Rest: Life in the Easy Yoke of Jesus (Week 8)

“Living in the Easy Yoke of Jesus!”

Teaching on Matthew 11:28-30

 

In my Tuesday morning devotional reading this week, Charles Spurgeon stated: “The Christian has permanent peace with God (Romans 5:1). The ruling peace of Christ in the heart is not supposed to be an optional extra (Colossians 3:15).”[1]

 

I wholeheartedly agree, but our version of Christianity falls short of God’s grace when we settle for one without the other, either direction![2] When we only teach, preach, and heal a person to have permanent and eternal peace with God (“saving souls”), without teaching, preaching, and healing people to have a ruling peace over their hearts and minds in everyday life (“making disciples”), then we are falling short of the grace of God as Jesus’ new people. We should not teach people that they have an assurance of eternal rest, if we do not also teach them to experience that God’s promised rest within that same “nephesh”![3]

 

Today we conclude our 8-message series on Jesus’ comforting words from Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you 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.”[4] We will focus on that last statement that reinforces everything we have taught up to this point: Jesus described His teaching that we are to learn from Him in v. 30 as, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

 

This last line is very important for it provides the reasoning behind all that was offered. As Graham Stanton stated, “The first four lines are well-balanced and are undergirded by the ‘reasoning’ of the fifth and final line.”[5] Stanton continues, “The ‘yoke of Jesus’ is the yoke of discipleship. And for Matthew discipleship involves teaching, preaching, and healing which is modelled precisely on the actions and words of Jesus himself. In the final verse of the gospel the disciples are told by the Risen Jesus to teach men to observe all the commandments Jesus had given them. They are to retain the words of Jesus and to proclaim their continuing importance. For Matthew call and demand are inextricably interwoven.[6] (emphasis added)

 

I am struck by what appears to be a paradox in Jesus’ words regarding His yoke. If what Stanton says is true and “call and demand are inextricably interwoven,” then how is this an easy yoke and a light burden for all who answer Jesus’ invitation to “come to Him” and become His disciples?[7]

 

The call of discipleship comes with the work of Jesus’ Great Commission from Matthew 28:18-20 and many other commands found in the NT, so how is answering the call of Christian discipleship an easy yoke and light burden? For 16 years of pastoral ministry and 22 years of Christian discipleship, it sure hasn’t been an easy or burden-free life, so what is Jesus’ saying?

 

A clue comes from Jesus’ own words in Matthew 10:39, “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”[8] If Jesus is Himself the rest that He is offering to His disciples, then rest is found in submitting your life to the yoke of Jesus—to Jesus Himself! As Stanton concludes of this critical passage, “The disciple who has taken the cup of salvation ‘for the forgiveness of sin’ is called to take the yoke of Jesus in costly and demanding discipleship; he is promised ‘rest’ and the presence of the Risen Christ and told to go and make disciples of all nations.”[9] Stanton inextricably interweaves Matthew 11:28-30 with 28:18-20.

 

The way that we have peace of mind and heart, rest for our soul, the fulness of joy from our salvation is by following Jesus Christ and not just on your way to Heaven, but as we are going about our day-to-day lives learning from His very real presence with us. We are called to be with and become like Jesus and in doing so we will make disciples! It’s an inside-out process that bears the fruit of obedience to Jesus because He loves us and in response we love Him.[10]

 

Let me explain by going back to the yoke imagery. The yoke Jesus is describing is steeped in both the Jewish religious culture and agricultural imagery. It is the yoke that unites two oxen to work alongside one another, pulling together. What one ox can pull alone (2 to 5 thousand pounds depending on the maturity and training of the ox) is much less than what two can do together (10 thousand pounds when a mature ox is training a young one and up to 15 thousand pounds when both are mature and trained). Taking this at straight value, Jesus is saying we can do a lot more when we are yoked with Him. We know though that Jesus very clearly taught in a different conceptual metaphor of the vine and branch imagery in John 15:5 that if we are not connected to Him we can do nothing. The imagery is not incongruent, but saying the same thing!

