Is Your Soul a Weaned Child?

Right after Psalm 130 about fearing the Lord because He’s the one who forgives, comes Psalm 131. It’s a short Psalm, three verses, and beautiful. Here’s the entirety of the Psalm:

Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.

Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.

Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever.

The stretch of Psalms here are called Psalms of Ascent. They were sung on the way up to the temple in Jerusalem. They were sung in a row. Marking iniquities, getting forgiveness, and fearing God are all humble things.

At this point his heart is not exalted and proud, and his eyes are not raised up, looking down in condescension on everyone else. He doesn’t walk around in great matters, meddling in issues he has no concept about. “Too high” means marvelous, wonderful things beyond his power.

He knows his role and he stays in his lane.

Wow, do we need more of this in our day!

Proud people are constantly messing in other people’s business. They think they are the people and wisdom will die with them. If they were in charge, they’d have all the world’s problems solved pronto.

Humble people understand the limits of their powers and thoughts. I can tell you how to solve inflation, but do I really have a clue? If you or I were president, would we really have the slightest idea what we were doing?

I think this is one reason very few humble people are in politics! Who in their right mind thinks, “Yeah, I think I should run the most powerful country in the free world.” Only crazy people!

But this isn’t just about politics; it’s about all kinds of stuff. Your predictions about how things will go, your plans made on incomplete information, and so many of our lectures and witty one-liners. We have no idea.

If we saw our sin, we’d shut up more.

You would quiet yourself as a well-fed baby. What an image!

When our kids were little you could tell when they were hungry because they got angry and screamed. They just lost it. Then they’d get fed and they were the happiest little creatures on the planet. So calm, no fussies. So sweet.

That’s how your soul would be if your hope was in the Lord and you saw your sin and need of forgiveness.

Our pride forgets about our sin. It justifies our actions and we give ourselves a break. We think we’re better than others whom we do not justify and routinely credit the worst possible motives to. Evil people. Let me tell you what’s up! Let me fix you!

Humble people know they need fixing. They know they have no idea. God is the Father; I’m just a kid. Childlike faith. Dependence on Him rather than self-assured lecturing of others.

How’s your soul? Does it act like a well-fed baby; or is it screaming and crying and telling others what to do so you get your food?

Be humble. Hope in the Lord. And chill.

Our Attitude Toward God’s Forgiveness

We are sinners. I know we know this. Doesn’t cost anything to say it. But since we’re sinners and have basically come to peace with that, plus we’re surrounded by other sinners, sin has lost its seriousness.

Everyone’s doing it. What’s the big deal?

Here’s the big deal according to Psalm 130:3, “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” If God kept track of our sin, which He does, but provides no way to remove it, then we’re doomed. Thankfully, He does provide relief and an escape from sin.

Before we get too carried away being happy again, “Yeah! God forgives me, now I can sin again!” Think about what was just said.

If there is no way for God to remove my sin, then I am doomed. I’m done. Toast. Literally.

But there is a way for sin to be removed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who takes away the sin of the world. This is fantastic. So, what should our response to this sin removal by God be? I’ll let Psalm 130:4 answer that, “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”

Maybe not what you were expecting. Perhaps you think forgiveness means joy and peace and happy. That is included for us, but if this forgiveness leads to more sin, to taking advantage of who God is, then you’ve missed it.

If God is the only one who can forgive sins, if Christ is indeed the only way to the Father, the only means by which sin can be dealt with fully, then this should lead us to fear God. There is nowhere else to go with your sin. He’s it. That demands our fear.

“Fear” means awe, dread, astonishment, and to be terrified. A massive degree of respect, awe, and fear should fill our hearts. Do we understand forgiveness?

We can’t unless we see the seriousness of sin. We don’t fear God; we take advantage of Him. Israel and the church have both excelled at making a mockery of God’s means to deal with sin. Israel went through the motions of sacrifice and worship, but their heart was far removed. There was no fear; there was simply the gaming of the system.

Christians do the same thing. We say the prayer and get baptized, then we return to our sin. Sure we sing our songs and keep our couple holy days, but we do this to relieve our guilt so we can get back to sinning.

