One of the most beloved passages of Jesus is a simple invitation. It is an invitation to those who are weighted down by the cares of this life, religious works, and the burden of sin to come unto Him so that He may give them rest. His invitation is filled with love, acceptance, and forgiveness. His invitation comes with a promise of rest for those who lean upon Him.
How contrary is the experience of so many who find themselves in the aftermath of their newfound faith weighted down by the heavy burden of a churches' yoke? Too often, what started out as a fresh new experience of spiritual freedom, vitality and life in Christ becomes systematically smothered under the weight of church commitments, church programs, church busyness, church hype and church ‘huffin’ & puffin’. Their invitation to join them often comes with the small print reading “Welcome to Jesus. Now you can join our ‘happening’ and learn how to run faster, jump higher and shout the praises of God louder.” Instead of liberty, their spiritual vitality is slowly sapped by the never-ending demands of performance driven Christianity, purpose driven Christianity and hype driven Christianity that has been dumped on their shoulders. Over the last fifty years I have witnessed many sincere Christians slowly crushed under the weight of religious systems – some were legalistic, some sensation driven and some just performance driven junkies.
In time, their Christian experience is buried under the weight of church burdens, obsessive commitments, religious baggage, a minister’s spiritual agenda, a list of spiritual disciplines, the pressure to always be emotionally pumped and the expectations of others. Their enthusiasm evaporates over time and a spirit of heaviness, disillusionment and exhaustion gradually takes over. The inevitable result is “spiritual burnout.” The tragic result is that countless believers who were once sincere, enthusiastic, and dedicated become used up, worn out and eventually discarded in the process of dutifully living out some churches' expression of church life. Sadly, there are many in this category that have learned this the hard way.
On the bottom line, it really isn’t about some religious yoke, the burden of spiritual demands or expectations we have been given to carry. Jesus is not interested in how heavy our yoke is or how passionately we are plowing. He isn't interested in how obsessively committed we are to some personal agenda, program or movement. He’s interested in us and our relationship with Him. When all is said and done, it is not so much about “our” doing for Him as it is “His” doing through us. Our intimacy with Him is the wellspring from which all true works flow. It is in the crucible of simple, abiding faith and resting in Him that His works are birthed. This is the “easy” yoke He asks us to put on. This is the “light” burden He asks us to carry. All else is “dead works” no matter how zealous and good they may appear.
If the invitation you once heard has turned into heavy yoke upon your shoulders then that invitation didn’t come from Jesus. It really doesn’t matter whether that religious yoke came from the leadership, church expectations or peer pressure. If you find yourself struggling under the burdens of your church experience then you need to leave and find Christ’s embrace once again because His “yoke is easy and His burden in light.” Spiritual fruit and godly works never come from the pressure of to perform, coercion or church burdens. They come through “faith working by love” as we abide in Him.