Ahh!  I just love to hear these words from Jesus.

So let’s read it and walk through it.  It’s from the book of Matthew – chapter 11.

Matthew 11: 28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

The first job I had other than delivering newspapers was for the GB Deli in Nyack.  As a freshman I went in and cleaned dishes and mopped floors and stocked shelves – and it was a good job.  The owner of the shop was a guy named Vince Giocobbe.  He came to Nyack from Italy – spoke very little English.  He had a son named Rocco.  Rocco Giocobbe. They made pizza and real NY deli sandwiches.

Anyway – Vince was a real tough guy.  And no matter how hard I worked, or what I did, it was never quite enough to satisfy Vince.  He had a continual scowl.  Shook his head like he couldn’t believe that I hadn’t learned the proper technique for mopping.  He would often over to where I was cleaning and he would start talking to me in Italian – and showing me how to mop correctly.  And then I would take it and do the same exact thing and he would just shake his head and shrug his shoulders and mutter some more Italian – and I think I’m thankful I had no idea what he was saying.

Now I knew I was a hard worker and I knew – I could sense that deep down Vince liked me – but it was just a vague sense – I felt like I was disappointing him constantly but that at the same time he kind of was okay with me.

You ever feel like God is a bit like Vince Giocobbe?  That God is slightly, though constantly annoyed at you but deep down, I guess he kind of likes me?  But in the meantime he just looks at you like, you are perpetual screw-up but has had to come to terms with the idea that I’m never going to amount to anything more.  Like, God has somehow lowered his expectations of me and has had to come to terms that I’m an idiot.

I’m not alone right?  I used to feel like that.  You?  I’d say that of all the misperceptions of God – this misperception of God is at the top of the list.  This idea that God can barely stand you.  But is somehow contractually obligated to accept you.

This is in some respects the fault of the way the church has talked about salvation.  We have reduced the teachings of Jesus down to contractual obligations.  He died for me.  I place my faith in Jesus.  He must forgive me.  I must now live for Him – which means following the religious rules and requirements in order to – at the very least, squeak into heaven when we die.

And since he keeps his promises he will let me into heaven whether he really wants me there or not.  He might wish he made a different deal – but the deal is done.

That is a classic definition of religion – what must I do – or else.  It’s why religion constantly sucks the life out of people.  And it turns God into a nun carrying a ruler to slap you with for screwing up.  It turns God into Vince.  Pretty sure he is irritated with me, but not entirely sure why.

Life is heavy enough – isn’t it?  It’s already a grind.  Last week I was in three different places and heard this same exact exchange.  Q: “How’s it going?”  Answer:  “Living the Dream”.  You know they aren’t serious, right?  They are being sarcastic.

There is a certain inherent grindy-ness to life.  It makes us weary.  We don’t need to add to the difficulty of life by making our faith a heavy burden.

But that’s the reality of what religion does to us.  Religion makes us miserable.  Listen to how Jesus described the reality of what he saw in his time – as he walked and taught people, he was constantly dogged by the religious professionals of the day.

Here’s how Jesus described them: Matthew 23:They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.

In stark contrast – an invitation from Jesus – come to me – You will find rest in me.  Compare that with Jesus offer to me and you…  Come to me – I will give you rest.

One of the biggest lies about the spiritual life is that it is hard.  No. It is not hard.  It is the easy way.  What’s hard is the other way.  Fending for yourself –

In contrast – Jesus lays it out so beautifully.  Come to me – you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and you will find rest for your souls.

The person who has the easiest, the happiest, the strongest life? is the person who walks in the yoke with Jesus.

Why?  Because God is an easy-going God.  He is easy going.  Jesus was an easy-going guy.  He never fretted, worried, stressed out.  He was naturally, easy.  And he promises that when we follow him we too will become the kind of people who can live our lives easily.

Matthew stresses the gentleness of Jesus.  Matthew takes these verses from Isaiah and applies them to Jesus…   the next chapter in Matthew, 12
18 “Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen.
He is my Beloved, who pleases me.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not fight or shout
or raise his voice in public.
20 He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.
21 And his name will be the hope
of all the world.”

For the rest of my life, I look forward to telling people about Jesus – the hope of all the world.  I cherish the opportunity to tell you that the Bible stands against this idea that you might have in your head that God is hard, harsh, irritated, and annoyed with you.  And instead tell you that he is gentle.  He is tender.  And he is the Hope of the World.  And He has extended an offer to you.  Come to him, you who are weary.  He will give you rest.

And for generations to come, someone will be announcing this good news.  The gates into Jesus’ kingdom have been thrown wide open.  Whosoever will may come on in.  And find rest for your souls.

Matthew 11: 28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

What does it mean to take a yoke upon us?   Not to insult your intelligence, but in case you didn’t know – This is a yoke, two oxen are yoked together.  Pulling together.

And the deal is that once inside the kingdom, we are given work to do.  Jesus says, I have something for you to do!  But it’s work that is not a burden.  It’s not a grind.  It’s easy work, done with Jesus pulling alongside of us.  He’s there at our side.

Quite simply, Jesus’ plan all along was to revolution.  World revolution.  He wants to revolutionize the world and restore it to its former glory.  He wants to bring all the world back under his kind gentle loving governance.

And so our job in the kingdom is to be open to be used by God in however he feels is best.  And we can relinquish control of the days of our lives to him without dread.

It’s graduation time of year – the time of the year when we hear the message – go out there and make a difference with your life.  Change the world!  Well, that message isn’t just for graduates.  It’s for all of us!

We all hunger for significant lives.  Can there be more significant work than to labor alongside Jesus in bringing the reign of God into the everyday existence of people caught up in the grind of everyday life?

And so we walk with Jesus – yoked side by side with Jesus – and as we walk with Him he teaches us a new kind of life.  He begins to change us from the inside out.

We walk side by side with Jesus and we start becoming like him.  We think like him and feel like him and respond like him and love like him – and others around us?  Well they see the kind of human being we are becoming they say, “This is the best thing I ever saw in my life. I want in!”

In contrast to Jesus’ teaching – many of our friends think that faith in God is a burden.   They deserve you in their life to show them that faith is not a burden but an adventure.  A joyful journey.

And frankly, they deserve this kind of place – filled with people who are hungering and thirsting for Jesus’ kind of life.

So what about it, friend?  Are you ready to ditch your religion and start following Jesus?  Are you ready to ditch your preconceived ideas about what God must be like and receive instead what the bible teaches us Jesus is like?  What God is like through the life of Jesus?

Can I read to you one more old testament passage. It’s from the book of Jeremiah. It’s the passage that Jesus was referencing

Jeremiah 6:16

16 This is what the Lord says:
“Stop at the crossroads and look around.
Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it.
Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.
But you reply, ‘No, that’s not the road we want!’

Perhaps today your soul sands at a crossroads.  An invitation has been extended to you to travel with Jesus down the godly path.  He will never force you down it.  He gives people the freedom to say, no thanks – always at our own peril.

But what joy awaits the one who chooses the path that leads to Jesus.  Rest for your soul awaits through faith in Jesus.

How will you reply?

Matthew 11: 28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

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