We’re playing games with God’s forgiveness. Taking it for granted, turning grace into lasciviousness. We’re sinning so grace may abound and feeling great about it the whole time.

Where does Psalm 130 go next?

I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.

Are you looking for the Lord, or did you rush by Him quickly on your way back to sinning? Are you waiting for Him as one who has a sleepless, miserable night and longs for the dawn? Is your hope in His word?

Or is He a game? A genie in the bottle to rub the right way so you can indulge your flesh’s wishes some more?

Do you know with whom you deal?

Does Your Sin Crush You?

After David got busted by Nathan for his sins with Bathsheba and Uriah, David wrote Psalm 51. It’s a beautiful psalm of contrition and repentance. The guiltiness of sin leads to the beauty of forgiveness.

David, being the king of a people in a covenant with God based on obedience, suffered mightily for his sin. Thousands of Israelites died because he gave an occasion for the Gentiles to blaspheme.

The downside of the Old Covenant was the system of physical curses and blessings for keeping God’s Word. I don’t know how long most of us would last if we lived under that same covenant.

The giant plus side is that the Old Covenant was not about salvation. When it came to David’s eternal salvation, no sin would separate him from God, even adultery and murder.

Seems hard to imagine that’s the case. It reminds me of Jesus’ parable about the guy who hires workers throughout the day, then pays them all the same regardless of how long they worked. In the end, it’s the boss who got robbed!

If David hadn’t sinned with Bathsheba and Uriah, there would be no Psalm 51 in the Bible. So, I guess, if I can say such a thing, we can be thankful for David’s sins!

The two verses that stand out are 16-17:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

What can a guy do after he sins? How can he make up for blowing it so bad? The flesh suggests running away, pretending it didn’t happen, going silent. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, go find a convenient bush to hide behind. But God will come looking. Be sure your sins will find you out (Numbers 32:23).

“Confess” means to “say the same thing as.” God already knows what you did. Be honest about what you did too. He already knows. You have no alternative but to talk to Him about it. If you don’t, He will force the conversation at some point. Every son the Father loves, He chastens.

Admit your sin to the Lord since He knows it anyway. But then what? Shouldn’t I make up for it somehow? Shouldn’t I work it off? Pay some kind of penance? That’s the natural urge. When I’m rude to someone, I try to make it up to them. Shouldn’t I do that with God?

What exactly are you going to do to make up for sinning against the Lord? What are you, a single human being, going to do for the Creator and Lord of the Universe that will make up for your sin? Give him a couple bucks? Kill an animal? A food offering? He doesn’t need anything. What’s He going to do with dead animals?

God has no pleasure in sacrifices and burnt offerings. If He did, then yeah, I’d bring it. But God desires obedience rather than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). But David didn’t obey, so now what?

Sacrifices in the Old Testament were not for salvation. Sacrifices were part of the Old Covenant system established for the prosperity of Israel. If they kept the Law, they would be blessed in the land; if they broke the Law, they and their land would be cursed.

By doing sacrifices they had a physical cost to put the covenant back in order. In essence, the physical sacrifices were completely stupid to any non-Jewish observer. Why give up your food? It was part of the curse of sin: if they didn’t obey they would suffer physically, part of that physical suffering was the loss of good animals. No supper for you!

But sacrifices never took away sin (Hebrews 10:4). Sacrifices never accomplished salvation. People have always been saved by grace through faith, regardless of what covenant you lived under. Don’t confuse what Israel did to maintain their covenant with salvation. Much error has been brought into church because of this confusion.

God does not desire dead animals; He wants you humble. David says his sacrifice is a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart. God will not despise that.

If your sin makes you run from God, then you are still holding onto pride. You think you can carry on without God. If your sin makes you work off the guilt, then you are also stuck in pride.  Pride, and its cousin self-pity, go hand in hand. Both keep you from actually dealing with the problem.

If you face your sin, see it for what it is, and say the same thing about it as God does (confession), it will lead to a broken spirit. “Broken” means crushed, crippled, wrecked, quenched. Smashed to bits perhaps.

