"WHAT IS IT TO LABOR AND BE
1. For the last several days some of you have
been exposed to a verse in the Bible that you had never previously given
much attention or thought to, Matthew 11.28. Please turn to that verse.
2. Several comments have been made about the
verse, but no thorough treatment of the verse has been attempted. But
itís a very important verse, because in it is contained one of the most
important invitations ever extended to the lost by the Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Sadly, however, this verse is almost
universally misquoted. Even Charles H. Spurgeon, famous pastor of the
Metropolitan Tabernacle of London, back in the 1800s, once said about this
verse, "It is not once out of a dozen times that I have ever had the
good fortune to hear this text quoted correctly."
4. If you have found Matthew 11.28, please
stand and read along quietly as I read this eveningís text aloud:
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I
will give you rest."
5. One of the truly exciting things about
being a Christian is that you never get tired of the old, old story. Amen?
Lost people get tired of the Gospel after hearing it for so long, but
Christians never get tired of the Gospel, the power of God unto salvation
to everyone that believeth, and believers eagerly anticipate the
conversion of sinners whenever the Gospel is preached.
6. Over the last few days, downtown and here
in Monrovia, four hopeful conversions have occurred, conversions that have
been prayed for, conversions that have been hoped for, conversions that
have been earnestly desired. But there remain lost people among us.
7. It is to you who remain lost that I direct
my sermon again tonight. From among the three phrases that comprise the
verse I am selecting the middle phrase for my text. But before we deal
with that middle phrase, let me quickly dispense with the other two
phrases, each magnificent in themselves as sermon texts, which will have
to wait for another time.
8. First, there is the invitation: "Come
unto me." It would strike the Jewish mind that Jesus is not, here,
sending sinners to God. Neither is He sending sinners to the Law or to
Moses. He is bidding them to come to Him. And, truly, you must come to
Jesus for salvation and forgiveness of sins and cleansing, for the Law
cannot save, and Moses cannot save, and your sins prevent you from
9. The night before His crucifixion Jesus
would say, in John 14.6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no
man cometh unto the Father, but by me." And some time after His
glorious resurrection from the dead and ascension to His Fatherís right
hand, Peter would thunder forth in Jerusalem with these words:
"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other
name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved," Acts
10. So, it was only right and proper and good
for Jesus to invite sinners to come to Him, since there is nowhere else to
go to find salvation from your sins.
11. Now notice the last phrase of our verse:
"and I will give you rest." More than you realize, this phrase,
too, was astonishing to Jewish ears. You see, there was another time when
rest was promised, way back in Exodus 33.14. Turn there and read with me
and you will see the significance of what I mean: "And he said, My
presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest."
12. So you see, in Exodus 33.14 the LORD
promises rest to Moses. But in Matthew 11.28, the Lord Jesus Christ
promises rest to sinners. Once again, Jesus shows them that a greater than
Moses is here.
13. We have, then, a wonderful invitation to
come to Jesus. And we have a wonderful promise given by Jesus to those who
do come to Him. But in between the two we have a phrase that is almost
universally overlooked. And those who do not overlook the phrase almost
always misinterpret the phrase.
14. Three questions, whose answers will help
you to more fully understand what it means to labor and be heavy laden.
1A. First, WHO IS JESUS INVITING TO COME
TO HIM FOR SALVATION?
1B. From time to time, here at Calvary Road
Baptist Church, we have a menís meeting after the Sunday evening
service. At other times, we have a womenís meeting after the Sunday
evening service. When I extend an invitation to all those who are men
greater than high school age, does that mean that everyone is invited to
the menís meeting? Does that mean all males are invited to the menís
meeting? And the same thing is true when I invite women to the womenís
meeting. No men are invited to womenís meetings, and no girls of
school age are invited to womenís meetings.
2B. Therefore, to fix upon the word
"all" in this verse, "all ye that labor and are
heavy laden," while ignoring the words "ye that labor
and are heavy laden," is to misinterpret the entire verse and to
misread what the Lord Jesus Christ is saying. It is to miss entirely who
He is inviting. He does not, in this verse, invite everyone. The word
"all" could refer to "everyone" if it were not for
the qualifying phrase that we are looking at. Jesus does not in this
verse invite all sinners to come to Him. He invites all of those who
"labor and are heavy laden."
3B. There are some preachers who have
responded by saying, "But everyone labors and is heavy laden in
some way." This refers to construction workers, to pipe fitters, to
teachers, to iron workers, to everyone who works and gets tired. Oh, I
donít think so. Look at the next verse: "Take my yoke upon you,
and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find
rest unto your souls." Jesus is offering spiritual rest, here, not
physical rest. So, this invitation is not to those who are physically
tired from physical labor. Heís inviting those who "labor and are
heavy laden" in a spiritual sense.
