The 21 Laws of Discipleship
Jesus’s Easy Yoke
Law #1: The Law of the Mind
Law #2: The Law of Training
Law #3: The Law of Worship
Law #4: The Law of Community
Law #5: The Law of Habit
Law #6: The Law of the Spirit
Lesson #7: The Law of Example
Law #8: The Law of Effort
Law #9: The Law of Faith
Law #10: The Law of Talk
Law #11: The Law of Pain
Law #12: The Law of Gospel
Law #13: The Law of Service
Law #14: The Law of the Way of Escape
Law #15: The Law of Commitment
Law #16: The Law of Time
Law #17: The Law of Prayer
Law #18: The Law of Replacement
Law #19: The Law of Confession
Law #20: The Law of the Kingdom
Law #21: The Law of Sovereignty
Is Christian living easy or hard?
Is it easy or hard for you to live the Christian life?
I have asked this question to thousands of Christians and consistently they will answer with resolve, “Hard!”
Then, I show them this familiar verse:
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:30 (NIV2011)
I ask again, wording the question slightly differently, “Did Jesus teach that following Him would be easy or hard?” Puzzled looks.
I never get an explanation this complete, but it seems they are saying, “I don’t care what that verse says, believe me, Christian living is very, very hard.”
One word of clarification. I am not asking whether life is hard. Our experience confirms what Jesus taught: life is hard. “In this world you will have trouble.” John 16:33 (NIV2011) Trouble. Life is hard.
I am asking whether Christian living is easy or hard, not whether life is easy or hard. In this world full of difficulties, is it easy or hard to live as Jesus taught?
The answer seems clear. Jesus taught that His yoke is easy. Could it be we have put on some other yoke?
Perhaps we have put on the yoke of religion.
Perhaps we have put on the yoke of duty.
Perhaps we have put on the yoke of feel-good-faith.
Perhaps we have put on the yoke of legalism.
Perhaps we have put on the yoke of moralism.
Perhaps we have put on the yoke of trying really hard to be good.
If the yoke that we have around our neck is not easy, it is not Jesus’ yoke.
Ortberg suggests that we have replaced Jesus’ yoke with rule-keeping:
A recent study by the Barna Group found that the number one challenge to helping people grow spiritually is that most people equate spiritual maturity with trying hard to follow the rules in the Bible. No wonder people also said they find themselves unmotivated to pursue spiritual growth. If I think God’s aim is to produce rule-followers, spiritual growth will always be an obligation rather than a desire of my heart.
“Rule-keeping does not naturally evolve into living by faith,” Paul wrote, “but only perpetuates itself in more and more rule-keeping.” In other words, it only results in a rule-keeping, desire-smothering, Bible-reading, emotion-controlling, self-righteous person who is not like me. In the end, I cannot follow God if I don’t trust that he really has my best interests at heart.
The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. There is an enormous difference between following rules and following Jesus, because I can follow rules without cultivating the right heart.
A better way
I would suggest that Christian living is hard because we have never been taught to live the Christian life. We have been taught a lot about the Bible. We know a lot of Bible stories from the Bible. We could give you a lot of Bible facts. We could even throw in a few Greek words and several dates. But, we have never been taught, systematically, step-by-step, how to live the Christian life.
Imagine a Canadian caterpillar chomping away on a plant in September. You whisper to this caterpillar, “You better get started. Winter is coming.”
“Where do I need to go?” responds the caterpillar.
How far is it?
He doesn’t really understand how far Mexico is. He doesn’t understand 3000 miles. But he thinks to himself, “I am going to have to try really, really hard.”
3000 miles would be a long way for any animal to migrate, but for a caterpillar, it seems impossible. And, of course, it would be impossible except for one thing. God created a caterpillar with DNA that allows it to enter the tomb of a chrysalis for a few weeks and come out a butterfly. As a butterfly, it will just do what butterflies do. Every year, millions of butterflies make this 3000-mile trek to a place they have never seen. Their secret is not trying really hard. Their secret is transformation. Once transformed, they just need to do what butterflies by the millions do every year. Once transformed, Jesus’ yoke really does become easy.
This is precisely the word Paul uses when he says that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. It is also the word Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 3.18 when he says we are transformed by beholding Christ (ESV). Other passages indicate other ways that God transforms us. Here is a list, that will form the outline for this study: