It was never God’s desire that we should place our hope in our own performance. The message of the gospel is for us to place our hope in His performance! He is the One who called us. He is the One who was offered for us. He is the One who died for us. He is the One who sets us free.
It shall come to pass in that day that his burden will be taken away from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck, and the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil. Isaiah 10:27 (NKJV)
Now, I can’t stop there. I know that many people think that Jesus set us free so that we have a new chance to “do it right”. They teach that we are saved by His grace, as a gift, but that we are sanctified by our effort/performance. If we want to keep what He has given and grow in what He has given, then we better get to work.
Jesus knew that we would be susceptible to this. He knew that the performance lifestyle (or the flesh, if you will) would continue to pull us away from His love and His peace even after salvation. So He invites us to join Him in His yoke:
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light Matthew 11:29-30 (NKJV)
The yoke of Jesus is easy and light, not quite what most Christians have found to be the case in their lives. They think they have to pull their side of the yoke. It is still performance to them. But the truth is that they have never really taken the yoke of Jesus. If they had, they would have learned that He does all the work.
You see, the yoke Jesus invites us to share is a yoke of intimate relationship. We are allowed to participate in His work, with no burden of expectation. We are not responsible for results, just for walking with Him and even that is an easy and joyful part of relationship.
Over the years I have been so amazed at how the Scripture shows all of this to be true. Once you believe that God honestly loves you, that His only motivation toward you is love, you can begin to see that love everywhere. Once you believe that we were made to depend on Him and His gifts of grace, you begin to see how active He has been. Once you believe that all He wants is for us to live in relationship with Him, enjoying the love He has for us, that’s when the whole thing opens up. Everything is different from that perspective. You can see that Adam and Eve’s sin was in trying to do for themselves what God wanted to do for them. You can see that the Law was given to show them that they could never be holy on their own and to pull them back to Him. You can see that He is never disappointed in His people, never surprised by their sin, and that He never stops loving them.