What Kind Of Yoke Does Jesus Offer?

Return to your rest, O my soul. The Lord has dealt bountifully with you. Psalm 116:7

The next time you’re part of a group, introduce the topic of ‘the yoke of an oxen’ and there probably won’t be much interest, even among Christians. However, the topic is unavoidable because we’re all yoked to someone. Satan yokes us to him whether we want it or not. “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Isaiah 58:6 Jesus, if we’re willing, breaks the yoke of our oppression and invites us to take on His yoke instead.

He said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Who wants to be in a yoke? That’s the opposite of freedom. Jesus’ promise that this way of living is good for me makes me skeptical. Once I’m freed from the enemy’s cords, can’t I just do my own thing?

Let’s consider the context of Jesus’ words. Two oxen are chosen to share a yoke. The first is an older seasoned ox. He is trained and rugged from years of routine. The second is a new young ox. He has potential but is inexperienced. By sharing the same yoke with a seasoned workhorse, the mature trains the young.

Not only that, but the experienced one pulls harder to bear the majority of the load. Since the older one leads, the younger ox does not have to wonder what to do. He leans on his mentor and copies everything his he does.

Sounds like discipleship, doesn’t it? Jesus invites me to ‘learn of Him’ which is another way of saying ‘be my disciple.’ There’s rest in not having to figure life out on my own. There’s security as I follow His lead.

Jesus also reveals that His yoke is easy. The word ‘easy’ doesn’t mean ‘simple’, but ‘good’. If I’m yoked to Jesus, there’s rest in being yoked to someone good, loving, and patient.

The paraphrase? “Get in the yoke with me. Let me disciple You. I’ll bear the weight of your burden. My yoke is good and you will find rest and companionship in our labor together.”

You were yoked to Your Father and that’s how You survived. Your life was the slow dance of the trinity. I want that. Amen

The Yoke Of The Flesh

For the flesh craves what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are opposed to one another, so that you do not do what you want. Galatians 5:17

The yoke of the flesh is to live for myself. It is going in whatever direction gives me the most pleasure, attention, and exaltation.   The sobering thing is that its choices can range from the worst debauchery to pursuing the pastorate. This is what makes it so insidious. Sins of the flesh can be obvious and they can also be hidden. Someone in ministry can be as driven to satisfy the flesh as the one engaged in blatant immorality.

If I turn 1 Corinthians 10:31 on its end, the yoke of the flesh is described perfectly. Whatever you do, do all to the glory of self.   

I Corinthians 10:31, as it is written, describes the life of one who is yoked to Jesus. Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Cor. 10:31 Life is lived according to what makes God look great.

To be driven by my flesh, in its most innocuous appearances, means that I believe that I have the talent and the skill set to make my life successful. To others, it might look like I’m succeeding. I make a good living, people like to follow my leadership, my ventures bring about good numbers, I advance in popularity, my talents dazzle those around me, and most importantly, my flesh is satisfied. Let all this be true in the confines of ministry and I can fool others and myself indefinitely. When my life here is over, I will stand before God and see my mountain of productions burn in the fire.

I can also be God’s child and sin blatantly, right in God’s face. I engage in the fleshly desires Jesus died to save me from. Put to death, therefore, the components of your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5 One of John Piper’s famous series is one he preached out of Romans called, How To Kill Sin.

Here’s one of his comments:

If we died to sin by being united with Jesus in his death, we can’t stay married to sin. The faith that unites us to Christ disunites from his competitors. The faith that makes peace with God makes war on our sin. If you are not at odds with sin, you are not at home with Jesus, not because being at odds with sin makes you at home with Jesus, but because being at home with Jesus makes you at odds with sin.”

How can I find freedom from the yoke of the flesh? I repent of self-exaltation, of wanting what I want whether it’s a license to sin or to create my own kingdom for self-glorification.  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. John 6:63 

Give us victory, Jesus, for every way we are bound to our own desires. Purify us for your coming. Amen

The Yoke of Unbelief

So this is what the sovereign Lord says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be shaken. Isaiah 28:16

Unbelief leads to despair but faith leads to hope. If I do not trust Jesus, I will be unwilling to be yoked to Him. I know in my head that God’s Word is true. I can quote this like I was giving a right answer on a test. Yet inwardly, I can still fight severe unbelief. The battle to trust His Word in the face of what appears to disprove it brings me to a crisis of faith.

Peter said that Jesus can be a rock of offense over whom people stumble. What makes each of us stumble is usually different. For many years, I stumbled over the issue of God’s expectations of me. When I go out to teach, I have a group of intercessors who pray for me. They labor in prayer, some even fast. Now, I would feel the pressure of that and think, “You are now fully equipped, Christine, to teach under God’s anointing and powerful things should happen.” When a group failed to respond like I anticipated, I took that as my failure. I believed that the intercessors did their part, gave me everything I needed for a harvest, so I must have failed mine. See the yoke? I forgot that the harvest is not up to me.

