Focal passage: Matthew 11:20-30
One of the greatest dangers in the church is the temptation to confuse the gospel of Christ with pharisaical moralism. Pharisaical moralism says you need to conform externally to living a “good Christian life.” The gospel of Christ says you need to be transformed internally by God Himself.
Now of course we want to do what’s right and avoid doing bad things, but if one does the right things for the wrong reason, then it wasn’t really the right thing.
Isaiah captures the vanity of believing you can do good things to earn the favor of a Holy and Righteous God by saying, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6a).
The first words preached by Jesus in Matthew highlight the contrast between moralism and the gospel, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17).
The word “repent” demands that we first acknowledge our failure to be and do good. At first glance this seems like bad news.
However, the Good News of the gospel is only understood in the context of the bad news of our sin against God. We must first realize that not only are we guilty of doing bad, we are bad.
We must acknowledge that we can’t even live up to our own standards of goodness let alone the standards of God. And if we are honest, seeking to be a good Christian in our own strength is exhausting because we always fail to live up to God’s perfect standard.
All this sets the stage beautifully for Christ’s invitation in Matthew 11:28.
He invites those who have come to the end of their pharisaical moralism saying, “Come to me all who labor and are heaven laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Repentance is refusing to rely on your own righteousness and running to rest in the righteousness of Christ. Come to Him all you who are weary, He will give you rest.