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"Real Rest for the Weary"

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on July 6, 2014
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:Us Our Sins As We Forgive Those Who Sin Against Us?)
Copyright 2022 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Matthew 11:25-30

Christ is risen, He is risen indeed, and in Him there is real rest and peace amidst the weariness of this life, Amen.

In the United States, right now, it is a celebration weekend of the national holiday of Independence Day. Not the movie, no, this is the real stuff. Now you don't have to be in the United States to realize what a blessing freedom is, do you? But this is a holiday vacation weekend for many too. So, how about you, were you able to take the day off to celebrate Independence Day? Did you enjoy the fireworks displays; did they generate personal oohs and ahhs? Grills are fired up for holiday cookouts. Friends and family gather together. Some people take advantage of the long weekend to get away, to see some sights, go camping, catch some fish, or just relax. Did you get some rest this holiday weekend? Did you unplug for a little while?

It's not easy to do, is it? Statistics show that nearly 60% of people who are on vacation continue to check their e-mails from a Smartphone or a mobile device. And what's the first thing that people do every morning? Just over one percent eat breakfast first. About a quarter of people surveyed use the restroom first. What do most people do first in the morning? More than 60% check their phone for text messages, email, Facebook updates, and more.

We are a culture that constantly seems to want to be connected, aren't we? And this constant preoccupation with digital connection to news, work, and loads of information is doing the exact opposite of its intention; it's not relieving anxiety, it is actually increasing it.

Researchers have even developed an acronym for the growing habit of checking phones multiple times each hour. They call it "FOMO," fear of missing out. The Facebook phenomenon may be fueling that fire as FOMO people have a heightened "concern that others may be having more fun and rewarding experiences than them, (living better lives, even), causing them to desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing." Sixty-two percent of people in the United States are said to suffer from this condition. One-third of the respondents in a mobility study indicated that being without their mobile device made them feel anxious.

And sadly, even though studies indicate that occasional unplugging is healthy, increases productivity, and refreshes outlooks, too many people are having a hard time just taking a break. And they're tired. Maybe you're tired today.

Author Brené Brown says that exhaustion has become a status symbol and constant productivity has become the measuring stick for our self worth. In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she writes, "We are a nation of exhausted and overstressed adults raising overscheduled children. We use our spare time to desperately search for joy and meaning in our lives. We think accomplishments and acquisitions will bring joy and meaning, but that pursuit could be the very thing that is keeping us so tired and afraid to slow down" (Kindle Locations 1564-1569).

What a contrast, then, to Jesus' words in Matthew, chapter eleven. He said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28-29). I can almost hear a collective sigh of relief from listeners as I quote those refreshing words.

So, are you craving rest? Wouldn't it be great to have real peace at the center of your life, your work, your family? Such rest might slow your hectic schedule. It may cause real relief from pain or loneliness. It could empower a freedom from addiction or a truce in your relationships. It might grant something even more simple; it might be some restful sleep and finally having a sense of inner calm no matter what is going on around you.

But Jesus, in this text, brings home the ultimate point--the truth--that our weariness is a spiritual one above all else. There's something bigger going on in our lives and in our culture than simply sleep deprivation or email anxiety. We're connecting in some ways, but we're actually disconnecting in others too.

When will we learn? Material solutions to our issues, acquiring success or status or fame, will not fill a spiritual emptiness.

Neither will escape. Escape is veering into various addictions or personal compulsions; it might numb the problem for the moment, but these are temporary diversions that often create even more pain later. Why, because our anxiety and restlessness is a spiritual problem.

I recently read about several people who have been trying to escape the frantic frenzy of life. They're called "downshifters." They sold homes, quit jobs, moved to small cabins in the woods, and they started to simplify their lives. It sounds like a laudable pursuit and on the surface it could bring many benefits. But one constant refrain from these downshifters is the discovery that their new lives can be just as stressful as the old ones. Work pressures, financial questions, scheduling issues, they still plague people who try to escape.

