Christianity specializes in changing lives for the better. You come to Christ when you are one thing. As you follow Christ, you become another thing.
I’ve discovered through years of reading the Bible that this moral journey is beautifully described over and over again, sometimes in the most obscure places. I recently read Proverbs 9:5-6 and laughed out loud, because here it was again – an invitation from God to open my broken, sinful heart to him, that he might bring something more loving and holy from it.
It begins with just the first word: Come.
The moral journey begins with you coming to Jesus. The healing of your soul and the rebuilding of your life cannot happen until you bow your knees to him.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Jesus said. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29).
We’ve seen the tale of the moral journey in a thousand movies, where the weak or wounded or misguided or selfish main character comes into the presence of a guide or mentor who will train them, and release the hero inside of them. The Matrix. Star Wars. The Mask of Zorro. The Karate Kid. A Christmas Carol.
The greatest stories are all based in some fashion on the Great Story told in Scripture of Christ, who comes to earth from heaven to call us to our true destiny. But this journey is birthed in grace. It is not something we can obtain on our own. So we must come to the Lord and Master and present ourselves to him.
Notice two things in what Jesus said. First, you come as you are.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened.”
You don’t say, “I can’t come to Jesus. I’m weary and burdened. He doesn’t want a mess like me.” Such thinking is all wrong. It’s precisely because you’re weary and burdened that Jesus wants you to come. You don’t clean up your act and then come to Jesus. He already knows you can’t clean up your act. It’s too late. He already knows there’s an unchained beast raging in the basement of your soul. It’s why he died for you. So come as you are.
Secondly, to come to Jesus means you come, and don’t run away.
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.”
A yoke is a heavy, wooden collar that binds two oxen together. And once you’re yoked, you don’t leave the other’s side. Too many people come to Christ out of their need, then as soon as that need eases up, or this Christian-thing gets too demanding or too boring, they’re gone. Or they mess up, then give up. They fail, and bail.
No, my friend. That won’t cut it. To take the moral journey from sin to Christlikeness will require us learning things from Jesus. Learning is a process. It’s hard work. We’re not going to understand everything at first. Some things we’re going to learn – especially about ourselves – will be very painful to hear. And difficult to leave behind.
The temptation to run will never be far away. This is why a yoke is necessary. But those who submit to this yoke, and accept the pain it will bring, are the ones who in the end will find true rest.