The Deliverer

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1

None of us likes the idea of being yoked to anyone or anything; it repels.  The thought conjures up images of slavery and God did not create us to be bound to evil.  Yet, if a glorious deliverer arrived to promise 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.

While my future is secure and I am already seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus, I must still contend with my flesh. 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. What a friend we have in Jesus.

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” Isaiah 58:6

The Yoke of Slavery

I am the Lord your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves; and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you to upright. Leviticus 26:13

When ‘yoke’ is used, especially in the O.T., it speaks of slavery or bondage to an oppressor. This passage from Leviticus is one example. The Israelites were not freed from the Egyptians through a revolt, an underground movement, or a rebel who rose up to lead the people. They were powerless against a formidable oppressor. Only God could break the bands of their yoke. Bondage was all they had ever known. It was in their DNA.  Four hundred years of it had characterized the existence of the many generations before them.

I may not know this kind of slavery but I can be enslaved nonetheless to a bully, a spouse, a sibling, even an aging parent. Someone got the upper hand when I was once in a compromised position.  The relational pattern was set in stone and perhaps I don’t presently have the personal strength to shake up the dynamics. Oh, but God does. He is in me and I need not be a bully in return in order to be freed from their control. There is holy strength in quietness and resolve. There is holy strength in the man or woman who know that they answer to God first. There is holy strength in the person who is confident before a bully because the Lord is on their side.

A yoke of slavery also plagues me when I fail to leave the unholy ways of my family.  At conversion, my allegiance is to be re-defined.  How difficult though to overcome generational yokes. We are shown very early in life that there is the ‘family way of doing things’ and if you want to enjoy its community, you have to stay in step. These unholy legacies don’t just include things like infidelity, anger, alcoholism, addictive behaviors, depression or a pre-disposition to a certain disease.  There are more insidious culprits such as a hatred of men, or women, a despising of the church, and even a racial bigotry between the north and the south, the blacks and the whites, and Christians against non-Christians.

Isaiah said, Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the Lord; Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Isaiah 51:1  The message is clear. I have been shaped by those who raised me. It is imperative that every child of God look closely at their daily choices to see if there is still a yoke to those who put pressure on us to be like them. I am to be more like my Heavenly Father than my earthly one.  My new birth trumps my initial birth.

How do I take off this yoke of slavery?  First, I ask God to expose my ungodly connections and make me willing to align with Jesus.  He will start turning on the light.  Each time I cave and cower, I repent for doing what Jesus would not do. I take new paths of righteousness armed with scripture and the power of the Spirit.  It may result in being out of step with my family of origin.  Am I willing to be the child of God that Jesus would be if He lived my life?  Only grace will enable it.  Only faith will propel it into the future.

Lord, this is the hard and steep path but oh, how blessed I will be to keep in step with You, to walk in Your footprints. Amen

The Yoke of Shame

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin. Romans 4:7-8

Every person is born with a sense of shame because of Adam and Eve’s sin. We know we are flawed and are therefore shy before a holy God. The more we add sin to our resume, the more shame grows and the heavier the yoke becomes.

I have fought my own internal battle over the years. I have asked myself repeatedly, “How can I get over what I’ve done? Has Jesus totally forgiven me?” The yoke had me by the throat.

Worshipers in the ancient world knew shame well. They would bring their sacrifices; animals, even newborn babies, to kill at the altar; all because they had a sense that they needed to calm angry gods. Their faith was in the wrong god but their conscience was keen in sensing that there was One higher than them who was just and holy.

Are you living out a life sentence of depression as you rehearse your failures? Does your track record haunt you like a ghost? If you have confessed your sin but still feel guilty, realize that when God forgives, he separates your sin from you. One of the words for ‘forgive’ is to ‘send away’. God took that ‘thing’ for which you repented, took it off of you and put it on Jesus. When you can’t hold your head up, you must remember that you are not your sin.

Satan accuses. People name call. But Jesus calls His forgiven children ‘righteous’. The beautiful names He confers on us form an umbrella under which we live and enjoy peace with God. The names are numerous, each one meaning something beautiful, and it is each one of these that I must rehearse when I am weighed down by shame. Whether people-inflicted or Satan-inflicted, shame need not be my yoke. It was Jesus’ yoke when He died in my place. I am to live like Abraham. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Romans 4:20-21

How do I take off this yoke? Believe God. See yourself standing in the flow of God’s forgiveness and then walk by faith.  Be sure to have a plan. Satan is the perpetual accuser of the brethren. He will come at you again with old tapes. Be ready with scripture. You will have to quote it out loud and be assured that he will flee. Remember, you are forgiven whether you feel like you are or not. Feelings are unreliable but the Word of God is true and abides forever.

