The Preeminence of Christ:
§ Last week we discussed the fact that a Christ-centered life is the work of the Holy Spirit… a supernatural work.
§ We also noted that WE have personal responsibility in this as well. It is God’s work in us, but it requires a response of faith.
§ We also discussed at length the one obstacle to that in the Christian life: SELF.
§ The battle for preeminence is between Christ and Self… who will rule and reign in our lives?
§ Self is the problem. Theologians have invented lots of different terms for ways to deal with this problem… and sometimes the terms are confusing.
§ Christ will NEVER be in the position of preeminence in our lives experientially until self is dealt with at the cross.
§ Let’s look at the Bible itself and the language GOD uses to describe our responsibility is living a Christ-centered life.
A. SUBMITTING TO HIS YOKE: Matt. 11:29-30—It is possible to be saved—to receive Christ’s salvation, but not to submit to His yoke.
1. Jesus uses the illustration of a YOKE… an illustration the people would be familiar with.
a. The people He addresses here were Jews who had lived under the bondage of the law and Pharisee’s form of legalism.
b. The Sadducees and Pharisees “bind heavy burdens and grievous to be born, and lay them on men’s shoulders.” (Mt. 23:4)
c. In the days of the early church, the apostles referred to the law as a “yoke.” (Acts 15:10)
d. In the Old Testament, the law was a heavy yoke… bondage… that they were unable to bear. Those living under the law were heavy laden with the rigors of the law… and the traditions of men that were added to it.
e. The weariness of religion arises from the fact that its work is never done… no matter how many good works a man does, it’s not enough… the law demonstrated that with its system of continual sacrifice.
2. Christ made it clear in this passage, that there are TWO commands He gives.
a. Come unto Me – come in faith and be saved… and experience rest of soul… peace with God. This happens in a moment of time.
• The invitation to COME is an invitation to salvation.
• The Scriptures often use this concept as a synonym for “believe”
» John 6:37 – He who comes to Me I will in no wise cast out.
» John 6:35 – I am the bread of life. He that comes to me shall never hunger.
» Rev. 22:17 – The Spirit says, “Come; and let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.”
» Isa. 55:1 – “Ho every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters…”
» Salvation really is that simple: COME to Christ in simple faith…
• Christ offers men RELIEF from the heavy burdens of the Sadducees and Pharisees.
• Christ invites men to come to Him and to enter into a personal relationship with Him.
• In vs. 20-24 Jesus rebukes cities of Israel for their unbelief and for their refusal to repent at the revelation given to them.
• Next Jesus turns to individuals and calls them to repentance… to change their minds and come to Him in faith.
• It is not an invitation to join a church; to change religions; or to a program.
• It is a call to come to Christ in faith—and all who come will be received and none turned away.
b. Take my yoke upon you – submit to my will completely; come to an end of your own will… your own goals and plans; your own life… This takes a lifetime to master…
• MY yoke; in contrast to a yoke of Law or the Sadducees and Pharisees.
• Our Reformed friends accuse us of being “lawless” because we teach the believer is not under the law.
• Not so. True, we are to throw off the yoke of the law… but we are not abandoning ALL yokes.
• Rather, we are exchanging yokes… from the law to Christ… from being yoked to stone tablets of Law to being yoked to a gracious Person.
• Paul put it this way: we are dead to the law so that we might be married to Christ. (Rom. 7)
• Jesus invites us to be yoked in HIS yoke… yoked together with Him.
• This yoke represents not salvation, but discipleship… submission to Christ in all that is involved in being a disciple.
• I Tim. 6:1 – “Let as many servants who are under the yoke count their own masters worthy…” A yoke speaks of being in submission to a master.
• “Learn of Me” = verb form of the noun for disciple. Take my yoke and be my disciple.
• Just as in the Great Commission: they were to make converts (salvation) and then to teach (make disciples). One can become a convert in a moment of time. But it takes a lifetime to LEARN of Christ… and to implement all that is involved in discipleship.