Jesus said, listen carefully you downshifters, you major players, you movers and shakers, you weary ones in this world, "Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden." Real rest is a spiritual issue. The solution is to be found in god and God's work in Jesus to conquer all anxiety, stress, pain, and even death when He nailed sin and its personal by-products to the cross, rising from the grave to give you purposeful, meaningful, full life by faith. In Jesus, there is an answer to your weariness and mine.

I think it's why Jesus introduced His call to come to Him for rest with these words. He said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children" (Matthew 11:25). Jesus is saying, we may be smart, we may be technologically advanced. We may be scientific experts in many areas. But finding true rest still eludes us. It's hidden from our wisdom and understanding. Real rest isn't something you figure out or discover. It is revealed to you. It is a gift. It is a gift from a gracious God who cares about you deeply and draws you close to Him so the emptiness in your soul can be filled.

"Come to me," Jesus said. "I will give you rest." So, what does that mean? How does that work?
First, as I've said, it means that Jesus has everything you need. He said, "All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Matthew 11:27-28).

Jesus is the Savior of the world. All things were created through Him. The Bible says that in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). Jesus is the ultimate resource. You don't have to do multiple Internet searches and find the best deal when dealing with Him. You don't have to cobble together answers from the religious teachers of the world. You don't have to try to wrack your brains trying to figure out how you can get some rest. Jesus has everything you and I need. He said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid" (John 14:27). Jesus has everything you need.

Secondly, Jesus invites you to come to Him. This invitation is not for someone who deserves it more than you do. It's not for someone who hasn't fouled up like you and I have. It's not for a person who is younger, older, has a better job, or isn't troubled so much. Jesus' invitation is for you, right now as you are. The Bible says that "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son." That includes you. God loves you. He cares about you. He sent His Son to save you. He came to forgive your sins, help you with your problems, hear your prayers, and grant you His peace! If you're tired and you're carrying a heavy burden today, Jesus says to you, "Come to me."

Thirdly, as you celebrate the fact that Jesus draws you to Himself today, He invites you to take His yoke. Now, what does that mean? Listen to verses 29 and 30: "Take my yoke upon you," Jesus says, "and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:29-30).

So, picture this; a yoke is a wooden crosspiece fastened to an animal's neck in order to pull a plow or a cart. It's heavy, it's confining. In addition to picturing a farm animal's burden, the listeners of that time recalled the tiring laws of religious teachers of the day. At that time, people were told that they were under the "yoke of the commandments" and the "yoke of their personal earthly conduct." There were all kinds of yokes that put people under the pressure of performance and measuring up to earthly demands--not all that different than from today.

Jesus broke that burden when He said, "Take my yoke upon yoke is easy, my burden is light." More than that, Jesus was nailed to the ultimate wooden crosspiece--the ultimate yoke--when He suffered on a cross. He took the fatigue-inducing pressure of sin and death upon Himself, He nailed it to the cross and He conquered its power once and for all. He took all that is in this world to keep you disconnected from God. He took it upon Himself and He wiped it out! And His resurrection from the dead means that, in faith, you can throw off the heavy burden of trying to handle the wearying worries of life and death yourself, and now you can live in the lightness and joy of His grace. In Him is life! He gives that which restores and replenishes you. This is the spiritual secret of real rest. Jesus gives you what you really need. He gives you rest for your soul.

I'm going to say it straight to you today. This rest is better than your best vacation, eternally better than a mere break from your smartphone, infinitely more meaningful and lasting than a temporary escape, able to bring relief in the middle of the rat race of our lives, Jesus gives you rest for your soul.

So, instead of wearing the yoke of weariness, the Bible says that in your baptism you have "put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27). Instead of being saddled with the yoke of regrets, you're wearing something very different by the grace of God. Isaiah 61:10 says this, "I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness." When Jesus lives in you through God's living Word, when Jesus lives in you through the gift of His Supper, the yoke of anxiety is removed and you are clothed with spiritual armor (Ephesians 6).

That is real rest. That's rest for your soul. You have access to God in prayer now. You receive doses of perspective-adjusting peace and soul-replenishing grace when you stop to read or hear God's Word. The storms of life may be raging around you. Your schedule may be non-stop, but the risen Savior Jesus, the faithful Shepherd who, as Psalm 23 says, leads you beside still waters and restores your soul, He still walks with you now.