This is not the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 3:15, “thou shalt bruise his heel,” but it has a similar meaning. Christ was crushed for our sin. Our sin can quench the Spirit as well. Quench and crush are two possible definitions of “broken.” This is God’s attitude toward sin. If we confess our sin, we have the same thought about it as God does: a crushed and quenched spirit.

“Contrite” means collapsed, crushed, broken in pieces. Very similar idea to broken. It doesn’t require much more elaboration. This is what sin should make us feel.

How does this jive with the modern emphasis on grace? If I’m already forgiven, already saved and loved by God, why would sin make me feel so bad? It’s not the end of the world!

If your sin doesn’t bother you, then you don’t know who God is. It’s not a religious related guilt; it’s a complete disgust about what you just did in light of who God is. It has nothing to do with appearances or people’s judgment of you. It’s a total immersion in your stand before the Lord.

My sin in front of His glory, holiness, and perfection. If God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness make sin not bother you, I suggest you don’t understand the seriousness of sin, or the cost of your forgiveness, or the character of God.

We should feel the same way about our sin as God does. Jesus suffered and died for our sin. He was crushed and quenched by it; we should be too.

I know this flies in the face of our modern happy Christianity where Jesus did all the heavy lifting and I just get health, wealth, happiness, and my best life now, but the Bible should carry more weight with us than the opinions of other sinners. Sin doesn’t bother us because we compare ourselves to other sinners, because we’ve made peace with our sin and justified most of its evil away.

Get before the Lord with your sin. Being broken and contrite will be the result. Look at Isaiah before God. Look at Job when he sees the Lord. That’s what broken and contrite looks like.

It’s no happy-happy “it’s ok because I’m forgiven and Jesus loves me!” It’s a total awareness of the glories of God and the grossness of what I just did. God will take your genuine brokenness without contempt. He will look on it favorably.

See your sin for what it is before the Lord and don’t be afraid to feel that.

BOOK REVIEW: Gentle and Lowly

I’ve been reading Gentle and Lowly: the heart of Christ for sinners and sufferers, by Dane Ortlund. I’ve heard this book praised by many people, not all from the same theological background either.

One of my hobbies in life is to analyze things that “everyone” likes. I enjoy being contrarian! I know that if many people like something, it’s probably wrong!

So, those are my upfront admissions! You know where I’m coming from.

The point of the book is that Jesus is a lot more loving than we think. He bases his points on Puritan writings, which I find slightly ironic. Puritans are Calvinists. Calvinists are the ones who have beaten wrath and judgment into our heads.

One of the reasons people don’t think God is as loving as the Bible says is because of Calvinism! Their stress on wrath and justice in the Gospel has diminished love. You can look at all the verses in the Bible that mention the Gospel and you will see love associated with it way more than wrath or justice. Yet Calvinism has majored on those and minored on love.

So, for a guy to use Calvinist writings to prove God is loving and not so wrathful is kind of odd. You will also notice he can’t quote a ton from most of them!

If Calvinism hadn’t taken over the Gospel, this book would not have been necessary.

At the same time, I also think people like the book because it emphasizes love and mercy. Both are fine things, but in so doing he does kind of make it sound like sin isn’t that big of a deal. I know that’s not the author’s point, I’m not accusing him of anything, I actually like most of the book as it is a needed corrective of the Calvinist wrath motif. But I do know people are hearing him that way.

“God loves to be merciful” sounds to most people like, “Should we sin that grace may abound? Absolutely yes, go for it!”

I think the two reasons people like this book are because for once a Calvinist emphasizes love, and his emphasis sounds like an ok to go sin.

Me, being a not-Calvinist, heard his Calvinism throughout the book. He never harped on it much, so it was not a hurdle to my enjoyment. Then I got to chapter 22! He let it all out in this chapter!

