Most of us don’t grow up thinking about yokes, or even knowing how they work. There are different definitions of the word, but we’re going to look at the way it’s used in the Bible. According to Dictionary.com, a yoke is “a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull.” So basically, it’s something that harnesses one animal to another for work. Where one goes, the other goes, even if it isn’t the right direction, or if one is holding another back.
I hope you can imagine the above situation. I hope you are able to picture the struggle that it must be sometimes when one ox isn’t pulling it’s own weight. With that in mind, please read this:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
— Galatians 5:1
I love this verse for so many reasons. When I first heard the gospel, that Jesus came and died for my sins, I thought this was something I needed to do for salvation, but I also thought it was a death sentence — a death sentence from a life of fun and exhilarating experiences. And sadly, I think a lot of Christians still live enslaved to things of this world and have yet to experience freedom.
In Galatians 5, Paul speaks to those who are enslaved to religious activity (the law), and those who are still enslaved to the flesh. The crazy thing is that you can be a follower of Jesus and still be submitting to either or even both of these. That is slavery. Christ died to set us free. Free from having to work for his approval, and free from having to give in to worldly things. Here’s what Jesus said in Matthew:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
— Matthew 11:28–30
Wow. Now that is a yoke I want. I want to stop letting fear win over my thought space. I want rest for my soul and to actually feel this life I am supposed to live that is easy and light. I have experienced that for most of my Christian life, but when I choose to submit to a yoke of slavery through my thoughts and actions, I am no longer taking on his yoke, but one that is not life-giving.
What about you? Are you choosing to submit to a yoke of slavery or to a yoke of freedom? The enemy wants us to believe that by choosing Jesus, the life will be sucked out of us. That just isn’t true. There is life, freedom and joy in Jesus.
If you have already received salvation and have crossed from death to life, yet you find yourself stuck in the patterns of this world, please remember the passage of scripture from last Sunday’s sermon:
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (emphasis added)
— Romans 6:6–14
Sin will have no dominion over you. Do not give sin power that it doesn’t really have. If you are in Christ, you are free. You will certainly still struggle until Jesus returns, but you do not have to — nor should you choose to — submit to a yoke of slavery. Choose freedom!