 

What is Jesus exactly saying to us about the yoke?

 

Jesus is calling us to have “a relation of absolute dependence” on Him for Heaven and for our daily life![11] The original metaphor was used by the Rabbis to talk about being yoked to Torah (the commandments of God), more broadly yoked to Heaven, and more specifically yoked to the Rabbi’s teachings on how to fulfill Torah. The Moody Bible Commentary helps us understand this imagery: “Rabbinic literature speaks of taking on the yoke of the Torah or the yoke of the commandments, meaning ‘adopting Torah,’ including the performance of Rabbinic instruction as a lifestyle. Jesus is contrasting following Him, which is light, with following Rabbinic Torah, which is burdensome (Mt 23:4).”[12] John Barry, in the Faithlife Study Bible, helpfully explains that the yoke “refers to the traditions of the elders, not the law itself. This contrasts with the light, easy burden of Jesus (11:30). Jesus’ teachings are not easy, but obeying them leads to life, not bondage.”[13] (emphasis is author’s)

 

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus not only sets up the contrast between the Pharisees’ teachings and His own teachings as heavy vs. light, He says it’s impossible to have rest with God on the basis of the example of the works of those same Pharisees.[14] Jesus emphasizes this:

 

Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.[15]

 

We are commanded to learn from Jesus’ example of His works! After embodying the Law, perfectly living according to it, and declaring Himself Lord over it, Jesus invites people to find their righteousness by coming into relationship with Him. In fulfilling the Law, Jesus ushered in the New Covenant, and now invites us into a relationship with Him that includes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which is God’s promise of putting the Law inside the people’s hearts, as seen in Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:26-27; Jeremiah 31:33-34; and Hebrews 8:8-13.[16]

 

Listen to the Apostle Paul’s words in Galatians 2:19-21, “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”[17]

 

Rest is found because of God’s presence in us! Our righteousness is not of our own effort, but of Jesus’ completed works on the Cross and promised presence in our lives through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. As Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” We find our rest in Him, just like we have our righteousness in Him, just like apart from Him we can do nothing!

 

In other words, it is only by God’s grace that we can be righteous! Spurgeon helpfully explained, “God be merciful to me, for to keep this law is utterly beyond power; even to know the fulness of its meaning is not within finite capacity. Therefore great God cleanse us from our secret faults—save us by thy grace, for by the law we never can be saved.”[18]

 

The reason that the yoke is easy and the burden is light is because Jesus’ way is by grace! Heaven is grace, not earned! Peace in this life is grace, not earned. Rest for your soul is grace, not earned. Grace comes to the humble who believe. Listen to Jesus explain the importance of being found in Him through faith: “Do you now believe? Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace [emphasis added]. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”[19]

 

We already know that the rest Jesus offers is not a peaceful life with no burdens and no suffering and no stress. That is just not real. But how do you deal with it, think about it, emotionally handle your circumstances, navigate difficult relationships, and remain focused on Christ through the ups and downs. You can have a restful soul in a chaotic world! How?

 

Listen to Kevin DeYoung as he graciously considers the topic of Sabbath:

 

I hope every Christian can agree that God has made us from the dust to need regular times of rest. He built it into the creation order and commanded it of his people. God gives us Sabbath as a gift; it’s an island of get-to in a sea of have-to. He also offers us Sabbath as a test; it’s an opportunity to trust God’s work more than our own. When I go weeks without taking adequate time off, I may or may not be disobeying the fourth commandment, but I’m certainly too convinced of my own importance and more than a little foolish. If my goal is God-glorifying productivity over a lifetime of hard work, there are few things I need more than a regular rhythm of rest.[20]

 

Rest is the witness of whether or not you are in Christ. With that understanding, listen to the Apostle John, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. [emphasis added] For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?[21]

Faith in Jesus Christ is getting in His yoke and in His yoke you will obey His commands because that is what the Spirit does when you, the branch, are connected to Jesus, the vine. If you are born of God you overcome the world! If you are connected to the vine you produce fruit!