How much less could we comprehend what it meant for God to funnel the cumulative judgment for all the sinfulness of his people down onto one man. But reflecting on what we feel toward, say, the perpetrator of some unthinkable act of abuse toward an innocent victim gives us a taste of what God felt toward Christ as he, the last Adam, stood in for the sins of God’s people. The righteous human wrath we feel—the wrath we would be wrong not to feel—is a drop in the ocean of righteous divine wrath the Father unleashed.

After all, God punished Jesus not for the sin of just one person but many. What must it mean when Isaiah says of the servant that “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6)? What was it for Christ to swallow down the cumulative twistedness, self-enthronement, natural God hatred, of the elect? What must it have been for the sum total of righteous divine wrath generated not just by one man’s sin but “the iniquity of us all” to come crashing down on a single soul?

So, there ya have it! Calvinistic wrath in all its glory.

God “unleashed” “divine wrath” on Jesus. It would be more than the wrath we would feel toward a child abuser. God views Jesus as worse than a child abuser is the idea. The “sum total of righteous divine wrath” “came crashing down on a single soul.”

There are no verses that say any of this. Yes, he includes Isaiah 53:6 that our iniquities were laid on Christ, no argument there. But the whole divine wrath on Jesus is a complete abstraction. The Bible nowhere says that God the Father had wrath toward His Son. “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Isaiah 53 has several mentions of God being pleased with the Suffering Servant. There is no wrath. Why would God be upset with Jesus for doing the most loving, sacrificial work ever done to save us from our sin? It makes no sense.

Several times Ortlund says Jesus suffered hell. Again there is no place in the Bible where it says Jesus went to hell for us. The KJV uses “hell” sometimes instead of “the grave,” but other than that, there is nothing about Jesus going to hell. “Today you will be with me in paradise” is the only mention of where Jesus went after His death. Maybe he’s being metaphorical with the hell talk. That’s my best take, otherwise it’s all speculative.

During his explanation of suffering God’s wrath, Ortlund doesn’t quote many verses. There’s a reason for that! Here’s one snippet he throws in to give seeming biblical support:

And in venting that righteous wrath God was not striking a morally neutral tree. He was splintering the Lovely One. Beauty and Goodness Himself was being uglified and vilified. “Stricken, smitten by God” (Isaiah 53:4).

Isaiah 53:4 has more words in it that Ortlund leaves out:

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

There are some key words in here he conveniently leaves out: “we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God.” See, that’s not saying Jesus was stricken and smitten by God; it means that’s how we viewed it. When Christ was on the cross He was being mocked. “He saved others, he cannot save himself.” This was their ultimate victory. They overcame and killed the one who claimed to be equal with God. Humanity’s view is that God was against this so called Messiah. Is God really for a guy who we just nailed to a cross? I don’t think so! God is clearly against this guy.

So, where does all this orgy of God’s wrath on Jesus come from? It comes from extrapolating a lot out of “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Ortlund talks about this passage for a few paragraphs. Allow me to quote his opening phrase about Jesus being forsaken:

“It’s speculation.” (pg. 200).

Yup, it is!

The whole God’s wrath on Jesus angle is speculation, because it says it nowhere in the Bible. If the point were clear, Ortlund would not have to speculate. But he does.

If you read the context of Psalm 22, which begins with “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” You will note that the forsakenness is dealing with physical death. As the chapter goes on you’ll see many prophecies that were fulfilled while Jesus was on the cross. You will also note that the Psalm ends with a clear understanding that he’s not forsaken by God. Yes, he’s forsaken to the point of physical suffering, but essentially he knows he’s ok. His feeling is not the full story.

For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard (Psalm 22:24).

Jesus did suffer, but God did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted. He wasn’t really forsaken. It looked like He was, we esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, but in the end the Lord was with Him and heard His cries.

I guarantee you the thought of God when Christ was on the cross was not wrath against Jesus; it was sorrow. If our sin grieves the Holy Spirit, how much more must it have grieved God to see what was going on here?

In the end, this chapter refutes the entirety of the rest of Ortlund’s book. Ortlund tells me several times that God is my Father and the Father loves His sons. God only has love and mercy and compassion toward His kids. Except of course for His one Son who never did anything wrong; He blasted Him with His wrath! If God can be that upset with His one perfect Son, what chance do I have?