3. Christ was speaking here about the distinction between salvation and discipleship.
a. It is possible to be a disciple (a religious student) and not a true believer. Judas was such a man. Judas was a disciple for 3 ½ years—and was well taught—but was not saved. Churches are filled with such folks today.
b. It is also possible to be a believer (one who is born again) and not be a disciple… a disciplined one… not a well-taught student.
• Lot was a true believer… he was a just man… but not a dedicated disciple.
• The Corinthians were genuinely saved, yet not very dedicated to Christ. They were saints positionally, but not very sanctified saints! Christ was not preeminent in the lives of many of those believers. Self was!
• The thief on the cross was a true believer, but not very well taught… not a student… a disciple. There was no time for discipleship there.
4. It is possible to come to Christ for salvation… and then, after a while, to BALK about submitting to His yoke.
a. This is what Christ speaks about in Matt. 11:30 – wearing His yoke.
b. Consider what is involved in submitting to His Yoke:
• Putting our head in His yoke is an act of our will… it is our choice. Will I choose to submit or not?
• To do so is an expression of a Christ-like attitude as when Christ said, “Not my will but Thine be done.”
• It is an acknowledgement that my life is no longer my own. There is a surrendering of your own life… your own way… your own will when you submit to a yoke.
• Submitting to that yoke means it is no longer I but Christ.
• It is recognition of a new authority in one’s life.
• It is the place of absolute surrender… submitting to the yoke of slavery to Christ…
• All of this and more is intentionally implied by our Lord’s use of the concept of a yoke.
5. It is a fearful thing to surrender your life… your time… all you are and all you have… to another.
a. Christ is not preeminent until we bow before Him and submit our neck to His yoke.
b. That means that He has veto power over all decisions.
c. It means He is the absolute authority over EVERY aspect of our lives… every day… all things…
d. This does not come to us naturally. It’s not an easy choice.
e. It is natural for us to want to be the masters of our own destinies… to be in charge… to have preeminence in our lives.
f. The yoke was a symbol of yieldedness or submission.
g. The opposite of that spirit was illustrated by the concept of being stiffnecked – like a lazy, stubborn bull who stiffened his neck so that the yoke could not be put on…
• Acts 7:51 – being stiffnecked is likened to resisting the Holy Spirit…
• II Chron. 30:8 – don’t be stiffnecked, but yield yourselves to the Lord.
6. Of course, it is only fearful to submit to Christ’s yoke when we have a shallow concept of who He is.
a. The lazy, stubborn bull was afraid to put his neck in the yoke because he learned by experience that the burden was heavy. He would have to plow fields.
b. The one who doesn’t know Christ very well might be intimidated to put his head in that yoke.
• And rightly so! Who would be so foolish as to turn over absolute control of their entire life to a total stranger?
• That’s why Jesus invites men to come to Him… also to LEARN of Him.
• We are to come to Him in faith and be saved… trust Him as Savior.
• Then we are to continue learning of Him… and growing in faith… entrusting more and more into His care… as we learn of Him.
c. When we realize that He is omniscient – He knows the end from the beginning… and that He loves us with an everlasting love and wants that which is BEST for us… and that He is omnipotent and has all power to enable us… when we learn that He is sovereign and has a plan for our lives… for good… and is working all things together for good… and when we realize that He is faithful – He will never leave us nor forsake us…
d. The more we learn of Him… the more confident we become in entrusting more and more of our lives to His control.
e. When we KNOW HIM… then submitting to Him… surrendering our lives to His care is no longer fearful… but we feel quite safe and secure. He’s a Good Shepherd, leading us to green pastures and still waters.
f. As times goes on and we come to know Him better and better, submitting to Him in new areas of our lives will not be fearful either. We learn by experience that His way is perfect!
g. Christ is the perfect Teacher.
