Sermon by Reverend Aimee Simpierre, November 27th, 2016
“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.
1 John 2:16
“For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
Let’s start off by exploring what is a yoke, in the literal sense?:
A yoke is actually just an instrument. It’s a wooden tool used to make cattle and Oxen do farm work, most often that means ploughing a field. The farmer puts the yoke around the Ox’s neck and tugs on it to get the Ox to stop, or nudges it one way or the other to make the Ox go left or right or forward.
If you think about a guitar, a guitar is also an instrument – just a wooden box with a whole in it, that has six strings attached to it and some knobs for tightening those strings. Whenever you ask for a guitar you’ll get some variation of that same formula – a wooden box with six strings and some knobs. Sometimes with electricity, sometimes without.
But I believe what the Lord wants us to draw our attention to is the fact that when you give an instrument to a poorly trained person it will make sounds that could make you want to cover your ears and beg them to stop, but if you were to put that same instrument into the hands of a skilled, master guitarist, say a James Taylor or a B.B. King, you could sit and listen for hours.
When you’ve got a master in control of an instrument, they can take a simple tool – like a guitar, or the human voice for that matter, and enable it to communicate in ways that speak to you on a deeper level. I often wish I had a fancier voice – or one that was different in some way or the other, but, yet with all of its imperfections, I know that when I’m in the place where my voice is completely yielded to the hands of the master instrumentalist – then even me and even my voice – becomes capable of doing just what God intended it to do. It becomes a conduit for the presence of God. Now, I have the same two vocal chords as the next person, but when God gets His hands on them, and when God gets in control of your vessel and your gifts, these earthen vessels become capable of doing exceedingly and abundantly above all we could ask or think – according to the power that works through us. If you believe that you ought to thank God. Hallelujah!
The challenge that many in and outside of the church often face is that as much as we’d like to think that we are in control of our own lives and we are the master of our own destinies, the truth is that when we are born, we come into the world with a yoke already around our necks. Jesus said come unto me all ye that labor – because the fact of the matter is, we’re all laboring, we’re all working for somebody. Before we had a chance to volunteer, we were conscripted. Since Adam, the bloodline of human kind has been corrupted by sin and consequently each one of us was born in sin and shaped in iniquity. Romans 5:12 says, “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men”
We are born with one yoke but over the course of our life, by the Grace of God, we become introduced to another yoke – a better way – a different master. Thank you Jesus. God orchestrates our lives and orders our steps such that at some point in our seeking and at some point in our wandering we find ourselves hearing the gospel, whether it be in a song or a sermon on a tv, on the radio, or in the words of a friend – we gently begin to hear, tugging at our soul, a voice saying, “Come unto me, and I will give you rest. Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you (James 4:8) O taste and see, that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. (Psalm 34:8)
Today, God draws our attention to this moment in our lives – in case you have yet to respond to that voice – or in case you need to refresh the choice that you made and renew your commitment.
If we look at it from a spiritual perspective, you could say that a yoke is simply designed to resolve conflict. It is designed to resolve the conflict between two opposing wills – the will of the master and the will of the Ox. The Ox wants to go one way and the master wants to go another way. The yoke resolves that conflict because it’s got your head and neck tied up in a harness in such a way that you have no choice but to go where you are being led.
In this life, it’s important to know, that there are only two yokes. The yoke of Christ or the yoke of the world. And you must choose your master well because your life will inevitably come to reflect the priorities of the one who is leading you. When I say that your life will begin to reflect your master’s priorities I mean that if you are a follower of Christ, you will gradually find that the principles that guide your life decisions and the way you make your choices, will begin to align with and mirror the direction that your master has chosen for your life. You find yourself saying, “I just can’t do that because it just breaks my rules – you may not understand it but there’s a certain path that I’m on and it doesn’t allow for this, nor does it allow for that.” And then the motivations behind the choices you make – in other words the reasons behind why you make the choices that you make – will slowly but surely begin to reflect the motivations of your master. You’ll find yourself saying, “I’ve got to do this, because I know it will please God, I’ve got to step in here because the love of God compels me too.” And then at the end of the day, consequently, the results that you see in your life – for example the places where you’ll end up, and the things that you’ll accomplish, will be a direct reflection of where your master has led you. “I never thought I’d be here, but I just kept following Jesus and now, people are asking me to minister to them and others have called on me to pray, I never thought I’d be able to hold my peace in a situation like this but look how He led me all the way here. I never thought I’d be standing behind this pulpit but look where He brought me from.” If you know God is a mighty good leader you ought to say thank you.