That’s exactly why Ortlund wrote this book, to balance out the wrathful extreme of Calvinist doctrine. I like that people like the book because he’s right when he’s right. He just can’t bring himself to admit that it’s Calvinism’s gospel that caused the problem in the first place!

Oh well. Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

God was never wrathful about His Son this I know, for the Bible also tells me so.

Stick with the Bible. You’ll have a much better understanding of God.

Isaiah 66:2 and You

God is way far above us. I know we know that in theory, but like, no really, He’s way above us. If I were as far above you as God is above us, I guarantee I’d let you know on a regular basis!

When I beat my kids at Candy Land or some other dumb game when they were 5, I’d let em know they lost and I won! Little did they know I cheated the entire time just to make it go quicker. I was so far above them, they had no idea I was totally fooling them! Ha! Losers!

If I can’t handle that sort of superiority, wow, you better be glad I’m not on God’s level.

We’re told that we are made in God’s image. Does that mean my gloating and pride in my superiority is from God? Nope. The concept of superiority and betterness is from God, but sin, resulting in pride, is what takes any degree of superiority I have and turns it into fleshly pride.

But God who is infinitely above us, is not tainted with sin and has no fleshly pride, nor does He grind our faces in our inferiority. A great passage to illustrate this is Isaiah 66. Verse 1 says God resides in heaven, there’s no dwelling place on earth that we can make that would contain all He is. Verse two says the reason why is because God made everything!

The one who made all things does not need us to rearrange the things He made into a nice building for Him. He’s fine without our efforts!

OK, so now what do we do? If there’s nothing I can do to house Him, if He doesn’t need me, why would He pay attention to me? If I were so superior to you that I didn’t need you, I’d ignore you. There wouldn’t be really anything you could do to get my attention. Who needs you?

But God does pay attention to people, but not the people who can build Him stuff or do great things, which is merely rearranging stuff He made. Verse two lets us know who the all-superior God pays attention to:

For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

Wow, what a verse.

Want God’s attention? It’s not by “doing great things” for Him. You might get my attention by doing great stuff for me, but that’s because I need stuff. God doesn’t. The way to get His attention is by being completely unable to do anything, by being inept, by understanding I got nothing.

“Poor” here means afflicted, needy, weak, depressed, and lowly. Not too impressive. But it gets worse. “Contrite” means smitten, maimed, or lame. The only other place this Hebrew word is used is in reference to Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son that David wanted to honor. Mephibosheth is described as being “lame in his feet.” His feet were broken, they didn’t work. That’s the only other usage of this word! God listens to people with lame hearts.

How do you know you are poor and lame? Is it an emotional state that proves it? No, that’s not it. It’s also not some kind of mopey, sad countenance, trying to act the part. It’s a genuine understanding of lack and humility. You know you need something outside of you. It’s demonstrated by trembling at God’s word.

Do you tremble at God’s word? Do you thirst for it as a new born baby craves milk? Do you submit your will to how God says to do things? Like, even the parts in the Bible you don’t like?

Being broken hearted and weak, resulting in complete dependence on God’s word, those are the people God pays attention to. Fascinating stuff. Do you believe this? Do you tremble at these words?

So many Christians think faith looks like health and wealth, your best life now, a happy materialism with Jesus. But faith looks like dependence on God and His word because you are broken and weak and have no alternatives.

God, who is so far above us, does not choose to associate with people who think they are above others. The God who is so far above us likes to associate with the lowest of the low. While competing for dominance and preeminence down here, we get further from God. You cannot serve God and mammon.

And, here’s the real kicker: the proof you are poor and contrite and tremble at God’s Word is that you become more like God. That’s why Paul tells us in Romans 12:16 to associate with people in a low position. He tells us elsewhere to esteem others better than ourselves.

People who are poor, contrite, and tremble at God’s word associate with those who are lower. Spiritual strength never results in holier than though aloofness, it always results in bearing the burdens of the weak; that’s how strength is shown.