I will be shaken if I believe a lie about God. The journey is steep and I must fight for faith. Unbelief assaults me from two places; my own thoughts and the arrows of an enemy who never stops trying to corrupt my trust and connection to God. What will overcome these inner minefields?

“For the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Cor. 10:4-5

The weapons? Scripture and the Spirit. The fortresses? Lies that have become entrenched over time and become strongholds. Speculations and every lofty thing? The mindset that I formulate over a lifetime that is ironclad and hard to budge. Only the Word can demolish it and re-write it.

What lie holds you captive? To find the answer, look carefully at the places you consider hopeless. Ask yourself why you believe that? State the lie and form a battle plan with the Word of God. Come at it with sharp arrows of truth ~ asking the Spirit of God to write His Word on your mind and heart. Fight the battle until you begin to know, and feel, the freedom from the yoke of deception.

You and I may temporarily teeter, wrestle like Jacob, but God’s foundation will hold if we take our mutinous thoughts and override them with His word. As long as we wear a yoke of deception, we render ourselves incapable of ever seeing a kingdom outcome. A glorious plot becomes a tragic and that is never what God had planned for His children.

Lord, you know what tempts me to stumble over you. But I’m choosing to believe that the redemption of this pain must be more beautiful than I can imagine. Break the yoke of unbelief. Amen

Plan For The Week

Good morning,

I’ll be traveling to Colorado this week to speak at a conference and because of that, I’ll be out of my routine of studying and writing each morning.

Hebrews will continue after my return. As I was praying about what to send out, this series from a year ago seemed right.

An unprecedented number of you responded to this, as I recall, which showed me that the subject of spiritual yokes is extremely important. None of us likes the idea of being yoked to anyone or anything. The picture conjures up images of slavery and God did not create us to be bound to evil. The idea of a yoke repels. Yet, if a glorious deliverer promised any of us freedom from slavery, we would make a decision in a split second to be yoked to someone who loves and saves. That is what I must remember when I think of Jesus’ words about yokes. I needed a glorious Deliverer at salvation to yoke me to Himself. I am ‘in Christ.

I am not to be yoked ~
• To religion and live by others’ measuring stick. • To slavery and live by the demands of controllers. • To shame and live by the opinions of flawed people. • To the flesh and live like I did before I believed. • To deception and live by lies conceived at the gates of darkness

Jesus offers a glorious alternative. His yoke is easy because it’s love-driven. His yoke is gentle because it’s love-driven. His yoke is light because it’s love-driven. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the first of four yokes – the yoke of unbelief.

If God prompts you to pray for me and the men and women who will attend the 3 day conference in Colorado Springs, thank you. I hope each of us will see the power of God at work this week as His Spirit brings the kingdom to our world.

A Language Reserved For Only One

For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son,today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?   Hebrews 1:5

The more intimate a relationship, the more exclusive the language.  While I respect many men for various reasons, I only have one husband.  I will describe Ron in ways that will be exclusive to him and my love language proves it.  The same for my children.  They hold a place in my heart that is only theirs and there is an exclusive language that accompanies that relationship. 

Why is the writer of Hebrews taking the time to describe the exclusive language between God and His Son, Jesus?  Isn’t this something I already know?   God is the Father; Jesus is the Son.  Yet, I am not Jewish and I was not part of their culture which historically held angels in high esteem.  Angels played a major part in the giving of the law and, in Jewish minds and hearts, angels were revered.  Perhaps Jewish believers were tempted to give angels and Jesus equal footing.  There’s a reason that so much of the first chapter is taken up with proving the supremacy of Christ. 

Jesus was the only one who heard God call Him ‘Son’.  Jesus was the only one whom God described as ‘begotten of God,’ holding the nature and essence of God Himself.  Jesus is the only One of whom His Father would say, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son.”  (A quotation from 2 Samuel 7:14 Hebrew’s author knew he must reach back into the Torah to authenticate his teaching.)

This message will continue to be unveiled over the next many verses and will be the topic of a week’s worth of devotionals.  Anticipating that, do I really grasp the importance of this and why is it imperative that I do? 

Scripture is built precept upon precept.  If I fail to understand one thing, many other things are at risk of being misunderstood.  If I miss the value of one truth, I miss out on the myriad of truths that are built on that original one.  If you’ve been a believer for a long time, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Your faith today is built on the cumulative understanding of the basics. Scripture and doctrine hung on the understanding of the fundamentals. 

What’s at stake if I fail to realize the exclusive relationship between God and His Son?  So many things that are critical to my faith but on the list is the risk that I might not fully grasp the relationship between God and me!  Jesus is God’s Son and through Him, I became God’s daughter. Having been adopted in His family, I enjoy words of affection that angels never hear.  I live in the light of God’s favor and bask in the exclusive language between Father and child.  I’ve been given God’s name and Christ’s nature is being formed in me through the indwelling of His Spirit.  This is something angels will never experience.  They will never enjoy the wonder and privilege of calling God, Abba Father. 