It is critical for you to choose your master well because your experience under the yoke – your entire life for that matter and your day-to-day existence will be radically different depending on who is leading you.
A yoke can be a very UNcomfortable thing in the hands of the wrong person. In the hands of a harsh master, a yoke can wound the head and neck of the Ox, it can strain the animal to where it becomes worn out and dies. The yoke can stress you out, make your life miserable and – this is the dangerous part – you can be lead in the wrong direction.
I know it may not seem very relevant to be sitting here in the middle of Bed-Stuy Brooklyn learning about yokes and oxens and ploughs, but the fact of the matter is the people of the Bible – especially of the Old Testament, were an agrarian people. Their lives centered around the land, around the seasons, the rains, the harvests of bread and wheat, figs and olive trees, grains and milk and honey, and sheep and cattle and oxen. So with some scriptures, if you want to understand them the way the people in the Bible would have understood them, then you have to learn a little bit about the kind of world they were living in
In fact, the concept of the yoke comes up quite a few times in scripture. In the book of Numbers, the priests are asked to sacrifice a heifer – a heifer is a young cow, and according to scripture it had to be one – “upon which never came the yoke” (Numbers 19:2). Once a yoke has been put on a female cow or a male bull, it becomes an OX – that means it is now being trained to do work.
In Leviticus (26:13), when God talks to His people about how He has set them free, He says, “I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, … and I have broken the bands of your yoke.” Israel’s time in Egypt was referred to as being a time when they were under the YOKE of Pharaoh. The children of Israel were being made to do whatever Pharaoh asked them to do. And Pharaoh was a harsh master, his heart was hard. And although he found evil ways to make his Israelite slaves productive, he did it at the expense of the Israelites well-being – he murdered their baby boys and worked many of the people to an early death. This was life under the yoke of an oppressive master.
In scripture, God also uses the yoke to teach us about the importance of keeping good company. When farming, you always yoked together two of the same animal – like a female cow and a male cow, but you don’t yoke a cow and a donkey together because their strength levels are so unequal that they would never get anything done efficiently. And so in 2 Corinthians 6:14 the Apostle Paul applies that concept to our lives by warning us not to be “unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” In other words, if you yoke yourself up with, or commit yourself to a partner that’s an unbeliever you will find yourself being unproductive for the kingdom of God because just like the oxen and the donkey, your strengths are found in different areas. You’ll find that you and your partner are both being pulled in different directions – one of you is being led by God and the other is being led by the world. One of you is seeking holiness and the other has no concerns about embracing sin, one will be trying to follow the voice of God and the other is following their own voice. If you think that’s not a real issue – ask Solomon and he’ll tell you about all the non-believing wives he yoked himself up to and how they led him away from God and ended up dividing up his kingdom. Ask Samson and he’ll tell you about how he got yoked up to an unbeliever named Delilah who ended up making him weak before his enemies and costing him his very life. You ought to ask somebody when you meet them – who’s yoke are you wearing? – Because if you yoke yourself up with someone and God’s not in control of their lives, whatever’s controlling them may soon end up controlling you.
Again, there are only two masters, God or the world. When you submit yourself to the yoke of the world, what kind of experience can you expect?
In our text in 1John 2:16 we read “For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. ”
When the things of this world are your master, you can expect to be led by lust and pride. You can expect that the direction you will be moving in will make you more like the world and make you a servant to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Therefore you can expect that the motivation behind your actions will be setting you up to get whatever you lust after, and make sure to protect your own image in the process so that your pride remains intact. And at the end of the day, you can also believe that the result will be sin and separation from God.
Lust and pride are emotions that control like no other. They place a strong yoke on the heart and steer it toward the things that will do you the most harm. From the Greek Epithymia, the word “lust” means a craving or desire – especially for something that is forbidden. There is truly nothing the carnal flesh wants more than the things it should not have. Proverbs 16:25 says “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Unfortunately, until we receive our glorified bodies – freed from the corruption of sin – the lust of the flesh will always be as close as our own skin. Even the great Apostle Paul had to struggle with it, “I see another law in my members,” Paul said in Romans 7” and its “warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am!” But by the grace of God Paul did not allow his flesh to be his master. In fact his submission to God kept his flesh under subjection such that he admonishes us in 2Co 6:17 to “come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean [thing].”
