Written By: Jeremiah Storkson
Have you ever had one of those really fantastic workouts? I had one of those one day in high school. I was training individually for basketball and doing a lot of lifting. I was having an amazing workout. I was lifting heavier weights than I ever had, and I was pumped. This energy came with me as I got to one of my last workouts, squats. I was ready and very confident. I was so confident that I decided to put about 100 pounds more than I normally lift on the squat bar.
Before I continue this story, let me say two things. First, I did not have a spotter, or someone to help me in case I couldn’t carry the weight. Second, this was a free weight machine, meaning it did not have a pully: it was simply a bar on the rack. This made everything about the workout riskier because there was extra weight added. But I was ready to carry the world that day, so I got in position, and lifted the squat bar onto my shoulders. I then went down into the squat position. It was in that moment that I realized I had overestimated my abilities. I was stuck, and at risk of hurting myself. I began to slowly lift myself up, struggling to not fall! I finally got my weight bar back on the rack and realized that I had put way more weight on that bar than I was built to carry.
In our lives, we all have a squat bar that we carry, and we all add weight to it. Maybe for you, the weight you add is the pressure to be “the good Christian,” when in reality you question your faith constantly. Maybe you are dealing with an addiction, and you are living in shame. You put on the weight of striving by yourself. Maybe you are dealing with depression and feelings of hopelessness, but you feel as if you must fix it yourself. We all have weights we attempt to carry in our lives. But the truth is that God desires for us to live in freedom. Paul talks about this extensively in Galatians 5.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
Galatians 5:1-6 (NIV)
So, you may be asking, “What does circumcision have to do with weights?” Paul in this passage is addressing the idea that you have to be circumcised in order to be right with Jesus. He is saying that only Christ can give us hope and can save us. What interests me is that Paul describes the bondage to the law that lies in the issue of circumcision as a “yoke.” A yoke, as pictured below, was used to harness cattle as they pulled things, such as wooden carts or anything else a farmer would need.
This would clearly be an intense, tough burden to carry. Paul uses a yoke as imagery for slavery to the law. When we live like Jesus didn’t come and die on the cross so we can know Him and be broken free from the law, we are in a yoke that only comes with intense bondage. What does it mean to live by the law rather than by grace? It means that we choose to strive for a human goal of perfection or impressive living by ourselves, rather than walking in obedience to Christ because of what Jesus did on the cross. It means we try to earn our way into the approval of God.
Let’s go back to our different weights. Those were all issues that we cannot handle by ourselves, but often try to. Here is the truth. Apart from Christ, you will always be over halfway down in the squat position, carrying those issues you are striving to fix by yourself. The reality is that we cannot do that on our own. That reality is a good thing, however, because Jesus made it so that you don’t have to. Jesus wants your burdens, not your striving. He wants your heart before your good works. That is the beauty of the Gospel. His Spirit changes us the more we commit our lives to Him. It isn’t about behavior, it’s about surrender. So today, choose to put down those weights, and choose to walk in the freedom Jesus died to give you.