4B. Thus, if you do not labor and you are
not heavy laden by your sins . . . Jesus Christ does not invite you to
come to Him, He does not invite you to believe on Him. Jesus invites all
to come to Him, all who labor and who are heavy laden. Thatís why,
when a child comes into my office for counseling I will oftentimes ask,
"What would you like for Jesus to do for you?" And I will get
an answer like, "Nothing." Is it any wonder that I will tell
the child he can go?
5B. From time to time a kid will come into
my office, and as the child is walking toward me he will make faces or
do something silly with his body language. Does that suggest that the
child is laboring and is heavy laden? Nervous, perhaps. A bit shy around
the pastor, maybe. But laboring and heavy laden? No.
6B. "O, but he really wants to be
saved, pastor." Does he? "O, yes, pastor. I am sure that he
wants to be saved. All he ever talks about is getting saved." Is
that so? Letís go our next point.
2A. Next, WHY IS JESUS INVITING ONLY THIS GROUP TO HIM FOR
There are two ways of answering this question:
1B. First, Jesus is only inviting this
group to Him for salvation because only those who are in this group will
come to Him.
1C. Listen to what Jesus said, in John
5.39-40: "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have
eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not
come to me, that ye might have life." People thought they could
be saved by studying and learning the Bible, not realizing that the
Bible shows that Jesus is the only Savior of sinful menís souls. But
even so, you will not come to Him that you might have life.
2C. And your refusal to really and truly
come to Jesus Christ will continue until your heart is properly
prepared so that you will want to come to Him. This has been the
subject of my preaching for the last few Sunday nights, that a
sinnerís heart must be pierced with sorrow, must be run through with
conviction, must be pricked as on the day of Pentecost, must be opened
as was Lydiaís heart, or must be made to quake and tremble as the
Philippian jailorís heart.
3C. But such only happens to those who
labor and are heavy laden. This never happens to those who are
thoughtless about their sins, who are careless about their sins, who
are nonchalant about their sins, who are unfeeling about their sins,
who are not guilty of their sins, who are unconscious about their
2B. Second, Jesus is only
inviting this group to Him for salvation because only those who are in
this group can come to Him.
1C. Romans 10.10 shows very clearly that
"with the heart man believeth unto righteousness." No man
comes to Christ intellectually and finds salvation. There is no saving
faith which is entirely a matter of the mind. For true conversion to
take place, for the sinner to really come to Jesus, he must believe in
Jesus in his heart.
2C. But the human heart is a veritable
cesspool of iniquity. Filled with hatred for God and animosity toward
Godís Son, Isaiah shows that sinners despise and reject Jesus,
sinners hide their faces from Jesus, and sinners have only the lowest
opinion of Him, Isaiah 53.3.
3C. Jeremiahís explanation of this
attitude and posture toward the only One Who can possibly save you
from your sins is the very familiar Jeremiah 17.9: "The heart is
deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can
4C. But when a sinner labors and is heavy
laden something is done to his heart. Pressed down under the burden of
sinís guilt, awakened to a sense of his own wickedness in the sight
of God, persuaded that his sin deserves the harshest of penalties, the
affections of the heart are affected by the convicting ministry of the
Holy Spirit of God.
5C. I mentioned several weeks ago that
flash of illumination that occurs. With Saul of Tarsus it was the
appearance of Jesus to him on the road to Damascus. With Belshazzar it
was the handwriting on the wall. With one hopeful convert it was the
sudden realization that she had been placing the importance of her own
family too high.
6C. Remember, Christ gave Himself for the
Church, Ephesians 5.25, and there is no place in the Bible where
anyone is warned against overvaluing the Church. But Jesus did caution
us against overvaluing both our families and our own lives, when He
said, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and
mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and
his own life also, he cannot be my disciple," Luke 14.26.
7C. When that flash of illumination
occurs you begin thinking of things differently, seeing things
differently, evaluating things differently than you ever had before.
You see your own depravity. You see your own guilt. Sin becomes
hateful and worthy of the most severe punishment. You are not only
helpless, but your situation is also hopeless.
8C. Far from feeling happy and
optimistic, you now see yourself against the backdrop of stark
reality. There is no reason to feel happy about anything. There is no
reason to be optimistic about anything. Your wickedness and wrongness
overwhelms you. Should the gulf between you and God seem to you to be
infinite, with God high and holy and you low and miserable, then you
will be open to the truth that you need a Savior, since you do need
saving and you cannot save yourself.
9C. Can you span that great gulf between
you and God caused by your sins? No. Do you even possess the strength
or will to come to Christ on your own, by your own initiative, as a
result of your own prompting? No. Thus, God must summon you. In John
6.44, Jesus said, "No man can come to me, except the Father which
hath sent me draw him." When God draws you to His Son you can and
you then will come to Jesus.
10C. But remember, they are called from
that group of sinners who labor and who are heavy laden.
3A. Finally, HOW DOES ONE BECOME
A PART OF THIS GROUP TO BE INVITED TO HIM FOR SALVATION?
