God. That Was Easy!
The Staples Store has a really great marketing tool. The big red button that you push and it says: that was easy. What a brilliant way to make money. What a brilliant way to get you thinking about the Staples Store. Some things in this world are easy and some are not—I know, I know, not a profound statement by any stretch of the imagination but yet true.
One of my brothers from seminary gave a sermon a few weeks back that was titled: Being a Christian is Simple, It’s Just Not Easy. What a profound and completely simple truth. Especially today, the relevance of Christ’s message is just as true as it was when He preached it as He lived on the earth. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all of your soul and all of your mind and the second commandment is JUST as important, love your neighbor as yourself. Christ came to the earth to share the good news, and to give us His Holy Spirit to comfort and strengthen us. The Holy Spirit came down upon us and gave us something that no other people on the earth had ever had—a true understanding of God—a simple, yet very hard task—to know the mind of God. God came down to earth in the flesh and He shared with us what he wanted—for us to love Him and love each other. What a simple thing to love, and usually the only thing standing between us and this revelation of truth is—get ready for it—ourselves!
We human beings have made things complex and convoluted. To be a Christian in today’s society is hard. To be a Christian in today’s world is not for the weak of heart—to be a Christian today is for the true warrior. Everyone hates you. The liberals hate us. The atheists hate us. The Satanists hate us, the Muslim world hates us—everyone hates us—including other fellow Christians. To be a Christian today makes you a target of hatred and evil. To be a Christian today makes you the evil one. And, to tell you the truth, the world in most cases is right about us: we are poor examples of Christ; we spend so much time judging others and condemning others about their faith; what they wear; what they have in the bank account and what sins they commit that we do not take the time to examine ourselves. Remember the Michael Jackson song Man in the Mirror? No matter what or who Michael Jackson was, this song told a truth of Christ especially in the Chorus: I am starting with the man in the mirror, I am asking him to change his ways, and no message could have been clearer, if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.
We look at other people who hurt and/or use us and say—no, I am not going love to him. Or, we look at others who steal from us and say—no, I am not going to love her. We look at other faiths of this world and say—no, they do not believe as we do, their understanding of God is not like mine, they do not keep to these cannons or laws so—no, I will not love them! Strange, I read nowhere in Christ’s words where he said—judge your neighbor and make sure you all think the same. Nowhere in the scriptures did He say—I give you all the same will, I give you all the same mind and I will force you to follow me.
How am I to be a Christian in today’s world? How am I to keep my faith with every sense I have being bombarded? We get attacked by sex, food, music and drugs. We judge others, we condemn others and we hate others. We Christians are the poorest examples of Christians there is on this planet. No wonder why more people don’t come to Christ, when we put ourselves in the front lines and making fools of ourselves instead of glorifying Christ.
Jesus gave us yet another truth—the truth of the yoke. People do not use this word very often in today’s conversation unless you are a farmer. The yoke by definition is: 1) a wooden frame for harnessing two draft animals to whatever they had to pull; and, 2) a frame designed to fit across somebody's shoulders with balanced loads suspended at each end. By both of definitions, the yoke takes two people or animals to control.
In Isaiah it reads: It shall come to pass in that day that his burden will be taken away from your shoulder and his yoke from your neck, and the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil. Jesus is the anointed one. He was the one prophesied to come and save us from ourselves. Then in Matthew 11:29-30 Jesus tells us: 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. Jesus is telling us that he is next to us, helping us and giving us enough strength to keep going. As a matter-of-fact, He is taking on ALL of the burden. He taught us the truth, and we are CALLED to learn from Him. He wants us to be gentle and lowly of heart because, IF we love each other, and STOP judging each other and STOP condemning each other—WE WILL FIND REST FOR OUR SOULS! Jesus is telling us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
But, there is yet another definition of the yoke: something that is felt to be oppressive and restrictive. Throughout the scriptures the imagery of the yoke is powerful. In 1 Kings 12:10, the people of Israel desired the burden on them to be lightened, but instead the king listened to his advisors—in today’s society it is the world—and did the opposite. Then the young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, Thus you should speak to this people who have spoken to you, saying, Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter on us -- thus you shall say to them: My little finger shall be thicker than my father's waist! And now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges! So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had directed, saying, Come back to me the third day. Then the king answered the people roughly, and rejected the advice which the elders had given him; and he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!
Do we not do the same today? We oppress each other and each generation is more bound to sin and depravity than the generation before it. I am speaking out mostly to my fellow Christians; I am looking at the men and women in the mirror. Why are we fighting and warring amongst ourselves? We separate from churches and start new ones when we get into disagreements. We fight over cannon low and we divide. We want freedom from our oppressor and we want to break free from the yoke, but in turn we end up taking on more of the burden upon ourselves. Listen to what is written in Acts 15:8-11: So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.
My yoke is EASY and My burden is LIGHT! Why on earth are we fighting against the truth and revelation of Christ’s message? A message that gives us the easy road—a message that makes being a Christian simple, which in truth and by definition is simple, and as my brother back home said, it’s just not easy.