 

I love how Paul directly addresses the Galatians in how they had this backwards, “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Paul overtly states, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”[22]

 

Listen to Jesus’ most stringent rebuke against the religious leaders of His day in Matthew 23:4, “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.”[23] Connect this to the agricultural imagery: “Often the burden the ox had to bear was so heavy that it would cause them to stumble and fall under it, but Jesus promised that the burden of His followers would never be that heavy.”[24] Because Jesus is faithful to be with His disciples and He provides for that which He commands!

 

Jesus promises an easy yoke and a light burden because of our faith in Him and through that faith, His Holy Spirit in our lives! Listen to Craig Keener explain, “They will find Jesus’ yoke light because he is a Master who will care for them (Mt 11:29). Jesus’ yoke is not lighter because he demands less (5:20), but because he bears more of the load with us (23:4). In contrast to unconcerned religious teachers who prided themselves on their own position, like some religious leaders today (23:4–7, 29), Jesus was going to lay down his life for the sheep (20:25–28).”[25] This is Jesus’ teaching in John 10 when He states, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.”[26]

 

Rest is a gift of right relationship with God and right relationship with God is not only through coming to Jesus by God’s grace, but through obeying all that Jesus commanded through the presence and power of God’s grace in us through the indwelling Holy Spirit.[27] There is a rest to be found in knowing that you are never alone. In His yoke, Jesus is with us every step of the way![28] As Paul taught us in Philippians 4:9, “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”[29]

 

To illustrate the point, listen to how Spurgeon would encourage a believer to find peace:

 

Do as the child did, when he ran and told his mother as soon as his little trouble happened to him; run and tell your Father the first moment you are in affliction. Do this in everything, in every little thing—“in everything by prayer and supplication make known your wants unto God.” Take your husband’s head-ache, take your children’s sicknesses, take all things, little family troubles as well as great commercial trials—take them all to God; pour them all out at once. And so by an obedient practice of this command in everything making known your wants unto God, you shall preserve that peace “which shall keep your heart and mind through Jesus Christ.”[30]

 

Jesus is with us and He knows better than we do our need for His healing presence inside of us. We get caught up in our circumstances, but Jesus is after our hearts. You will never have rest for your soul until your heart is in His hands. In relationship with Jesus we become aware of our daily need for a Savior and not just for Heaven. Kevin DeYoung explains this theological reality of our profound need to be yoked with Jesus in order to experience the rest He gives:

 

And because we know ourselves to be fallen creatures, we will accept the limits of our human condition. We cannot have meaningful relationships with thousands of people. We cannot really know what is going on in the world. We cannot be truly here and there at the same time. The biggest deception of our digital age may be the lie that says we can be omni-competent, omni-informed, and omni-present. We cannot be any of these things. We must choose our absence, our inability, and our ignorance—and choose wisely. The sooner we embrace this finitude, the sooner we can be free.[31]

 

Knowing this truth about ourselves is essential in teaching us how to find rest for our souls in the easy yoke of Jesus. Which is by the way, the yoke of being His disciple who is called to the Great Commission. We are called to make disciples through a relationship with Jesus that bears good fruit in relationships with others. The Kingdom of God is a relational kingdom and it is built one relationship at a time! Listen to Jesus in Matthew 16:18, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.[32]

 

When we are yoked with Jesus Christ, we trust God to do what Jesus promised to do by the work of the Spirit in His people. Listen to C.H. Spurgeon preach about how God works in the world,

 

Where is the Holy Spirit all the while? Is he lying idle? Oh, no; he is floating over the earth, and when he sees a weary soul, he says, “Come to Jesus, he will give you rest.” When he beholds an eye filled with tears, he wipes away the tears, and bids the mourner look for comfort on the cross. When he sees the tempest-tossed believer, he takes the helm of his soul and speaks the word of consolation; he helps the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds; and ever on his mission of mercy, he flies around the world, being everywhere present. Behold how the three persons work together.[33]

 

