About Me

Master in Ministry (Otago) Bachelor in Applied Theology (Carey) Diploma in Mission (Carey) Pastoring Eastside Baptist since 2002

Freedom or slavery

November 12, 2017

Freedom or slavery

Often, to a new Christian it may seem that this thing called Christianity is filled with rules, particularly “don’t do that” rules; it seems to them that there are unwritten rules around worship services and how and when to pray and many other aspects of Christian life both in the church building and in their life outside the building.

Today I want to dispel that rumour. That is not the case.  Christianity is about freedom. It is not about slavery.

In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus calls us:

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”


If you are agriculturally minded and about 200 years old, you would know that a yoke is the wooden piece that sits over the shoulders of a pair of oxen, when you attach the animals to the plow or to the cart or some other farming equipment.  It attaches the thing to the animals and helps spread the load on the animals and helps them work together.


Jesus uses this agricultural picture because the listeners would have known what he was talking about.  They would also have known that he was comparing his teachings with that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.


The Jewish religion was a thing of endless rules and regulations, all of which had to be observed. People lived their lives in a forest of rules and regulations which dictated every action of their life[1] The yoke which Israel’s teachers placed upon the shoulders of the people was that of a totally unwarranted legalism. [2]


This occasion  he alluded to that burden placed on the people but previously he had been more direct in his condemnation of them. Matthew 23:1-4


Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.


Come to me all who are weary (tired from hard work) and burdened (weighed down) and I will give you rest


He said, “My yoke is easy”. The meaning of that term ‘easy’ in Greek is “well fitting”. It won’t chafe or cause sores or be uncomfortable. And when it is well fitted the load is spread and is light.

His yoke is gentle but not in the sense that it is less demanding than Judaism. In some ways it is more demanding. But it is the yoke of love, not of duty. It is the response of the liberated, not the duty of the obligated. And that makes all the difference.[3]


It is about freedom and not slavery.


First, he is speaking about our salvation and how it is a gift to us and not something we need to work for.


Romans 6:23

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Romans 3:23

23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus


The heavy burdened applies to anyone who, for whatever reason, tries wholly or partly to achieve salvation by means of his own exertion.


Hendriksen asks pointedly: And does not the heart of every sinner, including even the man already reborn but still living here on earth, harbor a Pharisee, at least once in a while?[4]


Our default is that we want to work out our own salvation, we are wary of anything offered as a gift. We want to know what the hook is. So, we try to work out our salvation under our own steam. That is what Hendriksen means when he says there is a little of the Pharisee in each of us.


Jesus is saying that we do not have to work out our salvation. It is done.


Jesus promises that in John 6

37 Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; 38 for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.


But secondly his talk of a light yoke talks about any burden we carry that weighs us down.


To those whose hearts were heavy with doubt and sorrow and fear, Jesus gives this gracious call, to come to him, as to one who can reveal to them the father in all his grace and goodness and love.[5]


Jesus said in Matthew 6

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.


Jesus says he will give us rest from our worry, our fears and our doubts.


Such rest is not only the absence of uncertainty, fear, anxiety, and despair; but it is also peace of mind and heart and assurance of salvation.[6]




John 6:35

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.


And thirdly, Jesus is offering rest for our souls from the burden of sin (and its consequences)


John 6:47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life.


Rest is not cessation from toil, but peace and fulfilment and a sense of being put right.[7]


So, we do not need to worry or be burdened.


That was the comparison that Jesus laid out for the people then and also for us now:


“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”


Simply trusting in Jesus brings peace and joy. The person who lives this kind of life is no longer a slave.



This contrasts with any attempt to save ourselves by means of scrupulous adherence to all the artificial rules and arbitrary regulations superimposed upon the law by scribes and Pharisees. That spells slavery. That produces wretchedness and despair[8]


Our burden is light because of God’s love for us. William Barclay, in a particularly jovial mood wrote: When we remember the love of God, when we know that our burden is to love God and to love men, then the burden becomes a song.[9]


Remember the song, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother?” Perhaps that is the song that William Barclay had in mind.  It certainly is the concept that Jesus suggests with his “yoke is easy” claim, especially when we remember that he took the sins of the world – he took on our sins – in order to save us.