For every one who is deciding to walk in forgiveness, by faith, remove the yoke of shame from their shoulders, Jesus. 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

The Yoke of Religion

They tie up heavy, burdensome loads and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them. Mattthew 23:4

The first kind of yoke that keeps God’s children in bondage is, 1.) The religious yoke.

Jesus came down hard on the Pharisees when He told them that they were placing a heavy burden of rules upon the people, adding more and more laws that ‘The Law’ did not include. The people labored under it. Jesus called that burden ‘heavy’ and referred to His own burden as ‘light’.

As a young monk, Martin Luther confessed that he didn’t love God, he hated Him. He felt that he just couldn’t please Him. Luther beat himself, fasted for days, slept outside in the cold, and all because He felt the guilt of his own sin. He couldn’t sleep at night because he thought, “Can I possibly do everything that God requires of me?” His mentor told him that confession is to bring relief to those burdened with guilt, not add more. But Luther was so bound up by a religious yoke that, though he confessed constantly, he found little relief. While some around him made their complete confession in just a few minutes, Luther would go on and on for hours. Nagging guilt caused him to be an overachiever; so much so that he advanced in the ranks of the monastery very quickly. It’s a reminder to me that perceived holiness is often driven by forces other than a love for Christ.

How do I know if I suffer under a religious yoke?   I have a nagging feeling that I’m not good enough. I have no peace. I don’t feel forgiven. I don’t believe I’ve paid enough yet for my sins. I feel I have a long way to go to prove to God that I’m sincere. I keep myself insanely busy to dull the ache of unworthiness. I become an overachiever with a need to eclipse the successes of those around me. I need to be God’s ‘teacher’s pet’. At that point, I am the older brother in the prodigal son story who kept all the rules but was probably only looking out for his own inheritance. He felt his father owed him; which is easy to feel if I’ve been a rule keeper. Under a religious yoke, let hard times come and my underlying attitude can be, “God, how could you? After how good I’ve been?”

If I labor under the yoke of religion, I believe that my good behavior proves to God that I’m really a good child. I am bound to the law and ignore the fact that Jesus already fulfilled it. He did it because I couldn’t. Jesus took my sin, annihilated every reason I’d have to perform, and gave me His righteousness. I’m invited to rest in my salvation.

If you suffer under the torment of a religious yoke, how do you escape it? Repent of self-exaltation and minimizing the power of the cross. Affirm again that you have been saved by faith alone – which is where Martin Luther ended up. He began to see that the scriptures were really the language of a loving Father to little children. He was free to worship and celebrate such a great God who provided such a great Salvation from self.

Break the chains of the yoke of religion for every one who is bound. Amen

I’ll Wear One But Which One?

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Mt. 11:28-31

The idea of Jesus’ yoke can scare disciples. What is the alternative to the yoke He offers? If I turn Him down and say no to His yoke, will I enjoy autonomy and avoid yokes of any kind? That won’t happen. Freedom from yokes is not possible.

Oh, there are so many kinds, too. I’ve worn the yoke of shame. How about you? I’ve labored under the yoke of perfectionism? Have you? I’ve suffered from the taunts of self-condemning voices that were spurred on by legalism. Does that sound familiar at all to you? There are all kinds of yokes conceived in the kingdom of darkness. There’s only one yoke in Jesus’ kingdom. He made it simple. Unless we wear the one He offers, we will suffer from chains that oppress us.

It is this reality that constrains me to teach this series. Jesus offers us the gracious alternative to languishing under yokes of bondage. He wants to free us, to break the chains of oppressive yokes in order to see us thrive and find rest under the yoke He offers.

What a beautiful offer in Matthew 11. I read it again slowly and marvel that He assures that His yoke won’t make me weary and burdened. Just the opposite. His yoke brings rest to my soul. How can that be? I recently read (and I can’t remember where) that Jesus refers to the yoke as ‘His yoke’ first. What was His yoke? Coming to earth to redeem me. He called it easy. How can that be? Because it is love for me that compelled Him.

Could it be that this is the secret to putting on His yoke? I can take on His yoke and it will be easy for me too because of my love for Him. I love Him because He first loved me. If I take on His yoke out of duty, it will be too heavy. If I take it on to prove that I can do it, I will be drained by lack of relationship. Only love makes it possible.

His yoke is the only one I’ll accept because His love is behind the invitation. All other yokes come from the enemy of my soul. His aim is never to love. He entices, yes, but then entraps, torments, condemns, burdens, and a host of other atrocities too numerous to mention. In the end, all will bring us to destruction.

Oh Lord Jesus, I flirt with yokes that are not of you every single day. Some, I wore a long time before I found the freedom inside Your love. Show us as Your children what Satan’s yokes are. Name them. I want to belong to and serve none other. Amen