A Yoke of Freedom
A yoke is a wooden frame placed across the back of oxen or other strong animals, joining them together in order to haul a heavy load. The yoke’s purpose is to evenly distribute the weight on both sides, making it possible for the animals to walk while bearing it.
Jesus uses this illustration to offer those who might follow Him the chance to find unparalleled freedom under His yoke. With His invitation to take His “easy” and “light” yoke, Jesus distinguishes Himself from mere religion, with its heavy burden of rules and regulations. The Pharisees of Jesus’ time were consumed with doing what was right—not only seeking to abide by God’s law but adding a great number of their own rules as well. Such man-made obligations and expectations create crushing burdens. Repeatedly saying, “Come on now, try harder; come on now, do this,” will figuratively wear down anyone’s neck.
But Jesus’ yoke is different.
To be under the yoke—the authority—of Jesus is not a burden; it is a delight. How can this be? There is a freedom found in Christ—not a freedom to do what we want but a freedom to do what we ought. Since by nature we cannot do what we ought, we are yoked to our own desires. That path promises much but delivers little. We need somebody—Jesus—to set us free from our bondage to sin so that we might live in freedom and obedience to God’s will: to become the people we were designed to be. So it is that Christ’s commands are “the perfect law that gives freedom,” and so it is that those who obey them “will be blessed in what they do” (James 1:25, NIV).
This is why we declare with joy, “Jesus is my Lord.” This is His identity—and because of His lordship, when we respond to His invitation and receive His yoke upon our shoulders, we accept a newfound obligation to live freely under His perfect will. The issues of morality, sexuality, business, family—all these things and more are gathered under the yoke of the Lord Jesus Christ.
For those who still feel yoked to a burdensome weight, be it impossible rules or sinful desires, Jesus extends the invitation to come and let Him lift these burdens. You need to hear this today. Where are you struggling with sin? How are you seeing the commands of the Lord as burdensome? In what ways might you be struggling against His ways? Hear Him again: Come to Me. I’m humble. I’m gentle. Your burden is so severe that I had to die on the cross for you, and I did so willingly. Come and be yoked to Me. My burden is light.
How is God calling me to think differently?
How is God reordering my heart’s affections — what I love?
What is God calling me to do as I go about my day today?
Slaves to Righteousness
15What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,3 you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.
20For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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