Jesus builds His Church. As disciples of Jesus, we cultivate soil through relationship! Only God brings the increase. If you forget this, you put yourself and others in a burdensome, exhausting, and painful yoke that quickly mutates the church through “Christian Pharisaism”.[34]

 

We are to work alongside of Jesus to cultivate the soil, working the fields of God’s harvest. In doing so we are following Jesus’ example and answering His prayer found in Matthew 9:35-38. One blogger wrote of this issue: “Why would taking on a yoke be ‘easy’, and the ‘burden light’? It is the shared load that makes the work easier. Although single yokes can be used, the efficiency is far greater when two pull together under the same yoke. Jesus is clearly saying, ‘come walk alongside me, share my yoke and I’ll pull you through whatever you need to go through.’ Together, it will be easier, the load less heavy, the relief profound.”[35]

 

A yoke is easy and the burden is light when the oxen are pulling together. The younger oxen must remain (abide) in the posture of the heart (gentle and humble) to be trained to learn from the master. If you are not willing to come under the daily lifestyle of apprenticeship to Jesus, regardless of whether or not you believe He is the Son of God or said a prayer to Him for the forgiveness of your sin, you will not find rest in this life because you are not living your life with the mind of Christ or by the Spirit of God. Your dragging your feet or pulling away from Him![36]

 

Listen to Jan Johnson help driven people find rest in their lives:

His insight—”drivenness must give way to peacefulness”—reassures us that those of us who are driven are not excluded from the contemplative way. It helps us seek God instead of our own goals. Perhaps this idea of contemplation as burnout prevention explains why Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Mercy, who work among the poor and dying in Calcutta, India, don’t get overwhelmed. Even though they get so much important work done, “only five hours a day of their time is spent among poor. The rest is spent in prayer and meditation and things that focus them on God. Their effectiveness and ability to keep going is multiplied incredibly because of their time with God.”[37]

 

The yoke of Jesus is an invitation to a side-by-side conversational relationship with Jesus (which is my best understanding of the word “contemplative” and how Johnson is intending it in her book). When we work from a place of a rest, we are not pulling at the yoke by going faster or slower than Jesus or by pulling away from Jesus. We are not allowing fear or anxiety to drive us, but we are allowing the Good Shepherd to lead us. We are living by faith! We must prioritize above all else the work of staying inside the yoke and learning from the Lord of Sabbath in the rhythms of work and rest that God has established for our lives from creation.[38]

 

Listen to this powerful insight from Kevin DeYoung’s book Crazy Busy:

 

Setting priorities can be difficult. Sticking to them can seem impossible. But Jesus understands the challenge. He lived with unrelenting demands and unbelievable pressure. He also knew that if he were to accomplish the purposes God had for him, he would have to pass up ten thousand good purposes other people had for his life. The Son of God could not meet all the needs around him. He had to get away to pray. He had to eat. He had to sleep. He had to say no. If Jesus had to live with human limitations, we’d be foolish to think we don’t. The people on this planet who end up doing nothing are those who never realized they couldn’t do everything.[39] (emphasis added)

 

Did you hear that last line? It’s my favorite because it cuts to the heart of my pride! Listen to DeYoung diagnose each of us to the root of the issue that Jesus’ gracious invitation confronts:

 

As Christians, especially, we ought to know better because we understand deep down that the problem is not just with our schedules or with the world’s complexity—something is not right with us. The chaos is at least partly self-created. The disorder of daily life is a product of disorder in the innermost places of the heart. Things are not the way they ought to be because we are not the way we are supposed to be. Which means our understanding of busyness must start with the one sin that begets so many of our other sins: pride.[40]

 

As James stated, “But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”[41] And Peter said:

 

You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”[42]

 

Issues of pride are spiritual issues and cannot be relieved with worldly solutions. These are matters of spiritual warfare as you see from both these verses and this is not something to mess around with! Bringing the operating principles of the world into your life or into the church community life will only reap unequal yokes, which will rub you raw (for that yoke is not well-fitted for a disciple) and crush you (for that yoke is a burden in and of itself).[43] And you will not get the results you would want long-term. In fact, it will only make it worse and this is why we are seeing so many messes in good people’s lives and in good people’s churches. I would argue, it’s also why we are seeing so many high-profile American pastors falling short of God’s grace—they are being crushed under the weight of ministry for Jesus because they were not taught to do ministry in the yoke of Jesus.[44]