God, the ultimate source of strength in the universe, condescends to men of low estate: you and me. When you get that, you relax and quit the rat race. You depend on Him. You also have compassion on those around you that others have no use for, those who are lame, and weak, and depressed, and lowly.

Wow. What a God. What a charge to keep. Man, I need humility.

Was It God’s Mysterious Will, Or Are You an Idiot?

A good percentage of Christians who say they believe God ordains all things (He’s behind everything, pulling the levers and making things happen with no free will on humanity’s part) tend to have tough situations in life they are struggling to resolve.

Often the most extreme language about God doing all things is around death. Many people whom we love are taken away from us, why? “Time and chance happens to them all” does not satisfy many. We want an answer that gives our brain some sort of sense, a solid fact to rest on rather than ambiguous, “I don’t know.”

So, funeral talk is sprinkled with “God needed him up there more than we needed him down here,” or “I guess it was his time to go.” This, for some reason, gives our brain a degree of solace.

I’ve also noticed that many people who have kids who walked away from the faith, or physical disabilities, or job/financial trauma also start talking about God being on His throne and such things.

Without minimizing true pain and suffering, we should rethink this deterministic theology.

If God does everything and you have no free will, you also have no power to do anything about it. If your kid walking away from the faith is answered with, “I guess that’s God’s mysterious plan,” this will prevent you from taking action, and more than likely, prevent you from considering what part you played in their falling away. Kids often point out weaknesses in their parent’s faith. Perhaps there’s an area of growth being pointed out for you rather than a giant mystery.

As long as it’s “God’s mysterious will,” then I’m off the hook. Does this give a degree of comfort? I suppose so. Resting in a theology that says, “It wasn’t me” probably feels good!

On the flip side, if you go the other way and figure God had nothing at all to do with this, it was all me, then you have another set of problems. People who don’t think God is involved at all battle depression. Now everything is my fault, and what in the world can I do about it? It removes hope and diminishes prayer.

If I’m doing everything I think I’m supposed to, and everything blows up in my face anyway, what’s the point of doing all that? Why bother? Why continue if nothing matters anyway?

Both responses result in the same fatalistic attitude: What can I do?

Most false doctrine is an attempt to get rid of personal responsibility. “The woman you gave me made me do it” followed by “The serpent made me do it” said the first sinners. We haven’t stopped. Getting out of responsibility drives our beliefs.

Bad things happen to everybody. It will not help to assume all your problems are outside of your control. It will also not help to assume everything is your fault as this will beat you into the ground.

Job’s life blew up. He had many questions. He didn’t fatalistically chalk it up to God’s will. Nor did he take it all on himself. He desperately wanted to talk to God about it.

Job was patient, we are told. Job spent an entire chapter wondering why he wasn’t killed at birth! This doesn’t sound excessively patient to me! Patience might be different from our assumptions. Patience means to endure under trial.

If crying out to God in real anguish, considering the benefits of early death, helps you endure, then go for it! God can handle it.

Job considered his behavior. He checked everything. He didn’t see anything sinful that he did, thus his confusion about why things blew up.

Job is a great example of dealing with earthly pain. He knew God was behind it, so he wanted to talk to God and get it taken care of. Job also was not fatalistic to never consider his own behavior in light of what was happening. We do reap what we sow.

Next time terrible things drop on you, don’t chalk it up to God’s mysterious will and move on in fatalistic resignation. Consider your part. Is there anything you did to lead to these results? If so, what can you do now to help?

If you can’t think of anything, then take it to the Lord and figure out how best to respond to what’s going on. Let the Lord have it, like Job did. The Lord could be doing any number of things behind the scenes, never lose sight of that.

There needs to be a healthy balance, a humble investigation into what’s going on and what I’m supposed to do about it. Knowing that God can help even this terrible thing work for your good is a great comfort. Knowing that there might be things you can do to immediately improve the situation is also a great comfort.

Don’t let your doctrine eliminate your personal responsibility over your life. Don’t let your doctrine undermine the power of God that can work in your life through many terrible things. Trust God and do good.

