The soul needs work.
For the carnal material of the soul to be content it needs some degree of usefulness, exertion, and a purpose by which to orient itself in space.
The most unhappy people I know are those that have no meaningful work to do. They crave purpose. They become ego obsessed while searching within themselves for the use that they were created for. This kind of person hurts others more than any other kind of cynic or self-centered slob that I’ve seen. The person in perpetual existential crisis is emotionally, spiritually, and financially ruinous to others as they parasitically depend on any sympathetic host while they try to find their sense of independence and identity.
Paul encourages his young and emotional successor in 2 Timothy 1:9 saying that God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”
We long for this promise. We long for this promise that before the ages began we were imagined and allotted for something loftier than just eeking out a living and accumulating creature comforts before we die and hopefully leave a bit of a legacy. Those who are most lustful for purpose are those whose willful inner persons are most in need of being yoked to Jesus in His work on earth.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 says that “two are better than one, because they have a good return on their labor.” God through His Son’s ministry has chosen to better His labor with us. That is a huge act of generosity and grace!
As we were made in God’s image, we were made to both work and rest (Genesis 1:26-2:3).
In the Fall, what was once one godly form of work got splintered into three forms of work– in my opinion (Genesis 3). We now see work in these categories: godly work, carnal work, and curse work. Let’s call godly work “cultivation,” carnal work “livelihood,” and curse work “toil.” We do these three kinds of work on every level of being– physically, mentally, and emotionally.
In soulishness we do these three kinds of work on our own. When we are born again of the Spirit, these three kinds of work are done together with Jesus (John 3:3-8; Matthew 11:29-30).
When we take Jesus’ yoke upon us and learn of Him, we find rest for our souls.
I prayed in January of 2016 as my seven years of hard heartedness toward the Lord were drawing to a close, “What is the Christian life? You are saved, and then what? What’s the rest of the time for really?” Co-laboring with Christ is the Christian life. Being a “two” to Jesus’ “one” that gets a good return on His labor is why we aren’t immediately “translated” to heaven upon being born again.
Within our own hearts Jesus reaps a return as together with Christ we cultivate the Kingdom, we work quietly and respectably amongst our neighbors, and we toil in the spirit to subdue our flesh until the day of our glorification. The outcropping of this inward co-laboring is that we become workmen approved to rightly handle the word of truth and workers who the Lord of the Harvest can send into His harvest fields (2 Timothy 2:15; Matthew 9:35-38).
Practically speaking, be yoked to Jesus in these 4 ways:
- Be yoked in common purpose
- Be yoked in common practice
- Be yoked in common passion
- Be yoked in common pleasantness
Being yoked in common purpose is to recognize that Jesus’ purpose on earth was to reveal the Kingdom of God. Jesus revealed the Kingdom through healings, casting out demons, miracles, teaching the public, teaching disciples, decoding scriptures, correcting misconceptions about God, about His Word, and about the nature of the coming Kingdom under His own rule and by rebuking unbelief. (Mark 16:9-19)
Next- spiritual disciplines sometimes come under fire as either legalist works salvation or self-indulgent mystic spirituality (opposite extremes), yet they are the way that we are yoked to Jesus in common practice. Today the spiritual disciplines practiced by Jesus– prayer, studying scripture, laying on of hands (Luke 4:40), and receiving prophetic words from communion with the Lord (John 12:49) are craved by the world and mimicked by the enemy. Some of the up and coming “church replacements” that you’ll see today are: meditation (a counterfeit of prayer), bibliotherapy (utilizing your identifying with characters in literature as therapeutic), “healing touch,” (one person moving another’s energy with their hands), and vision work (conjuring up insight from your own imagination and intentions.) The world yearns for the tools Christ has entrusted to us that we routinely refuse to use. Just an interesting side note: I read in an atheist online magazine that bibliotherapy is being intentionally honed by humanists to replace for people the positive psychological effects of reading the Bible!
We also have to hone in on what precisely Christ’s passion was. His purpose was to reveal the Kingdom; His passion was to forgive. His passion was the cross to blot out sins and to remove the record of wrongs. Love does this. First Corinthians 13 gives us a detailed picture of what forgiveness looks like as it examines love. Christ’s passionate love toward us was consummated in the means by which He won our forgiveness. Take the Lord’s Prayer deadly serious when its language intimately links our own forgiveness with our forgiveness of others. Entering into the New Covenant with Christ is to participate in His New Covenant with mankind, and it is a promise forged in the blood of forgiveness. Take up your cross daily.
Finally, and joyfully, take up common pleasantness with Christ. Don’t forget the “I will give you rest; my burden is easy, my yoke is light” part of laboring with Christ.
Grace, that ever hard to define word, is essentially pleasantness. Bust out a Strong’s Concordance and you can cross-reference about 21 words and roots in Greek and 14 in Hebrew that flesh out a picture of what grace is. When you whittle hen in Hebrew to its primitive root it means “to pitch your tent next to.” God leans down with good intention to bring the overwhelming impact of His nature to the camp of man as beneficiary. Grace is the pleasant, gladdening closeness of God to us. In common pleasantness, yoked to Jesus, we do the work of being “sweeter than honey and the honey comb” on this earth. We are the taste that man might see the goodness of God. (Psalm 19:10; Psalm 34:8).
There is a work we do with Jesus– not “good works” but certainly works that are good and eternal in return on investment, and works that were eternally prepared with goodness in Mind.
For you are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
I’ll never forget the level of despair I felt after suffering a psychotic break, being diagnosed as bipolar one and being given the prognosis that I’d live most of my life in and out of psych wards. At 23 years old, I experienced five months of laying in bed calling to mind each of my aspirations individually and watching them atrophy and disintegrate into the inevitability of mental illness. Over and over, I cried, “If this is all You made me for why did You create me? If you were going to make me so defective and useless, why did You even bother?” The prospect of uselessness cast me into a wilderness period. If there was nothing for me to do why did I have to be?
We were created in Christ Jesus to do good works. The operative phrase being in Christ Jesus.
I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you were not created in the flesh to do good works prepared for you ahead of time for lasting impact. You are created in Christ Jesus, yoked to Him, born again of and enlivened by the Holy Spirit to do good works that the Father crafted for you when He crafted you.
Be yoked to Jesus. Hitch your wagon to His. And He will give you rest.