 

There is a different way, but it is ministry from the inside-out. Jesus took the 663 commands of the Rabbis and gave us 1 command as the Master Teacher: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”[45] We are to follow His example and be like Him! That is God’s will for your life, not to make Christianity into a new form of Pharisaism, which is what has happened and is still happening through the course of 2,000 years of church history.[46]

 

Jesus is gentle and humble in heart. That is what we are to learn by yoking with Him and that is what we are to teach as we make disciples. We find rest by loving people like Jesus loved, by serving people like Jesus served, by forgiving people like Jesus forgave. That is the work of the Holy Spirit in us, not the produce of our own efforts.

 

I conclude with these thoughts from Kevin DeYoung, “We all have a cross to carry. But it’s a cross that kills our sins, smashes our idols, and teaches us the folly of self-reliance. It’s a cross that says I’ll do anything to follow Jesus, not a cross that says I have to do everything for Jesus.”[47] (emphasis original to author) DeYoung concludes, “But if Jesus is any example, God does expect us to say no to a whole lot of good things so that we can be freed up to say yes to the most important things he has for us.”[48]

 

FOOTNOTES:

 

[1] C. H. Spurgeon and Terence Peter Crosby, 365 Days with Spurgeon (Volume 1) (Leominster, UK: Day One Publications, 1998), 57. Col 3:15 states, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” Paul says similarly in Phil 4:7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Cf. Mark 4:35-41.

 

[2] I am alluding to both Hb 4:1-16 and Hb 12:12-17 when I use the phrase, “falls short of God’s grace.”

 

[3] See Sermon #7 where I explain about the Hebrew word nephesh translated “soul” in Jer 6:16 which Jesus quotes in Mt 11:29, “you will find rest for your souls.”

 

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 11:28–30.

[5] Graham Stanton, A Gospel For a New People: Studies in Matthew (Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark Ltd, 1992), 340.

[6] Graham Stanton, A Gospel For a New People: Studies in Matthew (Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark Ltd, 1992), 375.

[7] See previous sermon touching on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and how Jesus intensified the teachings of Moses to such a place that it is impossible to keep the Law by a matter of the will; it is foolish to even try.

 

[8] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 10:39. Stanton explains, “The closing verses of the gospel are particularly important. At 28.18 it is not ‘Come to me’, but ‘Go, make disciples of all nations’. In both cases it is the authoritative teaching of Jesus which is central: ‘learn from me’ (11.29) and ‘teach them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (28.20). In chapter 11 the demand of discipleship is tempered with the promise of rest; in chapter 28 the promise to those engaged in the task of making disciples of all nations is the presence of the Risen Christ” (Graham Stanton, A Gospel For a New People: Studies in Matthew [Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark Ltd, 1992], 376).

[9] Graham Stanton, A Gospel For a New People: Studies in Matthew (Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark Ltd, 1992), 377.

[10] To understand this teaching and the role of the Holy Spirit in its fulfillment, read Jn 14:12-31.

[11] Stanton gives us the Jewish context for “yoke”, but also a strong conclusion for what Jesus is meaning when He uses this word in Mt 11:30: “‘Yoke’ is also used in Jewish writings in a much wider sense in phrases such as ‘the yoke of heaven’ ‘the yoke of God’; the term expresses a relation of absolute dependence” (Graham Stanton, A Gospel For a New People: Studies in Matthew [Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark Ltd, 1992], 375). This is also reflected clearly in the Sermon on the Mount, especially Jesus’ teaching on prayer, specifically Matthew 6:11.

