Theme: Under the Yoke: Submission
From this week’s lessons we see that Christ’s call to discipleship is described as a yoke that is both easy and light because Jesus is a kind and gentle Master.
Scripture: Matthew 11:28-30
We must be careful to explain what we mean when we speak of knowing God in a saving way, however. For this is no mere intellectual knowledge of God, any more than saving faith is mere intellectual assent to certain truths. Knowing God is a complex matter. England’s J. I. Packer says, “Knowing God involves, first, listening to God’s word and receiving it as the Holy Spirit interprets it, in application to oneself; second, noting God’s nature and character, as his word and works reveal it; third, accepting his invitations, and doing what he commands; fourth, recognizing, and rejoicing in, the love that he has shown in thus approaching one and drawing one into this divine fellowship.”2
This is why preaching that neglects to mention sin is no true preaching, and why “experience” of God that does not leave the worshiper with a profound sense of his or her own sinfulness and an even greater sense of the love of God is no true experience. It is why we live in an age whose religious “health” is an illusion. Today we have preachers, well-known, highly successful preachers, who refuse to mention sin in their teaching—not because it is difficult to do or because they have trouble doing it, but because, in their judgment, people do not need to hear about such subjects. They believe people feel badly enough as it is. They need rather to be affirmed, these teachers say. Affirmed? People today hardly feel the weight of sin at all. Nothing they do is ever considered sinful. Will you maintain that such persons know God and are saved by God even if they make profession of it?
The second idea in the command “learn from me” is having Jesus Christ as our teacher in this school. It is the idea that the New International Version and New King James Bible translators focus on in their rendering. How does Jesus teach us? We can understand how He taught in the days of His earthly ministry. Then He literally called disciples to follow after Him and instructed them as they traveled about together. Most of the words of Jesus in our four Gospels are from these teaching sessions.
In calling disciples to labor in His school Jesus introduced a further image to explain the relationship of the disciple to Himself that He had in mind. It was the image of a yoke. A yoke is a device placed over the head and shoulders of a farm animal, such as an ox or horse, to enable it to work. But it is also a rod under which people were sometimes required to pass in order to show allegiance to a conqueror. “Yoke” is a rich word, embodying several important elements.
1. Submission. This idea was developed last week and flows naturally from the picture of a people passing under a conqueror’s yoke. But it is also involved in an animal submitting to its master’s yoke, and a scholar submitting to the academic discipline of a professor. This means that when we come to Jesus Christ in salvation we come to Him as our Master, who will henceforth guide our lives, superintend our work, and direct our studies. The great Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon saw “take my yoke” as meaning, “If you will be saved by me I must be your Master, and you must be my servant; you cannot have me for a Savior if you do not accept me for a Lawgiver and Commander. If you will not do as I bid you, neither shall you find rest to your souls.”3
Study Questions:

What four things does knowing God entail according to J. I. Packer?
What is the first important element of a yoke?  How does it relate to salvation? 

Application: For those who doubt the reality or significance of their sins, but who still think they belong to Christ, how would you answer them? How do the images of a school and yoke challenge one who thinks that salvation comes by simply believing certain doctrines and refraining from certain practices?
For Further Study: Our discipleship cannot be separated from the love of God.  To learn more about this great love, listen to the free download of James Boice’s message, entitled, “Five Unanswerable Questions,” available from the Alliance.  (Discount will be applied at checkout.)
2J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973), p. 32.
3Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Rest for the Labouring” in Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 22 (Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1971), p. 621.

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