Jesus provides a spiritual answer to a spiritual problem. He gives you and me what we really need: rest for our souls with His grace, His forgiveness, His Presence, His encouragement, and His promise of eternal life. And here's even more good news; this eternal gift can help you begin to change your life right now.

Can your routine really change? Will you unplug more; will you plan for times of rest and stillness, and, perhaps, dial down on everything you're involved in? You might need to; but remember, this isn't about you making rest happen in your life, you setting boundaries, making changes because that can only get you so far. If you need the rest that comes with trusting in Jesus, that happens as we receive what He offers, as we revel in His rest, refreshed to live in His Name now and forever.

Remember, there is a deeper spiritual issue involved here. Brené Brown quotes Lynne Twist's book, The Soul of Money to summarize this spiritual issue. Twist says:
"For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is 'I didn't get enough sleep.' The next one is 'I don't have enough time.' Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question it or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don't have enough of ... We don't have enough exercise. We don't have enough work. We don't have enough profits. We don't have enough power. We don't have enough wilderness. We don't have enough weekends.

"Of course, we don't have enough money- ever. We're not thin enough, we're not smart enough, we're not pretty enough, or fit enough, or educated, or successful enough, or rich enough- ever. Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we're already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds race with a litany of what we didn't get or didn't get done, that very day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to the reverie of lack ... What begins as a simple expression of the hurried life, or even the challenged life, grows into the great justification for an unfulfilled life. "

Wow, that's the domino effect of weariness, isn't it? That's the spiritual issue that surfaces in our hurried lives. But God gives the answer to you and to me today. By grace, in Jesus Christ, you're not a slave to scarcity. You're not a prisoner to pressure. Jesus Christ has everything you need. He invites you to come to Him. And He gives you His yoke of grace so that you can have real rest for your weariness--rest for your soul.

A good illustration on this in your life is that pause button on the TV clicker. This may be one of the best modern technological innovations today. If you're watching a DVD at home and you want to take a break, you can pick up the remote control and press the pause button. If you're streaming a TV show on your tablet, you can touch the screen, press pause, and go get a snack. If you're watching a big game on cable TV--an exciting sporting event--and you don't want to miss the action when you have to answer the phone, you can simply press pause and pick up with the action after you hang up the phone. Don't you just love the pause button?

Jesus died and rose again to give you the gift of a pause button in your life. In fact, the word for "rest" in Matthew chapter eleven, "anapausis," is where we get our English word "pause"! Jesus gives you the gift of a pause button! In fact, in the words of one of our most ardent listeners, Emil, (I hope you're listening today!) he would often say, "Pastor, some things in life, they are the "pause that refreshes." And that's what Jesus alone can give, that's what He offers you and me today; the real pause that refreshes!

Is the busyness of life, then, crashing in on you? Pray to the One who makes the "pause in Him that refreshes" happen to all who believe. Do you feel that you're at the end of your rope today, too tired to keep moving forward in your life? Open the Bible, read the living Word of God, receive His life-giving words that refresh your soul. Do you feel alone and ready to throw in the towel? Realize that we at Lutheran Hour are here with you, God's people in the church are there for you, together let's worship with other believers; restore your soul with the pause that refreshes in Jesus!

Tired today? Over programmed? Running ragged? Jesus says, "Enough! Enough!" Here's cool, living water for your parched hearts and lives. Here's the living bread that satisfies your bodies and souls. Here's a relationship with God on His gracious terms in Jesus Christ alone that really refreshes. In Him is all you need. No matter what is happening in your life right now, He has real rest for the weary, a pause that refreshes; rest, right now, for you, in Him by faith!


LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for July 6, 2014
Topic: Us Our Sins As We Forgive Those Who Sin Against Us?

ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer. This refers back to your recent series of messages on The Lord's Prayer. Our listener says he always gets hung up on that part of the prayer that goes, "forgive us our sins AS we forgive those who sin against us." What's Jesus saying here? It kind of goes against the idea of God's forgiveness being unconditional. It makes it sound like there's something we first must do before God would forgive us.