 

[12] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Matthew,” in The Moody Bible Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 1473. Van Alstine and Opperwall confirm this view, “With their legalism the Pharisees of NT times made the law of God a very heavy yoke (Acts 15:10; Gal. 5:1). By contrast, Jesus stated that the yoke of His discipline was refreshing and easy to bear (Mt. 11:29f.)” (G. A. Van Alstine and N. J. Opperwall, “Yoke; Yoke-Bar,” ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 1165).

[13] John D. Barry, Douglas Mangum, et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Mt 23:4.

 

[14] I am not saying there will be no works in your life as works are a necessary “fruit” in your life in the easy yoke of Jesus Christ. As Eph 2:10 says, there will be plenty of good works to walk in for the disciple of Jesus, but those works will flow from the life of Christ, not for a life with Christ. I am reminded again of Dallas Willard saying, “Grace is not opposed to effort, but to earning.” Listen to Michael Heiser explain the theology, “In the New Testament, works were essential to salvation (Jas 2:14–26), but they were never the meritorious cause of salvation; God owed salvation to no one on the basis of works. This is not contrary to Paul’s assertion that no one was justified by works. James and Paul could thus be fused this way: ‘For by grace are you saved through faith, which without works is dead’ (Eph 2:8; Jas 2:17). No element can be eliminated. Jesus said that a tree (and hence a believer) was known by its fruit (Matt 12:33). If an individual does not have works (‘fruit’), there is no evidence of salvation. The presence of works is essential for calling someone a believer. But works do not put God in the position of owing salvation. Salvation comes by faith in Christ (its object), which produces works. Both must be present” (Michael S. Heiser, The Bible Unfiltered: Approaching Scripture on Its Own Terms [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017], 78). (Emphasis original to author)

[15] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 5:17–20. “Matthew 5:17 records Jesus saying, ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the prophets; I have not come to abolish, but to fulfill.’ Many of Jesus’ teachings find halakic parallels in the Mishnah” (John C. Johnson, “Mishnah,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016]).

[16] Michael Heiser explains, “In all this, Israelites could not do the works of the law and then presume God owed them salvation. God was in relationship with Israel because he chose to be in that relationship—he chose this before obedience was any issue. God extended grace by calling Abraham; Abraham believed, and then Abraham showed that belief by obedience (Rom 4). The concept “circumcision of the heart” is telling in regard to the balance of faith and works. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant. Since performing it required human activity, it could be thought of as a good work. God desired obedience—the submission of one’s will—on this matter. ‘Circumcision of the heart’ speaks of a heart that believes, not a work. It is a heart submitted to God, not merely the will. A circumcised heart was a believing heart, and it was essential for right relationship to God (Deut 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4; 31:33; 32:39, 40; Ezek 11:19; 36:26, 27)” (Michael S. Heiser, The Bible Unfiltered: Approaching Scripture on Its Own Terms [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017], 79–80).

[17] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Ga 2:19–21.

 

[18] C. H. Spurgeon, “Sin Immeasurable,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 6 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1860), 105. Heiser insightfully explains that the Old Covenant was not devoid of grace in and of itself, “In the Old Testament law and the sacrificial system, failure was inevitable; fellowship with God would inevitably be broken. Moreover, humans were impure by nature and unable to approach the perfect divine presence. The book of Leviticus indicates that people could purge (“atone for”) the impurity caused by sin and transgression through sacrifice, which resulted in forgiveness (Lev 4:20, 26, 31, 35; 5:10, 13, 16, 18; 6:7; Num 15:25–28). But they did not earn forgiveness; God provided the entire means of forgiveness—the sacrificial system—through his grace. God was not forced to provide a means of atonement or reveal what he would accept for atonement. The means of restoring fellowship with God was an extension of God’s grace” (Michael S. Heiser, The Bible Unfiltered: Approaching Scripture on Its Own Terms [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017], 80).

 

[19] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 16:31–33.

