Our gathering is cancelled for Sunday, January 13th due to snow. We hope you can enjoy this personal devotional, family worship guide, and community group study today or this week. Stay safe out there!
Rhythms of Grace
25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. 27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 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. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” —Matthew 11:25-30 (NIV)
For Children and Families
If you could be a superhero, pro athlete, or famous movie star, what would you choose? If you really wanted to become like your favorite hero/athlete/star, what would you have to do?
The best thing we can do with our lives is to know and become like Jesus. What do you think Jesus was like? How do you think we could become like him?
Jesus once told his friends how they could come to him—and be like him. He said things like:
“Come and follow me. If you’re tired, I can help you rest. If you’re scared, I’ll make you feel safe. If you feel mad, I’ll make your heart feel lighter. Walk with me and work with me—live how I live. Learn the rhythms of grace. I won’t make it hard for you. Stay with me and you’ll learn how to live.”
Jesus wanted us to approach God (his Father and our Father in heaven) like little children. Grownups sometimes make things too confusing. But little kids are especially good at something Jesus talked a lot about— getting gifts. And that’s what God wants to do: He wants to give us the best-ever gift. He wants us to belong to him, to join his family!
Jesus knows that it’s hard to be a kid. So he wants to live in your heart (that’s what the Holy Spirit does!) and show you how to become like him. Jesus shows us how to love God the Father as he does. That’s what it’s like to be like Jesus: It’s not about following a bunch of rules; it’s about loving God from your heart!
How do you want to say Thank You to God for sending Jesus to save us? Why do you think God wants our hearts to follow him, not just for us to follow a bunch of rules? What do you think of becoming like Jesus? (Not all at once, but eventually.) What would you be like?
Read and Reflect
When I was a kid, I thought I could become like my hero, Royals star Bo Jackson. I wore the same shirt as him, rolled up the sleeves, and even tried his signature move—breaking a bat over my knee. But I fell miserably short, and not just for lack of athletic ability. I didn’t emulate his entire way of life, including his practice routine, training, and nutrition, and so I couldn’t match his performance in big games.
We can make a similar mistake in our spiritual lives. In a recent sermon, we said “the goal of our lives is to become like Christ.” To become like Jesus, we have to adopt his entire way of life—even when we’re not facing a trial or surrounded by others. In Matthew 11, Jesus invites us to become like him by adopting his way of life. In a sense, it does mean putting in work, but in another sense, it’s a light and rest-giving labor as well.
He invites us: Come to me; learn from me; rest in me.
Come to Me
Jesus invites us: Come to me. Pause for a moment and think about that. He pursues us. He invites us. He doesn’t wait to be found. We are not seekers who find him and, if we have what it takes, he accepts us as his disciples. Quite the opposite: He stands before all mankind, saying “Come.” Come to me. Come empty handed. Come weary and exhausted. Come burden, heavy-laden. Come in your total depravity. Come in your need.
Further, he invites us to come as little children. The Kingdom of God belongs to little children. The Kingdom of God is like one of those kids’ playplaces at McDonalds or Tiger Bounce. Every parent knows what it’s like when your kid gets stuck or scared at the top and won’t come down. When all else fails, you have to go in yourself. You have to make yourself small to get in.
We are all beginners in the spiritual life, and we end our lives as beginners. That’s God’s plan for keeping us humble. The one thing we most need, we can’t come up with on our own. True Christlikeness is a gift we receive, not a place we reach or a position we achieve. Human willpower doesn’t bring about true heart change. We need an internal transformation of Grace.
Learn from Me
Jesus says: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (v28). When Jesus refers to his “yoke” that means his way of life, his teaching. This was a common phrase in Hebrew culture. It referred to the heavy beam that rested on the shoulders of oxen so that the farmer could steer them. In The Message paraphrase of this passage, Jesus says:
“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. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
By following Jesus in the overall style of his life, we become more like him by grace. We become like him through moment by moment dependence on him, not just looking for help when the big decisions and trials and temptations come. Dallas Willard has written:
“We can become like Christ by doing one thing—by following him in the overall style of life he chose for himself. If we have faith in Christ, we must believe that he knew how to live. We can, through faith and grace, become like Christ by practicing the types of activities he engaged in.”
Jesus’s easy and light yoke, his unforced rhythms of life, are his own practices of spiritual life.
Silence and Solitude forces us to face our own hearts and minds. We don’t try to resist all these things but notice them and pray them to God. What recurring thoughts keep coming to mind?
Scripture enables us to develop the mind of Christ. We come to learn, be reminded, be convicted of sin, and grow in Christ. We engage Scripture expecting to hear from God and be transformed in his presence.
Prayer is simply talking with God. It can include praise, confession, thanksgiving, and asking for what you need. Jesus invites us to approach the Father as little children—and to keep coming and asking.
Community and the following “outward rhythms” remind us that we are relational beings. We need one another. Jesus lived in tight fellowship, and we need each other even more. In community, we become like him together.
Service is the practice of putting others’ needs before your own. Jesus didn’t come to be served but to serve—to give his life for others.
Giving is the practice of trusting God with our money and possessions. Jesus spoke on money more than any other topic because it so reveals our desires. Giving to the church and the poor reorients our hearts.
Rest in Me
The result of living by Jesus’s unforced rhythms of grace is this: “You will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (v29-30). If your spiritual practices lead you into rest, that’s a great sign. If your spiritual practices are making you more critical and more anxious, you may not be living in the unforced rhythms of grace; you might be working out of your own willpower.
Many days I don’t feel like going to Christ. Often, I don’t feel any excitement toward the rhythms of grace. I’d rather be busy; I want to get things done and make things happen. But I’ve tried that way of life and it’s overrated—gaining status at work, buying something new. It’s fun for a minute, but it’s not really freedom. There must always be another promotion or another new thing.
True freedom isn’t having everything. True freedom is having Christ and needing nothing else.
Only the Gospel gives us this assurance. Only if we are covered by Jesus’s righteousness, only if we know God loves us and has set his Spirit within us. Then we discover the lightness and easiness of Jesus’s way of life. As the old hymn goes:
Lay your deadly doing down
down at Jesus’s feet
Find yourself in him alone
Questions for Community Groups
What do you think of the statement, “The goal of our lives is to become like Christ”?
How do you respond to Jesus’s repeated instructions to become like little children? What would a more childlike faith look like for you?
In what ways have you tried the heavy burden of religious activity and felt exhausted? How have you tried the world’s offer of possessions, status, and control, and similarly been let down?
Consider the inward rhythms (silence and solitude, Scripture, prayer) and outward rhythms (community, service, giving). How have you practiced the rhythms of grace or spiritual disciplines in your own life? Which rhythms have been most life-giving? Which do you think you could grow in this year?
On a scale of 0 to 10, how would you rate your spiritual “restedness”? Why so?