WEAR THE YOKE OF JESUS
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all who over all and through all and in all (Eph. 4: 1-6).
In this letter, in which he did not deal with false doctrine or practical problems in the church or in the individual’s lives, Paul followed his usual pattern of basing his practical appeal on doctrinal teaching, explaining the implications of what God had done for them in Christ through His death and resurrection and calling them to respond in faith and obedience.
Paul continued the Old Testament concept of life as a journey and faith in Jesus as a walk with Him. He appealed to his readers to follow Jesus in a manner worthy of their calling. To what were they called? They were called out of the darkness of ignorance and unbelief, out of disobedience to God and a life of sin – transgression of God’s laws and the self-destruction which was the inevitable result, to a life of faith in God and obedience to Jesus as Lord.
They no longer belonged to the world system with its greedy and selfish pursuits, but to the kingdom of God, under His authority and living in obedience to His standards because they had been made spiritually alive and able to hear and respond to His Spirit in them. This kingdom required a new attitude and outlook on life. No longer were they under the devil’s influence and held in bondage to sin. They were free to express the life of God in them by their love for God and for one another.
This must have been a “mind-blowing” experience for people who knew nothing but idolatry and the terrible behaviour idolatry produced. Out of this depraved lifestyle flowed the fear, guilt and shame with which their consciences responded and which they could not silence. Peace with God through Jesus brought freedom from fear and inward rest which was both new and indescribably wonderful to them.
Paul appealed to his readers to maintain that peace by wearing the yoke of Jesus characterised by humility and gentleness. Remember Jesus’ words?
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30).
Jesus was speaking to those who were burdened by a religious system that demanded endless rule-keeping in order to gain the acceptance of a God whom they believed to be demanding and relentless in his requirements for holiness. Jesus offered a way of life that freed them from this legalistic bondage. He called them to imitate Him and they would be free to live in peace and harmony with God and with one another.
“Gentle and humble”? Is it possible to tame our selfish and unruly hearts so that we are content to be who we are and to enjoy what we have without being in constant conflict and competition with others? Yes, it is! Through Jesus, God has removed our sin and the reason for the fear, guilt and shame that underlies our aggression towards our fellow human beings.
He has sent His Spirit to live in our hearts as His representative, to give us the power to overcome the ravages of our old, sinful nature. We are no longer bound to be selfish and antagonistic towards others. God has poured His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit in us. We are free to follow Jesus and to apply His yoke of patience, gentleness and humility in our attitude towards others.
Have you ever been in situations where the old nature rises up and demands to be allowed to react? I have! How does one deal with oneself on these occasions? Time and again I have had to remind myself that, as a disciple of Jesus, I am called to follow Him and to imitate Him. To my surprise, I find that the decision to let my anger and irritation go brings the power to do it. I allow my thoughts to return to the truth that I am a daughter of the Father. He is in me by His Spirit and His Spirit causes me to think and act in patience, gentleness and humility as one who bears the image of His Son.
These are the practical ways in which I am able to express the life of God in me. It is a journey, not an easy one because I have my old, sinful nature to contend with, to subdue and the new nature of love to nurture. But, as I practise and learn, I progress, however slowly and falteringly, towards the goal of becoming like Jesus in His gentleness and humility.
Being a Christian is not about going to church, carrying out religious rituals and keeping rules. It’s about following Jesus, learning to be submissive and obedient children of God, doing and being what He wants and responding to Him in unwavering trust whatever comes our way in life. The Holy Spirit in us is our personal companion and guide. He will lead us unerringly to the Father as we learn to hear His voice and respond to Him.
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3, eBook 978-4828-0511-6
My second book, Learning to be a Disciple – The Way of the Master (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing), a companion volume to Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart, has been released in paperback and digital format on www.amazon.com.
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