Through You, Jesus, I have the right to be called a child of God. I’m learning from You how to relate to our Father.  Thank you for teaching me what love looks like in this exclusive relationship.  Amen

What Name Interests You Most?

[Jesus], having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.  Hebrews 1:4

Very few angels appear to have names but we can usually name two who do. Gabriel and Michael.  Angels make up the host of heaven (numbered as the stars) and God is the Lord of this angel army.  Though their activity is mentioned in scripture, their names are missing and I have to believe it’s intentional.  Angels are not to be the focus.  The only name that matters is ‘Jesus’, their Creator.  There is no name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved. Acts 4:12

Yet, our world has a preoccupation with them and Satan applauds it. He doesn’t want the attention to be on Jesus lest our Lord might draw them to Himself.  The kingdom of darkness flaunts the work of the dark angels, called demons, though they don’t advertise them as dark unless you’re a hard-core Satanist. They are usually portrayed as spirits of light but we know they are false lights.

Satan, their leader, with his ability to trick and deceive, has sprinkled them with glitter and caused them to be able to beguile people.  Spirit guides, familiar spirits, and other mystical beings in the spiritual world fascinate the world and offer an encounter that stimulates the senses.  But, tragically, a widespread interest in Jesus, the Light of the world, is absent.  He is waved off with a shrug.

The word angel means messenger.  God’s angels are His messengers.  Isn’t the One who sent them to deliver a message or to serve a child of God the point of it all?  It would be like me getting flowers from someone who loves me but I become obsessed with the person who delivers them instead of the person who sent them.  The first thing one does when getting flowers is to find the card that came with them. The sender and the sentiments are what make it special.

The apostle Paul saw this foolishness in his day and warned the church at Colossae. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind.” Col. 2:18

God’s angels surely consider it a tragedy and would protest as they know their place.  What’s the tragedy when angels are glorified?  1.) They are grieved because they live to worship God and pray we’ll do the same.  2.) We are left wanting as we admire the messengers and ignore the One who sent them to love and serve us.  3.) We miss out on holy encounters with Jesus as angels aren’t involved in the work of sanctification.  The only One who can teach, encourage, convict, and save is God-Himself. 

Jesus – the name above all names – sits at the right hand of God today.  Around Him are angels who know their place and rejoice in the privilege of worshipping the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

One day, I will join them, Jesus, but I need not wait. You are central in my vision today.  Amen

Five Words. What Do They Mean To You?

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.  Hebrews 1:4

The first five words ~ powerful words ~ and so simply said that they could get lost in some quick read of Hebrews.  Yet, in the history of this world, never were a few words more important.  Our greatest human need is to have our sins forgiven.  Without someone to forgive us and purify us, we face an eternity apart from God in a place of torment.  It is the future home of those who don’t want God.

Many have speculated about what the goodbye was like when Jesus left heaven and came to earth.  The coming separation between Father and Son had to be excruciating to face.  They both knew what Jesus was coming to do.  Atoning for the sins of the world lay in front of him and since God is not bound by time, the Trinity could look into the tomorrows and see them as if they had already happened.  They knew who would believe.  They knew who would betray.  They knew the fickleness of Jesus’ family.  They knew the many devices their enemy, Satan, would use to try to stop Jesus’ mission. 

While the goodbye had been difficult, going home was quite another scene.  Jesus ascended, left his disciples on a hillside, and was gone from them.  While absent from humanity, He was back in company with His father.  Were there tears of joy?  Did they both review 33 earth-years to try to capture the wonder of what just happened?  For them both, there had to be great relief and unfiltered joy.  From the time Adam and Eve sinned and left paradise, God knew His Son would die.  But, much of history needed to be lived before it was the right time for Jesus’ incarnation.  There was the agony of waiting amidst the carnage of animals being slaughtered in the temple.  There was the anticipation of a ‘once and for all’ sacrifice instead of a temporary covering of sin.  There was a longing in God’s heart for intimacy with His creation that only could transpire when the holy of holies was accessible.  

Mission accomplished was celebrated when Jesus returned and sat down at the right hand of His Father. The salvation of mankind was now possible and as I’m writing, I marvel that the world as a whole hasn’t recognized the gift and knelt before the feet of Jesus in gratitude.  Yet, before Jesus ever left heaven in the first place, He knew how few would want the gift.  He perceived the narrow gate and the wide gate.  He saw the throngs who would be incensed at the suggestion that they were sinners and needed a Savior.  But He also saw the ones who would hear The Story, see His glory, and believe.  The holy trinity, in celebration, could see one sinner, on his face, or on her knees, awestruck with the wonder of such a gift of redemption.  It was you and it was me.

Yes, before Jesus ever came, the God-head saw you. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit saw me.  They called us by name thousands of years before we lived and by grace, we heard the song.

I review the story and I tremble with wonder all over again.  Amen