What Does “My Yoke Is Easy” Mean?

Jesus tells us that his “yoke is easy and his burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).

This gives the impression that Christianity is easy breezy. Perhaps one might claim Christianity leads to health and wealth, or your best life now. It’s like an infomercial where it’s so easy, even a blond could do it.

The Greek word translated “easy” is fascinating. It’s used seven times in the Bible, only once is it translated “easy.” Here are the other uses:

The word is translated “kind” in Luke 6:35 where God is kind to the unthankful and evil, and in Ephesians 4:32 where we are supposed to be kind one to another. Jesus’ yoke is kind. It’s not nasty and evil, He’s not a cruel master working you into the ground for pointless work. Following Him is still hard, it’s still a yoke, but it’s way kinder than being yoked to sin and death.

Luke 5:39 talks about a guy saying the old wine is better than the new wine. “Better” is the same word as “kind” in relation to Christ’s yoke! That’s a cool translation, my yoke is better! I like that one a lot. In life you have to serve someone, might as well serve a kind and better master. I believe that’s pretty much the idea Jesus is conveying in Matthew 11:30.

Evil communication corrupts good manners in 1 Corinthians 15:33. “Good” is the same word as easy, kind, and better. Following Christ results in good manners, manners that are better and kinder than what the world is doing.

Romans 2:4 mentions the goodness of God. Goodness is our word. This is obviously connected with the good translation in 1 Corinthians 15. Christ’s yoke is good, it’s not evil or harsh. It leads to a good ending.

“The Lord is gracious,” says 1 Peter 2:3, gracious is our word. Grace gets close to the concept of good. God is favorable and giving, slow to anger and willing to forgive. All of this explains why His yoke is easy.

I find these translations to be interesting, and mixing the various options around into the different verses is fun. Translation is not an exact game. You want to be careful and consider context at all times. You don’t want to get too flippant with things and start messing with words though.

But I like these possible translations because they give a better idea what the easy yoke is. It’s not simple, it’s not tip toeing through tulips. It’s no picnic or vacation.

Paul says we are to fight the fight and run the race. These are not easy things. You have to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ and put on the full armor of God. Nothing in the New Testament should lead you to think the Christian life is easy. In fact, Paul says if there is no resurrection, no life after this one, then the Christian life is most miserable. He didn’t say, “Hey, if there’s no resurrection, at least following Jesus was easy and fun!” You don’t get easy and fun out of reading what Paul and the apostles and Jesus Himself went through down here.

Jesus told His disciples they would suffer for His sake. He didn’t tell them being an apostle would be easy. When we include these other words into our understanding, we get the idea.

Following Christ is not easy, it’s taking up a cross, but it’s way better than the alternative! This has to be understood through resurrection and the life that is to come. In the end, being yoked to Christ is good, kind, and better than living for sin and getting death.

Keep your eyes on the prize. Press toward the mark. Life isn’t easy and Jesus didn’t come here to make it easy, in fact, He made it harder in some ways. But the end, the fruit, the eternal reward, will be all you need to see that His yoke was indeed good, kind, and better.

Does Our Sin Separate Us From God?

A “yes” answer typically relies on two proof texts: Isaiah 59 and 1 John 1. Do these passages teach that our sin separates us from God?

First, is Isaiah 59:2:

But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

OK, so this verse comes right out and says that sin separates from God! Proof texting at its finest! As we know, in order to understand a passage, one must look at the context.

The first question is, “Who is ‘you’ and ‘your’ referring to?”

Fantastic question, glad you asked it. Sine this is the second verse, not much has been said before it. “You” and “your” are not defined in verse 2, nor is there a noun in verse 1 that “you” would refer to. So, we are forced to read the whole chapter. I know, I know, you’re busy and the chapter is long, but Bible comprehension requires this sort of chore.

“You,” “your,” and “us” are used repeatedly throughout the chapter, and it’s not until verse 20 that we see a mention of Zion and Jacob (Israel). The last verse of the chapter (21) says a bit more:

As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.