• He does not unload everything on the new believer all at once—and expect perfection and a level of dedication that it took older believers a lifetime to grow into…
• He does not show us His will for the rest of our lives… all the difficulties ahead on life’s pathway.
• Rather, the yoke is worn moment by moment; step by step; giving us grace and strength that is needed moment by moment. As thy days, so shall thy strength be.
• We don’t have to worry about where this yoke might lead us next year or in five years… or whether we will be able to “make it.”
• He promises never to give us a temptation or a burden greater than we will be able to bear… remember we are yoked to HIM… He bears the weight.
• It would be terrifying to turn over one’s life to a stranger… but not to One who continually proves Himself to be a Good Shepherd…
7. When viewed from this perspective, it would be quite fearful NOT to follow His will and leading.
a. Who knows where our fallen nature would lead us?
• Why not entrust your life into His care?
• It is not in man to direct His steps.
• I was in charge of my life for a while, and didn’t do so well.
• I was more than happy to step aside turn over the steering wheel to someone infinitely more competent than I.
• As we learn more of Him, we learn that His way is perfect. Man’s way is anything but perfect.
b. If we know Christ, it is not a fearful thing to submit to His yoke.
• His yoke is easy!
» Easy: fit, fit for use, useful; virtuous, good; manageable. mild, pleasant (as opp. to harsh, hard sharp, bitter).
» It speaks of a yoke that is suitable for us; fitted to each one of us uniquely…
• The burden is light
» Light: light; agile;
» This term is used only here and in II Cor. 4:17 – “our light affliction.” It is light when we see it from eternity’s perspective…
» Our burden is also light because when yoked with Christ, we WILL see life from eternity’s perspective.
» That makes our trials and burdens easy to bear… light… when we see they are temporary… and not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us!
» The burden is light because when yoked together with Him in submission, we have access to omnipotence in bearing that burden! HE is our strength!
• He invites us to come to Him and He replaces the weariness and heavy burdens with REST… peace of mind and heart…
• The weight doesn’t go away. Trials don’t end because we enter the yoke, but in that trial we can KNOW that the weight will never crush us… no testing will be more than we care bear… we are now yoked to Christ… omnipotence!
• It does make GOOD sense to submit to His yoke. (Or as Paul put it, presenting our bodies as a sacrifice to Him is a REASONABLE service.)
• It might be fearful and might sound crazy to those who do not know the Lord… but when we know Christ and are learning more of Him, then, submission to His yoke is perfectly reasonable.
8. There is no Spirit-filled life apart from submission to Christ’s yoke. They go hand in hand.
a. Not until we submit to His control will we experience God’s power in our lives.
b. But when we DO submit, we experience a closeness to Christ never experienced outside of that yoke…
c. When we lose our life (our control over our life) and submit to His yoke…then we truly FIND our life… abundant life!
d. When we submit, and insert our head in His yoke, we are no longer pulling the load of life alone. He will never leave us nor forsake us.
e. Christ is in that yoke with us. We are strengthened with ALL might according to HIS glorious power… unto ALL patience; we are strong IN THE LORD… this is the power of the Holy Spirit.
f. It is not that God makes US stronger.
• Actually our real strength is in recognizing our weakness.
• Rather we experience HIS strength and HIS power in HIS yoke.
• Christ pulls the weight. Our job is simply to walk by His glorious side in humble submission… When we do that, His yoke is easy… His burden light.
g. Christ’s yoke yokes us together with Him… His power… His wisdom… His will… His strength… His guidance…His presence… His fruit.
h. He leads the way; He pulls the load; He carries the burden, and He gives us rest.
i. The branch abiding in the Vine has access to all the power of the Vine. The branch that is yielded, abiding submission to the Vine is FILLED with all the Vine is!
j. That little branch finds that when it is yielded to the Vine, it has all it needs and is at rest and is perfectly content… even if it is stormy outside. Good fruit is the result of that relationship.