Are there rules and regulations in Christianity?  No there is freedom in Christianity because Jesus has taken away the ‘try harder but never good enough’ mentality of Judaism.


Galatians 5:1

For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
















[1] William Barclay The Gospel of Matthew Vol 2 18

[2] William Hendriksen Matthew 504

[3] Michael Green The Message of Matthew 143

[4] Hendriksen 503

[5] Charles Erdman The Gospel of Matthew  107

[6] Hendriksen 504

[7] Green 143

[8] Hendriksen 505

[9] Barclay 20


Think on these things

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Think on these things

Last Tuesday night was 31 October, now more commonly known as Halloween, and a non-NZ custom that is gaining popularity due to the promotion by businesses looking at yet another way of making money from punters.

Halloween originated from the ancient Druid celebration of Samhain. The day to mark the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, and they believed that the change of seasons was a bridge to the world of the dead. It was considered a ‘thin plac...

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Awareness of God

October 29, 2017

Awareness of God


One of the things that many people comment on when they have been visiting Eastside is our God @ Work segment where people say how God is involved in their lives this week.


Of course, all Christians know that the presence of God is always with us, because Scripture tells us that God will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). 


And we take comfort from Jesus’ statement that he will be with us until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20), but when we see...

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Chocolate Jesus

October 25, 2017

Chocolate Jesus


I want to introduce you to a song from my favourite singer Tom Waits. My wife refers to my singer choices as moaner-groaners – Tom Waits, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan.


I do not believe that Tom is Christian but a lot of his songs have Christian focus and perhaps he is. Only God and Tom know.


When this song first came out on his 1999 album, I was offended, I thought it was blasphemous but the concepts keep drawing me back.


Listen to it and we will think about ...

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Looking back with rose coloured glasses

October 25, 2017

Looking backwards with rose coloured glasses.

Karlene and I went with our youngest son Kyle and his wife Jess on the first anniversary of their marriage for a road trip through the North Island last week. Jess had not been to the North Island before other than to fly through Auckland, so Kyle wanted to show her the great places that he remembered: the town he was born in (Tokoroa), the place of his youth (Tauranga) and great places visited (the Auckland Zoo and the hot pools in Rotorua and...

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"Way Down In The Hole"

October 1, 2017

"Way Down In The Hole"

When you walk through the garden
you gotta watch your back
well I beg your pardon
walk the straight and narrow track
if you walk with Jesus
he's gonna save your soul
you gotta keep the devil
way down in the hole

he's got the fire and the fury
at his command
well you don't have to worry
if you hold on to Jesus hand
we'll all be safe from Satan
when the thunder rolls
just gotta help me keep the devil
way down in the hole

All the angels sing about Jesus' mighty swor...

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The Big Picture

October 1, 2017

The big picture

Last Sunday night there was a combined church service at the Civic Theatre headed up by Tak Bhana of Church Unlimited from Auckland.  The ground floor of the theatre was filled with Christians of all manner of denominations.

And it reminded me that so often we get so busy doing our own thing for the Kingdom of God in our own little patch that we forget the bigger picture: within our city, region and nation.

Sometimes we get so focused on the ministries and issues that we ...

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Kingdom of God or kingdom of the world

September 24, 2017

Kingdom of God or kingdom of the world

Yesterday we voted in the General Election to choose the people and parties that will lead us for the next 3 years. Some of us will be happy with the outcome, some will be disappointed.

Our task in the next 3 years is to see how the promises and commitments made in the campaigns will be enacted.

There will be policies that will be brought into law (or at least make it to the Bill stage of legislation) that we as followers of Jesus will disagree with...

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Elections and the kingdom of God 4

September 13, 2017

Elections and the Kingdom of God (4)


In 2 weeks time we have the democratic right to vote for those who lead us in this country for the next 3 years.  Don’t miss out on your right – a right that was not always available for every person, not women, not Maori, not commoners like ourselves.  Do not let this opportunity slide by.


Over the past month I have been taking Jesus’ statements made at the start of his ministry, so that we can lay what Jesus says against the policies and ...

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Elections and the Kingdom of God 3

August 27, 2017

Elections and the Kingdom of God 3


Luke 4:18

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”


The content of the Good news of the kingdom of God is set out in those 5 statements.


And because we are about to vote in the General Elections in 3 weeks’ time, I have been...

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