God is reminding the Jewish people of how He had miraculously broken off the oppressive state they had endured by the Egyptians. How He had lifted the heavy yoke from their neck of subjugation, submission, and servitude…which then empowered them to stand in an upright posture, with heads held high. God had broken off the yoke of slavery and set the Jewish people free. And just as God liberated them…Jesus has come to free us from the bondage of sin. For it tells us in Galatians 5:1, ” 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.” When Jesus comes into our lives, the bonds of sin are broken…the yoke of guilt and shame are lifted…and we too are then able to walk free with our heads held high.
Our Christian journey isn’t perfect, for everyday we mess up. We say things we shouldn’t…or out of anger and frustration we act unkindly. Holiness isn’t something that we’re suddenly bestowed with when we say “Yes” to Jesus…it’s a process…a daily effort towards perfection. Philippians 1:6 tells us, “That being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” This journey towards holiness – towards perfection, is God’s purpose for you. And as you walk in the Spirit, you’ll discover that His ultimate plan and purpose for you is that process towards holiness.
Within us is an ever raging battle…sometimes with one side winning, sometimes with the other. The battle is between our flesh and the Holy Spirit. It was fine before we were Christians…there was no need for any kind of battle…we just did what we wanted. But now that we live by the promptings of the Holy Spirit within, the conflict has started. What do you have your mind set on? It tells us in this verse that you’re either devoted to your corrupt sinful nature…or you’re mindful of the Holy Spirit. So how can we change this cycle? It says in Galatians 5:16, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Living by the Spirit is listening carefully, reacting immediately, and obeying promptly.
Most of us don’t know what it means to be persecuted for the Gospel…to suffer for our beliefs…enduring hardship for the sake of His name. Most of us have never persevered under threat of bodily harm…or death, in order to reach others for Jesus. So why then do we lose heart and become offended so easily when we meet opposition? Suddenly it’s not fun anymore and we don’t like how we’re being treated…so we quit. Galatians 6:9 tells us, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Not giving up means surrendering our life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and looking to Him as our example of righteous tenacity.
No matter how spiritually strong we are, anyone of us can stray from the will of God. Here Simon Peter, nicknamed the Rock, of which Jesus had said, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church,” caved under man’s pressure. Peter had been fellowshipping with Christian Gentiles until a group of Jews showed up and started pressuring him to stop. He was afraid that his reputation and standing might be questioned…fearful of what they might think of him…so he separated himself from the Gentiles…taking everyone with him, including Barnabas. Isaiah 51:12-13 asks this question, “Who are you that you fear mortal men, the sons of men, who are but grass, that you forget the Lord your Maker?” It’s a dangerous slippery slope when we start fearing man rather than God…afraid of what people may think of us rather than doing God’s will. Peer pressure can be tremendous, for we all want to fit in and be liked…but when it causes us to deviate from God’s plan…it effects everyone around us.
Jesus loves you. He knew your name before the beginning of time. He saw your tiny frame being formed in your mother’s womb and loved you even more. If you had been the only person on the face of the earth…He would of still handed over His life as a sacrifice for you…that’s how precious you are to Him. I know it’s humanly impossible to fathom the love Jesus has for us…for it’s beyond our comprehension. But Jesus loves you with a love that will never end…never give up…never forsake.
Paul realized that he would never be able to please everyone by his ministry. No matter how he approached people, he found some would listen…some would scoff…and some would take offense. When we’re a people-pleaser, our focus is to deliberately and intentionally mollify our message…to water it down in order to be palatable for all, but in the process every ounce of Holy Spirit power is leached out. God isn’t calling us to be wishy-washy, lukewarm Christians who try to be “politically correct” with every person we meet. Paul understood that his allegiance was to Jesus Christ and not to the crowds…his total dependence was then on the Master of the universe not man.