Tag Archives: yoke is easy

Shapeshifting Hippie Jesus

A popular progressive blogger recently said that Jesus “doesn’t lay heavy teachings on people” in connection with his yoke being easy and his burden light (Matt 11:28).

So if Jesus’ teaching seems too heavy and hard for folks (Lk 9:23), does this mean that they merely need to reinterpret Jesus or soften his commands in order to ease their discomfort? I sure hope not.

I prefer Bonhoeffer’s sentiment that those who accept Christ’s commands are the ones who find his yoke easy and the burden light, but to those who resist them (him) his yoke is hard and the burden too heavy for anyone to carry. Just ask the rich man, or those listening to the Sermon on the Mount for the first time.

Jesus didn’t say, “accept yourself and take up your sword and follow me.”

Which translates this way today: I’m fine the way I am and I’ll fight (by whatever means necessary) anyone who says otherwise.

This seems to be particularly reflective of our narcissistic, morally relativistic American society still experiencing the destructive political and social consequences of the 1960’s. We can easily see the error of the tactics used by the Religious Right in the 1980’s to promote a power-over, politicized Jesus, but it was the social “hippie” revolution that completely emasculated Christ and transformed him into an anything-goes “love” guru.

If you follow my writings, you know that I’m not down with the cage-fighting Jesus. I’m an Anabaptist. I believe that Christ is love (agape) and peace as revealed on the cross, but these truths are understood in their purest form after letting Jesus define them for us in word and deed, even in the hard stuff.

It doesn’t happen, and will never happen, by shaping Jesus to fit a new cultural trend, what is politically correct, or what the current zeitgeist (spirit of the age) would have us believe about ourselves, the Messiah, and the sacred Scriptures.

Anyone who reads the Gospels will hear Jesus teaching a radical repentance to come into the Kingdom (Matt 3:8; Mk 1:15; Lk 5:32; 13:1, etc.), but our shape-shifting of Jesus to accommodate our cultural presuppositions about ourselves and our world appears to be keeping us from actually repenting of anything.

Jesus didn’t lay heavy teachings on people? No, quite the opposite. But this is where we are today: well-intentioned folks fed up with fundamentalism not realizing how dangerously close they are to reshaping Jesus to further their own interests and agendas—another version of fundamentalism, the libertine sort.

As Jesus said, “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” to those who lived by the law. I’d say it equally applies to those who use fancy-free language that make folks feel better about their sin in order to promote an easy believism, or a moral therapeutic deism. They both stink to high heaven!

To be clear, I don’t think the one who said Jesus “doesn’t lay heavy teachings on people” really believes that the love of Christ is an “anything-goes” sort of thing, but this misleading rhetoric inevitably sets a person on a trajectory of disaster. It’s not the pathway of repentance for the inheritance of the Kingdom.

Christ ought to be forming us into his image, not the other way around. That is the critical difference. It’s certainly what has made all the difference in my life.

What do you think? When you read the Gospels, is Jesus laying down some hard stuff? Do you hear Jesus extending a high invitation and high challenge to those who would join him?

D.D. Flowers, 2014.

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Jesus, Lover of My Soul

“While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.” Mark 14:3

I’m not gonna lie to you.  There are things that I just don’t like about the way in which the Lord works with us.  In time, I do see the wisdom and the genius in it, but I have yet to grow accustom to the periods in life where the Lord is breaking you like the woman’s alabaster jar.  It does help to remember the breaking is for Jesus.

Maybe you’re like me.  I keep thinking about what’s in the jar… and the aroma that will fill the room.  I like those moments.  I often find myself trying to skip to the “good stuff”… wanting to leave the jar the way it is.  But the Lord is concerned with the process of breaking vessels.

If you’re looking for a big theological word… it’s called “sanctification.”  It’s being continually fashioned into His holy image.  For He knows the aroma is the reward of a willing piece of clay.  He is that aroma.  And His fragrance comes only through a crushing blow to our souls.

I have been giving this a great deal of thought.  I think the nature of this process is interwoven into the very fabric of the Triune God.  I don’t know what all that means yet.  Nevertheless, I do believe that it is somehow rooted in the community shared by the Trinity.  The Lord of heaven knows about self-denial.

Yes, the Lord must grow us up into His image through self-sacrifice.  It is what exists between the Father, Son, and Spirit.  Without a continual denying of self, the believer will not be fashioned into His image, nor can he be built together with other living stones.

The sweetness of the sacrifice will never come unless there is a willing disciple who is broken and spilled out.  The Potter makes us and therefore has the right to break us.  And that breaking can only bring forth a glorious display of His beauty IF we will surrender our constant obsession with self and learn the altruistic faith that unlocks the depths and riches of Christ.

I’m learning that I can give up my desire for control and hand the reins of my life to Christ.  He has relieved me from my post of being the watchman of my own soul.  You know what I’m talking about?  You know… that feeling when fear and uncertainty set in. It causes us to scramble.  It says, “I’ve got to do something!”

“For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against my enemies.”  Psalm 61:3

If I can only remember the Lord is not only the watchman of my soul… He is the watchtower.  I climb the stairs of this tower… I see the Lord there… and he reminds me that He has indeed relieved me of my burden.  I’m not the captain of my soul.  I’m not the “master of my fate.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard, for those who try to resist it. But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy and the burden is light.”  (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 37.)

I guess it’s just really difficult to grasp.  Lord, did you really mean your “yoke is easy” and your “burden is light”?  Have you really taken care of all my needs in one sweeping victory?  Will you cloth me like the flowers of the field?  Is your well really that deep?  Living water?  Lord!  Help me to receive it!

Jesus said, “Everything is possible for him who believes.” And I cry out, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24)

So… I start my descent back down the tower… taking what the Lord has shown me.  He knows I’ll be back soon.  And He never grows tired of my coming.  He never grows weary of reminding me how much He loves me.

It reminds me of the movie 50 First Dates (2004).  Lucy (Drew Barrymore) was involved in an accident that caused her to forget everything about her life.  She could be reminded of who she was, but after she slept during the night, she forgot it all and was back to square one.  (The movie is worth watching… check it out.)

Henry (Adam Sandler) loved her so deeply.  He decided that he would make a video for Lucy to wake up to every single day.  The video would remind her of who she was, where she was, who loved her, and whom it was that she loved.  Henry was committed to having his bride fall in love with him all over again… each and every day.

Henry reminds me of the Lord.

This truly is the greatest mystery to me: the Lord’s ability to bring life out of death; an empty tomb after a bloody cross; a new man from the mud and mire of a self-centered existence.  And He does it over and over again… new creation breaking through the old.

There is not a word in my vocabulary to describe the creative power and foolish magnificence of my Jesus.  And no matter how often we forget it… the Lord is patient and his mercies are new every morning.  He is glad to begin again with us.

Things move much slower in the Lord’s economy.  Not only is the Lord slow, as we consider slowness, but His way is foolish.  He moves when we sit.  When we are weak, He is strong.  When we fall, He rises up.  When we stop, he starts.  When we die, He lives.  Are you getting the picture yet?

“Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.”  Psalm 127:1

So… relax.  Stop trying to make something happen in your life and in the church.  Let go!  Enjoy the Lord where you are… in the season He has you.  He loves you.  Trust that He will work it out.  Believe He will bring it to pass.  Turn from your own thinking.

See the Lord there in the tower of your soul.  He’s watching.  He’s got you covered.  Every morning He’s there… telling you who you are in Him and that He loves you all over again.  Brothers and sisters, receive it.

“Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” Lamentations 3:22-26


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