But when lust and pride are your masters, they will lead you down a path to death. They want you to jeopardize your relationship with God at every turn. The pride of life will make you want to taste power that is not of God and lust will make you want to fulfill desires that please your body while destroying your soul. The lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh will lead you to that website or that app that always gets you into trouble, it wants you to go to that hangout spot where nothing good ever happens. Once lust has got you yoked it will lead you straight to your favorite temptations because James 1:14 says “every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” Meanwhile, the pride of life will keep you so desperately chasing after some image of perfection for yourself that you have to set up a wall of lies out of fear for what people would think of you if they knew the real you – and fear about how people would treat you if they realized you are just as flawed as everyone else.
It’s important that we understand what’s at stake here as Jesus stands in opposition to all of this and says – I AM a better way. I want you to hear the urgency in Christ’s voice when He makes this invitation. “Come unto ME all ye that labor …I will give you rest” Jesus knows the danger ahead for anyone who makes the wrong choice. Christ took it upon himself to sacrifice His life because (Romans 6:23) He knows the wages of sin are truly death and the only one in the universe who can deliver the gift of God – which is eternal life – is Himself, Christ Jesus. “I am the way, the truth and the life and no man comes unto the Father but by Me,” He cries out in the Gospel of John 14:6. And for everyone that chooses Him, He poured out His blood, consecrating a new and living way into the holy of holies. (Hebrews 10:19) Because he saw that there was no intercessor: so his arm brought salvation.”(Isaiah 59:16)
So it is with urgency that Jesus says, don’t even consider the alternative, I love you too much to let any other master have you, and I’ve given up too much to make you mine. Come unto ME all ye that labor, and I will give you rest. Take MY yoke upon you and learn from me, my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
What can you expect if you choose this yoke? What can you expect if choose to make Christ the master of your life?
Jesus said that if you learn from me, you will find that I am meek and lowly in heart: For my yoke [is] easy.” Jesus, being a carpenter, probably made a yoke or two over the course of His career, I imagine that in both the natural and in the spiritual, He knew what it takes to make a yoke easy, and comfortable to bear.
Jesus promises to lead with meekness and lowliness. He guarantees to lead with gentleness and humility. Romans 5:8 declares that “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” How lowly is that – that even when we rejected Him, and were separated from Him and didn’t yet care to know Him, Jesus stooped to our level and died for us. Christ promises a meekness and a gentleness to His mercy that will forgive our sins even if our shame causes us to keep bringing those mistakes up again and again. He’s also gentle enough to correct our rebelliousness without making us feel rejected and afraid, and He’s gentle enough to give us a second and a third chance. Jesus promises to lead with humility, so much so that He took on the form of a servant, Philippians 2:7 says, made himself of no reputation, allowed Himself to be made in the likeness of sinful flesh and humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” – in order to save you. He has shown us through the scriptures that the direction He wants to take you in will make you more like Him. His prayer for us according to John 17:11 is “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we [are].” – He wants you to be kept, so that you can serve on this earth as a beacon for the seeking soul, He will cause you to be a light that shines in darkness and a city that is set on a hill so that as Christ is lifted up all of mankind can be drawn unto Him. His desire is that we be kept from evil – indeed – preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ And sanctified by His truth – for His word is truth.
You can expect – as you take on the characteristics of the master, that you, like Him will be motivated by love and moved with compassion, for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish,” AND that if you keep His commandments, according to John 15:10, you will abide in His love.
You can also expect that Jesus will be a good shepherd of your soul, you will be led by the still waters, and that when you are distressed He will restore your soul, and that goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life.
And at the end of the day, rest assured you will have done great works for the kingdom – works that may go far beyond whatever you imagined yourself being capable of accomplishing. You might soon find that when you lay hands on the sick, in the name of Jesus, they recover, and that in His name you can cast out devils and you may find yourself speaking in new tongues, (mark 16:18) In fact, Jesus said (Jn 14:12) Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” When your work is done, everlasting life awaits those yoked to Jesus as their master, Jesus said, (John 10:28) “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”
When the differences are this clear – it’s amazing that anyone should ever have to compel someone to choose Christ. (Mat 7:13) But the wiles of the enemy are deceptive and cunning and his traps are easy to fall into so that broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in there. strait [is] the gate, and narrow [is] the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
You must consciously decide to wear the yoke of Christ.
You must make a choice to serve Jesus.
If you don’t serve Jesus, you will default to the yoke you were born with, the yoke of the world.
Jesus came to earth simply to provoke man to choose – whose yoke will you wear – the world’s yoke or mine? That is why conflict surrounded Christ’s life – from the townsmen that almost stoned Mary to death with Jesus in the womb to the scribes and pharisees that crucified Him to a tree.