 

[20] Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy: A (mercifully) Short Book about a (really) Big Problem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), ch. 8. While DeYoung also affirms the following beliefs about the Sabbath for NT believers. He quotes G.K. Beale’s three conclusions, “First, the seventh-day commemoration in Gen. 2:3 and Israel’s Sabbath ordinance is transferred to the first day of the week because of Christ’s resurrection. Second, Israel’s way of observing the Sabbath, with all its detailed requirements, falls away, and there is a return to the creational mandate. The observance of this mandate is a day of commemoration of God’s creative rest, a celebration that Christ has entered that rest, that believers have begun to enter such rest, and a pointing forward to believers completely entering that rest. In addition, Christ’s coming fulfills Israel’s unique Sabbath commandment, since he is Israel’s Messiah, accomplishing Israel’s end-time exodus and representing true Israel and the end-time temple.”

 

[21] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, 1 Jn 5:2–5.

[22] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Ga 3:1-3; 5:1.

[23] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 23:4.

 

[24] James M. Freeman and Harold J. Chadwick, Manners & Customs of the Bible (North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), 434.

[25] Craig S. Keener, Matthew, vol. 1, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), Mt 11:28.

 

[26] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 10:14–16.

[27] Spurgeon preached, “‘Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ This is the second instruction. It brings with it a further rest that we ‘find.’ The first rest he gives through his death. The second we find in copying his life. This is no correction of the former statement but an addition. First, we rest by faith in Jesus, and next we rest through obedience to him. Rest from fear is followed by rest from the turbulence of inward passion and the drudgery of self. We shall not only rest from the guilt of sin—this he gives us—but we shall rest in the peace of holiness which we find through obedience to him. ‘Come to me’ is thus a divine prescription, curing our ills by the pardon of sin through our Lord’s sacrifice and causing us the greatest peace by sanctifying us to his service” (Spurgeon, The Spurgeon Study Bible: Notes [Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017], 1298). (emphasis original)

[28] Jan Johnson explains, “What we can expect to hear from God in the quiet of contemplative prayer are the words ‘I am with you,’ ‘I delight in you,’ ‘I see your faults and invite you to come to Me.’ ‘Prayer,’ says Thomas Merton, ‘especially meditation and contemplative prayer, is not so much a way to find God as a way of resting in him who we have found, who loves us, who is near to us, who comes to us to draw us to himself’” (Jan Johnson, When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer, ed. Dallas Willard and David Hazard [Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1999], 181).

 

[29] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Php 4:9.

[30] C. H. Spurgeon, “How to Keep the Heart,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 4 (London; Glasgow: Passmore & Alabaster; James Paul; George John Stevenson; George Gallie, 1858), 126.

 

[31] Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy: A (mercifully) Short Book about a (really) Big Problem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013).

[32] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Mt 16:18.

 

[33] C. H. Spurgeon and Terence Peter Crosby, 365 Days with Spurgeon (Volume 1) (Leominster, UK: Day One Publications, 1998), 28. I defend that the Holy Spirit is doing this work through God’s people.

 

[34] I was introduced to this concept by Pheme Perkins who describes Matthew’s efforts to avoid the NT churches making Jesus’ invitation a new and updated version of “Christian Pharisaism.” Perkins writes, “Others are overly influenced by the teachings and practices of the Pharisees and may even be seeking to establish a form of ‘Christian Pharisee’ within the Church. Matthew counters that threat by intensifying the traditional tensions between Jesus and the Pharisees into bitter accusations against the Jewish teachers for being hypocrites, who only seek to place heavy burdens on the backs of the people and to advance their own honor and glory (6:1–6, 16–18; 23:1–36). Matthew carefully avoids the dangers of Christian Pharisaism by insisting that Jesus’ ‘yoke’ (an expression used of obedience to the Torah) is a light burden (11:28–30). It focuses on what really counts in the Torah: justice, mercy, and faithfulness (23:23). The Christian who follows Jesus’ righteousness recognizes that it comes from the ‘suffering servant’ who bears the spirit of God in order to make God’s justice victorious among the nations (12:15–21)” (Pheme Perkins, “Ethics: New Testament,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary [New York: Doubleday, 1992], 659).

 

[35] “Lenten Meditation: Resting in the Yoke” https://briarcroft.wordpress.com/2010/03/17/lenten-meditation-resting-in-the-yoke/ (Last accessed January 25, 2019).