Is it not obvious? You have to
labor, and you have to be heavy laden. There is an active and a passive
part to being in this group:
1B. The active part, the part
that you must do, the part that you must play, is to labor.
1C. What does it mean to labor?
Does the word "labor" refer to manual labor, working a back
breaking job? To be sure, there are a number of places in the New
Testament in which the Greek word translated "labor" means
precisely that. But the context in which the word is found here in
Matthew 11.28 shows the word to refer to spiritual activity, not
2C. Turn to Colossians 1.29,
where we see the word used with another important word:
"Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working,
which worketh in me mightily." The word "labor" means
"to grow weary from toil, to toil on." But Paul shows that
"labour" overlaps in meaning with the word
"striving," which refers to "contending and
3C. My friend, this has to do
with your sins. You are coming to grips with your sins. You are
dealing with your sinfulness. You are struggling against committing
sins. You are resisting the domination of sin over every area of your
life. You are a slave to sin, but you are no longer a willing slave.
This labor, this striving, makes you weary. Not weary of body,
directly, though there is obviously some of that, but weary of heart
and weary of soul.
4C. And this is the active role
you take in coming to grips with your own sinfulness.
2B. The passive part, the part
that is done to you, is to be heavy laden.
1C. This translates a word that
refers to being weary and burdened. It is the direct result of
laboring with sin, of striving to enter in at the strait gate, Luke
13.24, of wrestling with your sins and fighting against your sinful
natureís propensity to do that which wrong and not do that which is
2C. There will be no feelings
of weariness over sin, no profound awareness of your own wickedness,
no sense of your separation from God, no recognition of your deadness
in trespasses and sins, unless you labor, unless you strive.
3C. Now, it must be recognized
that this weariness that Jesus describes as being "heavy
laden" is not the product of your own self work. It is the result
of the Holy Spirit of God convicting you of your sins and of your
sinfulness. Though your personal responsibility is being focused on by
the Savior, here, do not make the mistake of discounting what only the
Holy Spirit can really do, John 16.8-9. He must reprove of sin, which
will spur you on to more laboring, and will result in you being more
4C. Please recognize that if
this did not happen to you, either quickly or slowly, then you never
did come to Christ. Only such as labor and are heavy laden are invited
by Christ to come to Christ. And only such as labor and are heavy
laden are drawn by the Father to His Son.
1. So you see why the little ones
who come into my office and tell me "I want to be saved" are so
quickly dismissed once I find out that they have no concept of laboring
and are not heavy laden.
2. Generally speaking, if a sinner
is not alarmed by the preaching there is very little which can be done to
guide him to Christ. An adjustment here or a correction there, perhaps.
But the heavy lifting by me must be done during my preaching. The heavy
lifting by the sinner must be done after the preaching, as he thinks and
meditates and ponders and weighs and evaluates and considers and chews on
what he has heard.
3. I have heard some good questions
from our young people: "Pastor, what does being heavy laden
mean?" But others are showing that they do not yet see themselves as
sinners in any real sense. These are the ones who, when I ask, "What
do you want to talk about this evening?" will say to me, about
4. After weeks of hearing sermons
on the subject, they still have not grasped that Jesus does not invite to
come to Him but who labor and are heavy laden. So, parents, you must point
out to your children the problem, but to not raise the issue of the
solution to them. In other words, help me get them lost, but do not talk
to them about getting saved, or else we will not succeed in getting them
5. When they get lost, truly lost,
desperately lost, hopelessly lost, helplessly lost, then I will guide them
to Christ. But we do them a disservice to talk to them about getting saved
until they are more lost than you want them to be, perhaps because you
heart breaks when you see them miserable. But they must be miserable
before they can have the joy of the Holy Spirit for sins forgiven.
6. Now, let me turn my attention to
you adults and teens who are lost. Understand in no uncertain terms that
you have not been invited by Jesus Christ to come to Him for salvation. It
hasnít happened. And the reason it hasnít happened is because to
invite you to come to Him would be casting pearls before swine.
7. I am not accusing you of being
swine, but pointing out that to invite you to come to Christ is entirely
unsuitable so long as you refuse to labor and experience the resulting
weariness that comes from being heavy laden by your sins.
8. You must become so burdened by
your sins, so burdened by your sinful nature that is inclined against God,
that you abandon your notions of asking Jesus for help. Heís not
interested in helping you. Heís interested in saving you, saving you
from your sins.
9. Therefore, until you come to the
place where you see your sins as despicable, as soul damning, as that
which separates you from God, as the worst of all possible evils, there is
no hope of you getting converted, but until then you have no invitation
from Jesus Christ to come to Him.
10. I conclude with this request:
If you are laboring and are heavy laden, please come to the conference
room so I can talk to you about coming to Christ. If you want some
specific advice on how to labor, so that you will become heavy laden, in
the hopes that you can then come to Christ, then you too should step into
the conference room so you and I can talk to you.