SELTZ: Mark, we did talk about this in the sermon on the Lord's Prayer back in November-December of 2013; so if any of our listeners want to hear those sermons on the Lord's Prayer, just go back to the webpage and check the archives.

ANNOUNCER: You're also in the process of producing a book based on that series?

SELTZ: Yes I am; and that should be out sometime in the fall. That would make a wonderful gift for someone who doesn't know Jesus but they say that they pray. Okay, but back to our question then; I think the listener is worried that Jesus is making our forgiveness from Him conditional on our perfect application of forgiveness to others.

ANNOUNCER: If that is the case, we are doomed from the start.

SELTZ: Exactly, as sinful people, we're never going to get this thing totally right. So, if God's love and forgiveness is conditioned on our love first, we're trapped in our sins!

ANNOUNCER: But I'm reminded of certain Bible verses that might help to clarify this; for example, 1 John 4, "we love because He first loved us."

SELTZ: Jesus Himself says in John 15, "You did not choose me, I chose you." Or Ephesians 2 says that we are "saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ." These passages emphasize again and again, we're saved by grace alone! So our listener is right; if forgiveness is conditional in that sense, that's not what Jesus is saying.

ANNOUNCER: Now, if forgiveness is not conditional, how would you better define it?

SELTZ: I would say it has a compelling aspect to it, rather than a conditional one.

ANNOUNCER: Could you explain?

SELTZ: I'd love to. Jesus teaches us to pray, "Father, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us" not as, "Father, okay, we'll forgive so that you forgive us." No, it is rather, in this forgiveness God has earned and made available to us as a gift; put that forgiveness to work in your relationships in His Name. So, forgiveness, while unconditional, is compelling, meaning, a person can't receive this gift without wanting to share it with others.

ANNOUNCER: It's a gift God intends to live in us and then through us to others.

SELTZ: Right, it's a life given so life can be lived. It's forgiveness given so that it can live in you to others. If you refuse to put it to work at all, then it dies in you. But, I don't really know of too many people who know and believe how graciously God has forgiven and loved them, who would then maliciously refuse to share it with others.

ANNOUNCER: Because, then, it would seem they don't really appreciate what Jesus did for them.

SELTZ: Right, "Forgive as I have forgiven you." We could ask it another way, "How can you receive it, if you absolutely won't share it with others the same?" I'm reminded that Jesus explains this even more clearly in Matthew 18, showing how forgiveness received from Him is to live out to others through their lives.

ANNOUNCER: In that same passage, it seems the apostle Peter was unclear about this when he asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive someone? As many as seven times?" And he thought that he was being generous.

SELTZ: And Jesus points out the limitlessness of God's forgiveness to him so that he can be empowered to share that forgiveness to others. So, people need to know that this forgiveness thing; that's what the Church of Jesus Christ is all about; it's not only repentance and forgiveness between us as sinful human beings; it's repentance and forgiveness between sinful people and a holy God alive in our lives!

ANNOUNCER: As you said in one of your sermons, forgiveness is the gift that keeps on giving.

SELTZ: It sure does. It's God's eternal gift of life and salvation earned and delivered through Jesus' cross, His resurrection, but available to us through His Word and His sacraments, especially through His body the church.

ANNOUNCER: That's important, serious stuff.

SELTZ: I would say it's the most important thing in life because repentance and forgiveness from God lived out to others graciously; it's the key to life now and forever.

ANNOUNCER: And God wants a life for us that receives His forgiveness graciously and joyfully by faith.

SELTZ: And compelled by love to share it with others because you want them to have this great gift, too.

ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. And we thank our listener for that question. We hope you'll join us again next time. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.

Music Selections for this program:

"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.

"Jesus, Refuge of the Weary" arr. William Heyne. From Jesus Christ-the Light of the World by the Concordia Seminary Chorus (© 1995 Concordia Seminary Chorus)

"Jesus Has Come and Brings Pleasure Eternal" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

"Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

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