He came into the world, but the world knew Him not. They had never experienced this kind of yoke before, or seen this kind of gentle master before. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. He touched lepers and brought healing. He ignited the faith of bleeding women and dying sinners, He ate with tax collectors and politicians, he forgave adulteresses and shocked the Scribes and Pharisees because of the authority with which He spoke. He turned religion on its head and preached unconditional love. He turned the law on its head and offered a new covenant of grace. And every provocative thing He did, He did on purpose, in order to force your response to a simple question: Will you come unto ME or will you stay with the world. Will you try my yoke or will you be led by your own lusts? Will you learn of me, or remain blind.
Choose ye this day whom you will serve – because you cannot serve God and idols. Our God is a jealous God – and that is why this message is urgent. Because someone is still lost in the conflict – someone is still in the valley of decision. Maybe you’ve confessed with your mouth – but you have not yet truly believed with all of your heart. And you know you are still uncertain because you’re not at rest and you’re not being productive. God says, come this way or don’t come this way. (Mat 6:24) No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” Your God is a jealous God. He wants a bride, not a girlfriend, an acquaintance or a fair weather friend. He wants one who will wear His ring and never take it off. He wants a committed servant.
Today – in the middle of Thanksgiving – Jesus is handing out Valentines and asking “will you be mine?”
Will you put your neck in my yoke, will you trust me with your vulnerabilities, your weaknesses, your failures and your fears and yet believe that I can get you where you want to go. God is looking for consistency today, for a 24-7 servant. Don’t let one failure, one fault, one mistake or one shortcoming make you consider changing masters. You’ve got to know that God loves you enough and He is meek and lowly enough to look beyond your faults and see your needs. Don’t let one season of depression, or one -as yet- unanswered prayer cause you to switch masters. It’s not worth it.
Somebody needs to know that this is not the time to consider switching teams – because truly if you loosen the yoke of Christ from around your neck, the world will surely step in to snatch you off course. “How long halt ye between two opinions? 1Kings 18:21 says, “If the LORD [be] God, follow him.” This is not the time to waver and allow yourself to be tossed around with every wind of doctrine. Conflict will creep in as the yoke loosens, and if the enemy even smells weakness then the world will tug at that yoke until he has pulled you back into the valley of uncertainty, but here comes Jesus Christ walking through the valley of the shadow of death, inserting Himself between sin and righteousness, truth and lies, life and death and saying come unto ME and you’ll find rest. I’m a master with this yoke, I am well capable of taking this instrument and using it to make your whole life sing to the Glory of God – you will find it easy to love Me, and you will find it a pleasure to seek Me. Give up the world’s yoke and take mine. You need stability and you need rest. Hallelujah! Praise God for a fresh commitment, praise God for the rest that comes with submitting to the master …
Potter’s House, the church must be a place where the yokes of the world can be destroyed – addictions, oppressions, emotional instability, lust, pride, Isaiah 10:27 says the enemy’s “ burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing.”
We spoke before about how important it is to welcome and reverence the very ark of the presence of the Lord in this house. This is one of the reasons why, because in His presence abides the anointing to destroy yokes. In His presence those who have been wavering and uncertain will be able to hear the Spirit of the Lord saying “take My yoke upon you, I will give you rest.” Too many people are being played like an instrument by the wrong master – and don’t even know it. The enemy tries to chase God’s children down rabbit holes of desires that are not of God, into unending spirals of confusion from doctrines that are not of God, and into temptations that build a wall of sin and shame between God and His beloved. It’s our job to make sure the anointing, and the very ark of God’s presence, resides both in us – as living temples of the Holy Ghost – and here, in the House of the Living God – so that when people come in here yokes are broken – and people can be freed to choose Christ. And to “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5;1) Somebody ought to praise the Lord. That’s the heart of my message today. Choose Jesus. Don’t let the world entice you, choose Jesus, don’t let your failures push you away, come back to Jesus, don’t be an unfaithful, unstable servant – be a faithful and committed bride, choose Jesus.
If you’ve made your choice worship Him. If your heart is certain and your mind is made up, worship Him. If your soul is resting because you are completely submitted to the master, worship Him. Let Him give you rest … Let Him give you rest … I Peter 5:10 says “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” If that’s you and you want God to establish and strengthen and settle you, we open the altar, we’ll pray with you. Here, you can recommit your life to the one before whom every knee must bow and every tongue confess. You can trade the old yoke in for a better way. You can decide again – that in His arms is where you want to be.