Matthew 11:28 New King James Version (NKJV)
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
If you’ve got relational stress, health issues or other problems that are causing you to worry or fear you can bring it before the Lord, right now, and He will give you rest or relief from the burden. You were not designed to carry burdens but to cast them onto Jesus (1 Peter 5:7)! But one of the biggest and most destructive burdens that a person can carry is that of trying to please or appease God. I’m talking about a religious burden of performance-based relationship with God where you have an unrealistic expectation and obligation to be perfect and live right in the hopes that God will accept and bless you. So many people live their lives trying to please God by their actions or sacrifices, or they’re trying to appease God by doing good things to make up for the wrong things that they have done. Let me just start off by taking the pressure off you by stating that it is impossible to please or appease God through your performance!
Today, I want to set you free from the wrong belief of performance-based relationship with God. The truth is that God is dealing with you in mercy (not treating you as you deserve) and grace (treating you better than you deserve)! God is not dealing with you based on your performance or lack thereof! God is dealing with you based on your faith in the performance of Jesus on the cross.
Matthew 11:28 The Message (MSG)
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Jesus is speaking to religious Jews who are trying to have a relationship with God by what they do or don’t do. They’re living under the huge burden of the law! Jesus came to take the burden of the law – He fulfilled the law – so that we would not have to live under the pressure of the unrealistic expectations of having to live up to an extremely high standard (Matthew 5:17). God doesn’t relate to us based on our ability or inability to obey the law. Jesus fulfilled the law for us so that we could live a life of peace with God (Romans 5:1) – live in the rest of faith! Our faith in Jesus’ perfect work grants us access into His good books. Our performance doesn’t please God and doesn’t earn God’s favour. God isn’t impressed by our ability to live up to the standard of the law. Our faith (trust) in Jesus is what pleases God (Hebrews 11:6). We do not have to live under the burden of trying to please and appease God because we can simply come to Jesus and live a life of resting in His perfect work on our behalf.
We’re not working to try and get closer to God. We’re not working and performing to try and get acceptance from God. Many people are living their lives trying to get God’s attention! They are sacrificing, fasting and trying really hard to live right, in the hopes that they will attract God’s attention and obtain some favour or blessing. But no amount of sacrificing, fasting or good performance could ever attract any attention, favour or blessing from God. The cross of Christ is proof that the whole world has God’s attention. For God so loved the world that He gave Jesus (John 3:16). While we were sinners – people who were not seeking after God; God haters – God sent Jesus to redeem us! (Romans 5:8) Jesus’ sacrifice was God’s demonstration that the whole world has His attention. That whoever would believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). We have God’s attention and He is eagerly waiting for us to give Him our attention (faith). And when we give Him our attention (faith) it releases His favour, blessing and salvation in our lives!
For many years I was fasting, praying and sacrificing (not sacrificing but giving up pleasures of life because I thought that God would be pleased if I was unhappy) in the hopes that God would reward me it. I was trying to be miserable because I thought that it was the right thing to do. Religious people are pretty miserable because they think that joy and pleasure are a sin! I lived under that burden for many years and then I got set free through the message of the gospel – the message of God’s unconditional love and amazing grace! I realized that God doesn’t want me not to live under the weight of a performance-based relationship with him. He is dealing with me in grace and I just relate to Him by faith, not performance. That set me free! Since then, I enjoy my Christianity (my relationship with God) more than ever before because even when I’m imperfect (which is all the time) and even when I miss the mark (which is often), God still loves me and accepts me because of Jesus and what He’s done for me. My relationship with God is not based on what I do but on what Jesus has done for me.
Romans 5:1 New King James Version (NKJV)
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
I am justified (made right with God) by faith not performance! And because I am made perfectly right with God, I have peace with God. Many people are trying to be made right with God by their performance and will never have peace with God because they will never be good enough. They will either constantly be hard on themselves because they are not good enough, or they will be in pride thinking that they are good enough. And in both cases, they will condemn others to try make themselves feel better. The pressure of feeling like you are not good enough for God and need to try harder can drive you crazy, literally. I heard of a study done on Christians in mental institutions in the United States and the study showed that the majority of Christians in mental institutions in the United States were in there because they felt like they had disappointed God; they felt like they hadn’t lived up to God standards for them. They were living under the burden of the law (a performance-based mentality).
You were not created to live under the law. Romans 6:14 says that you are not under the law but under grace! God is not dealing with us according to the law, He’s dealing with us according to grace. He’s not treating us as we deserve but better than we deserve. When we accept this truth it will cause the burden and pressure of performance-based relationship with God to lift off of us and we will experience the joy and pleasure of relationship with our heavenly father!