[36] I have heard it said that some people have just enough of religion to make them miserable. This is the primary issue for why a Christian person can be saved, but be miserable. They are not finding rest in His yoke!

 

[37] Jan Johnson, When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer, ed. Dallas Willard and David Hazard (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1999), 138–139.

[38] “It was God’s will at creation that the sabbath have the purpose of serving mankind for rest and bring blessing. The Son of Man as Lord determines the true meaning of the sabbath. The sabbath activities of Jesus are neither hurtful provocations nor mere protests against rabbinic legal restrictions, but are part of Jesus’ essential proclamation of the inbreaking of the kingdom of God in which man is taught the original meaning of the sabbath as the recurring weekly proleptic ‘day of the Lord’ in which God manifests his healing and saving rulership over man” (Gerhard F. Hasel, “Sabbath,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary [New York: Doubleday, 1992], 855).

 

[39] Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy: A (mercifully) Short Book about a (really) Big Problem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013) ch. 5.

[40] Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy: A (mercifully) Short Book about a (really) Big Problem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013).

 

[41] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jas 4:6–8. NASB formatting of an OT quote is all caps.

[42] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, 1 Pe 5:5–8. Both are quoting Prov 3:34.

[43] Jesus calls us friends because He not only desires relationship, but also partnership with us. Listen to Van Alstine and Opperwall, “Believers are never to forget the radical difference between the dynamic of their life in Christ and the operating principles governing the world. Forming alliances that unite these two alien motivations is like plowing a field with an ox (a “clean” animal) and an ass (an “unclean” animal) yoked together (see Dt. 22:10; cf. 14:3–8)” (G. A. Van Alstine and N. J. Opperwall, “Yoke; Yoke-Bar,” ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised [Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988], 1165).

 

[44] As the Apostle Paul stated in Ga 6:7-9, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”

[45] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, Jn 13:34–35. We should not add to that which has been made lighter for us through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. As Bernard of Clairvaux is quoted as saying, “What can be lighter than a burden which takes our burdens away, and a yoke which bears up the bearer himself?” (“Called to Advent—yoking” https://briarcroft.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/called-to-advent-yoking/ [Last accessed on June 25, 2019]).

[46] Ulrich Luz explains, “The Christian cliché of the Torah as a collection of many confusing and senseless individual commandments has made it difficult to understand the text (as well as Judaism). Such an interpretation was significantly reinforced by the Enlightenment. Here the fullness “of Pharisaic regulations and ceremonies” was every bit as cumbersome as the Christian yoke ‘of dogmas and secret doctrines.’ Kant thus understood the easy yoke of Christ as the moral law of the mature person. It consists of the duties that everyone ‘can regard as imposed on him by himself and through his own reason; and that yoke he therefore … takes upon himself freely.’ Therefore ‘only the moral laws …’ are ‘divine commands.’ Basically Kant’s answer is not so far removed from the classical Christian answer. Thomas Aquinas, for example, tried to achieve a balance between Matt 5:19 and the antitheses on the one hand and Matt 11:28 on the other by claiming that the ceremonial law was invalidated and at the same time by stating that Christ added little to the natural law. Thus the heavy burden is the Jewish law, the easy yoke is the lex evangelica. On a deeper level Maldonat sees four reasons why the Jewish law is a hard yoke: (1) the infinite … number of precepts that exceed the natural law; (2) the penalties for transgressing the law that are based on a spirit of fear and servitude; (3) the coercion in the law and the free expression of love in the gospel; and (4) the gift of the Holy Spirit that is lacking in the old covenant. The most perceptive response, however, is probably that of Augustine: ‘Whatever is hard in what is demanded of us, love makes easy’” (Ulrich Luz, Matthew: A Commentary, ed. Helmut Koester, Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible [Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2001], 172–173).

[47] Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy: A (mercifully) Short Book about a (really) Big Problem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013).

 

[48] Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy: A (mercifully) Short Book about a (really) Big Problem (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), ch. 5.


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