The Lord mentions a covenant made with “them.” The “them” refers back to Israel/Jacob in verse 20. God made a covenant with Israel, sometimes called The Law. If Israel as a nation kept the Law they would dwell in the Promised Land and everything would go great. If Israel rejected the Law and did not do their part, God would turn from them and they would get whooped up on by their enemies and eventually booted out of the Promised Land.

So, in verse 2 God says

But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

The “you” and “your” refer to the Covenant People, Israel. The terms of their covenant with God made clear that if they chucked the law and went after iniquity, which the entire middle portion of Isaiah 59 says they did, then God will not hear their cry or deliver them. They blew it.

If you are a member of the Old Covenant people, and the Old Covenant people reject the covenant and do crazy sin stuff, then yes, their sin would separate them from God. They’d be cut out of His blessings and instead receive His curses, just as He told them at the beginning of the Covenant (Deuteronomy 11:26-29).

Believers today are not part of the Old Covenant. They are members of the New Covenant, which is far better, according to Hebrews. Old Covenant people were not all believers. That is a big point frequently missed as we read the Old Testament. Not all who are of Israel are of Israel. Old Covenant people could be separated from the goodness of God by their sin. The New Covenant is not so structured.

Second, we come to 1 John 1, which is the typical passage used to say that New Covenant people’s sin can separate them from God. Here John tells us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins. Some interpretations think this refers to confession of sins past at the point of salvation. Others take this as sanction for the Catholic system of confessing to a priest. Others take it as possibly losing salvation if you don’t confess every sin. Still others think the confession is done because our fellowship with God has been broken.

This last take is the one that enters our discussion about whether our sin separates us from God. The pertinent verses are 1 John 1:6-9:

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Verses 6 and 7 both mention “fellowship.” The “fellowship” theme ties back to verses 2 and 3:

the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

If you receive the message of Jesus Christ you have fellowship with the Father, with Christ, and with fellow believers. If you say you have fellowship with the Father, Christ, and believers and yet continue your worldly, sinful, and unrepentant life, well, has John got news for you! You are a liar and do not do the truth.

Getting into fellowship with God means faith in the Gospel, being one of God’s sons, being born again, a member of the family of God. The life of faith should be characterized by confession of sin. “Confess” literally means in the Greek to say the same thing as. God knows who you are, He knows your frame, He is omniscient. You can’t hide anything from Him. If you truly have faith in Him you would know this! Faith and humility go together. Humble, faithful people agree with God about who they are. They say the same thing about their sin as God does.

Confess here does not mean some elaborate priestly ritual with works to do afterwards to make up for your sin. He also can’t simply be talking about salvation; this is not a one and done confession, but a life of being honest, walking in the truth.

This passage does not say that our sin separates us from God. At no point does John say you have to confess your sins to get back in fellowship with God. Confession is a simple, humble recognition that you are a sinner and are dealing in your battle with sin in complete truth, honesty, and transparency with God.

I do not think either passage teaches that our sin separates us from God. I also cannot think of any other passages that get close to saying it. Yes, our sin is bad. Yes, our sin can quench and grieve the Spirit. God doesn’t want you to sin. You may incur His chastening as a result of your sin, but chastening is done in love, not some petty shape up or I’m out of here threat.

Once you’re in the Body of Christ, you’re in the Body of Christ! There’s no falling out of it. Why would God cease to deal with one He loves and views as His own child?

If there is any feeling of separation or barrier between us and God due to our sin, it is entirely on our part. Probably a result of some sort of religious guilt tripping you heard as a child.

The big thing is: make sure you’re in the Body of Christ. Make sure you are saved. Make your calling and election sure. Not by convincing yourself, or remembering something you did in a church one time 22 years ago, but because a new life has taken root in you. You continue to grow and mature into the perfect man Christ Jesus. You walk humbly and honestly with God, in agreement with Him about who you are.

God is always on your side. He wants your spiritual health more than you do. He will never leave you or forsake you. Trust Him. Deal with the truth and walk in the Spirit. Keep going. Don’t quit. Run the race with patience. Go, fight, win!

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