How Heavy is Your Yoke?
How heavy is that yoke that you carry? Jesus told us, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) What did Jesus mean when He said this?
One example in which I'd like to address is the belief of many that our eternity will depend upon how good we are, and they continuously live with the goal of meriting their salvation based upon how righteous they can be. They will even quote Scriptures to back up their views such as Philippians 2:12 where Paul tells us to, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling," or James 2:17,24, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.... Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." Occasionally, someone will include bits from Matthew 25:40,45, "And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me..... Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me." The error in these translations are that they think what they do will make the difference, trying to impress our Saviour with their own righteousness. Of course these verses do not contradict the other Biblical passages once a person understands God's plan.
God has a plan to save mankind, but it's based upon His doings, not ours. All we need to do is to search His Word to find what His plan is. John 6:28-29 is a good place to start, "Then said they unto him, what shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." It refers to that old favorite verse John 3:16 that says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Peter tells us that His plan was to have Jesus take our sins to the cross in verse 1 Peter 2:24, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." This was just as Isaiah 53:4,5,6 prophesied, "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."
Scriptures tell us throughout the Bible what Jesus did that day nearly 2000 years ago. At the risk of being "long-winded," I have included many of these verses here to show how thorough God's plan was. "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him." (Romans 5:8,9) "In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;" (Ephesians 1:7) "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:" (Colossians 1:14) "And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; ...." (Colossians 1:20) "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:" (1 Peter 1:18,19) and we even find this in Revelation 1:5, "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood." By now I think you can see that the important happening was Jesus shedding his blood. We can isolate it even further in that we know that before Jesus went to the cross, He prayed to the Father, "Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." (Luke 22:42) And then before He died on the cross, He said, "It is finished." Thus, we see that the Father's will had been accomplished by Jesus' death.
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21, "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." Peter says the same in 1 Peter 2:24, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. Don't read over this without seeing what took place in these last two verses. Jesus took our sins to the cross so we might have the righteousness of God imputed to us and all who believe in what Jesus did. That's what John 3:16 is all about when it says "Whosoever believes!" Salvation is a gift, a free gift from God to those who believe in what Jesus did that day. By His shed blood, Jesus gives us a clean slate, and we can receive this by faith alone, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8,9)
At the beginning of this article, I asked, "How heavy is your yoke?" Are you trusting in God's finished work, or are you busy trying to gain salvation based upon your righteousness in which you think you attain it through sacraments, good deeds, penances, Mass attendance, or any other means that your religion claims you can get purified? In Romans 9:30-32 and 10:2,3, we see that it was not possible to merit Salvation based upon your deserving it or your attempts to merit righteousness. It didn't work for the Israelites then, nor will it work today for you now, for God hasn't changed.
John 3:3 tells us that we "must be born again," making a spiritual decision to stop your efforts to save yourself and to trust Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. The Bible says that Jesus "After having purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high," (Hebrews 1:3) The Bible also tells us that "we can approach the throne of grace boldly." Revelation 3:20 adds, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Jesus did it all, and He's waiting for you, for there's no other way to gain salvation then to accept His perfect gift. Do it today and rest from your burdensome yolk of trying to merit salvation and worrying if you will be saved. His way guarantees you will, if you believe.