k. Whatever we accomplish when submitted to that yoke will count for eternity… gold, silver, and precious stones… we will be walking in the works He has ordained for us… and will receive a WELL DONE…
9. When we bow our head to insert it into His yoke, we are turning over our will to His… our life to His care… our self to Himself…
a. The control and authority we formerly exercised over our lives is turned over to His control… it is no longer I but Christ from that point on.
b. The yoke is a symbol of the ABANDONMENT of self will and self rule…
c. Only when self and self will are put out of the way can we be submitted to His yoke.
d. This is an either/or situation. Preeminence knows no degrees.
e. Either “I” am outside the yoke… refusing to submit and thus “I” am ruling my life… OR I bow in submission, and Christ has preeminence.
f. Only THEN can we say that Christ is preeminent in our lives… when we choose to submit to His yoke.
g. Only when we come to an end of self and self will are we ready to bow in submission to Christ as Lord… insert our head in His yoke… is Christ preeminent in our lives.
10.Have you done that? Is there something you are holding back? Is there an area of your life where you are NOT ready to yield to the Lord?
a. If so, then don’t run away from Him
b. Come and LEARN of Him…
c. Learning of Him is God’s means of breaking down our resistance.
• The law says, “Do or die.” It demands submission… but offers no power or incentive other than judgment.
• Grace says, “Learn of Me.” Whatever level of discipleship you are at… whatever level of understanding… or what ever level of dedication… there is MORE to learn of Christ.
• As we learn of Him, we are attracted to the Savior…
• The more we learn of Him the more we learn how we can REST in His finished work…rest because we know our work is done and the victory is won!
• As we learn of Him, the things of earth grow strangely dim… in the light of His glory and grace!
• Grace also demands submission—of a different sort. It is a yoke, but not the yoke of the law – it is the yoke of Christ.
• Grace demands submission, but also provides the POWER of the Holy Spirit to walk… and grace provides another kind of motivation: LOVE.
• As we learn of Christ, our love for the Savior increases… and God changes us from the inside out… so that we genuinely WANT to submit to His will and follow His way…
• In fact, we find DELIGHT in submitting to His will.
And in a strange way—when we lose our life by surrendering it over to Him… we actually FIND our life… and abundant life…
11.TWO KINDS OF REST…
a. Jesus made a distinction in this passage between two lines of thought:
• Salvation and discipleship…
• Coming to Him in faith to be saved and taking on the yoke – submitting to Him…
• Two kinds of rest: one is “given”… and one is “found.”
b. I will GIVE you rest.
• Those who come to Christ for salvation are given rest.
• Rest: the war is over; no longer enemies of God; peace WITH God…
• The sinner who is struggling with the burden of sin, the guilt, the shame, the weight of trying to DO something to take away the sin… and the weight of frustration because nothing works…
• When that sinner comes to Christ in faith, he is saved and GIVEN rest… this is part of his salvation package…
• His sins are forgiven; the war is over; his conscience is at rest.
c. Take my yoke… learn of Me and ye shall FIND rest…
• This is rest on a new level…
• Those who come to Christ as Savior discover over time, that the storms of life can take their toll upon us… and weariness and discouragement and anxiety can set in all over again.
• This believer, when submitted to Christ’s yoke, also discovers an increasing depth, awareness of, and appreciation for REST in Christ…
• The more we learn of Him… the more we experience this deep, abiding rest…
• Into this rest, we can enter… deeper and deeper… it is an endless reservoir of living water…
• This is a deeper experience of rest the carnal believer knows nothing of… it requires a surrendered life.
• The more we learn of Christ… the more willing we will become to turn one area of our lives over after another… “the longer I serve Him, the sweeter He grows.”
• The sweeter He grows… the easier His yoke becomes… and the more REASONABLE it seems to wear that yoke.
• Coming to Christ in salvation brings rest… peace WITH God. Putting on His yoke brings a deeper experience of His rest: the peace OF God… that passes all understanding! This is ours when we reach the point where we are no longer willing to carry the burden alone… and we come to Christ and take on His yoke.
• The carnal believer cannot fathom how he could ever be happy if he surrenders his whole life over to the Lord… and so he continues to stiffen his neck and resist the leading of the Holy Spirit.
• The surrendered believer learns of God working in him both to will and to do of His good pleasure…
» He looks back at those wasted years when he had stiffened his neck against God… resisted His will… and refused to submit… and he laments his folly.
» The very earthly things he loved so… and was UNWILLING to hold loosely… are meaningless to him now that he is yoked with Christ.
» He now discovers that God has not taken away anything from him. Rather, God has given him a NEW WILL… a desire for things that are right in the center of God’s will…
» The sorrow we THOUGHT we would experience by turning over those areas of our lives to God is replaced with unspeakable JOY…
» The surrendered believer experiences CHRIST in that yoke…he LEARNS of Christ…
» The song writer wrote: “Sweet will of God; still fold me closer; ‘till I am wholly lost in Thee.”
» What a wonderful paradox! The old nature, so rebellious and stiffnecked, refusing to submit to the Yoke of Christ… wrongly assumes that complete surrender results in grief and misery…
» Yet when that person through faith, keeps the old self life on the cross… our new nature, yoked with Christ REJOICES in the closeness of communion with Him… and DELIGHTS to do His will…
» The very thing that person so feared becomes his delight!
» Maybe YOU are struggling with an area of your life you are afraid to turn over to the Lord… thinking that the loss will leave you empty… unfulfilled.
» Here’s a wondrous secret the Lord wants us to know: in giving up our life we FIND it…
» And this LIFE we find is an abundant life… a life in which Christ has all the preeminence!
12.Submitting to Christ’s yoke is an illustration of the prerequisite for a Christ centered life:
a. It is God’s method of dealing with SELF…
b. Self and self will… walking our own pathway… doing our own thing… being the master of our own life… all comes to an END when we submit to Christ’s yoke.
c. And it is the BEGINNING of a life where Christ has the preeminence… it is HIS yoke… He guides… directs… leads… and His way is perfect.
d. True joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction do not come through GETTING our own way or DOING our own will.
e. Rather, true joy comes through abandoning the self life… submitting to Christ’s yoke… and learning of Christ… learning to DELIGHT in HIS will… when we learn of Him, delight ourselves in the Lord, THEN God grants us the desire of our heart… true satisfaction… and it is found in a Person.
IF YOU ARE NOT BORN AGAIN, GOD WANTS YOU TO COME TO CHRIST FOR SALVATION.
§ If you come to Him in childlike faith, He will save you. He will GIVE you eternal life.
§ Christ paid the penalty for your sins on the cross and the work is finished.
§ There is nothing left for you to do but to BELIEVE and be saved.
§ Don’t be concerned about HOW TO LIVE the Christian life… or whether you will be able to make it… or whether you have what it takes to be a Christian… you DON’T! Nobody does. We are sinners and are in need of a Savior.
§ It is not necessary to clean up your life in order to come to Christ. He will do that IN you if you come. Come and none are turned away. We sing, “Just as I am” – a sinner undone… hopeless… helpless… but Christ will give you NEW LIFE if you come in faith.
§ The issue of the gospel does not revolve around us, but around what Christ has done. He has paid it all.
§ “Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to thy cross I cling.” That’s the gospel. We come empty handed, because we have nothing to give. We are recipients of His grace and salvation by faith…
§ Undeserving sinners like you and me can come to an infinitely holy God because Jesus Christ has paid the penalty of ALL our sins.
§ And if we come to Christ in FAITH – He will forgive us ALL of our sins and give us eternal life.
§ Jesus didn’t say, “Come when you’ve cleaned up your life.” “Come when you think you’re able to live the life.” Rather, He says, “Come… come as you are—a sinner undone—and I will give you new LIFE.”