Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 9: Jeremiah's Yoke
There is never a time when one is not bearing a yoke--either a yoke of bondage or the yoke of Christ which is received by accepting the invitation of Jesus to be crucified with Him.
Jeremiah brought a message from God to leaders of the nation and it was rejected--in 1888, Waggoner and Jones brought a message from God to the leadership of this church and it also was rejected. Nothing has changed since Jeremiah's time. Just as there were consequences then, so there will be now.
"There are two yokes and two burdens. The burden of sin is indeed heavy; if it is not lost at the foot of the cross, it will sink the bearer into perdition. To all who are heavily laden with sin, Jesus says, 'Come unto me, ... and I will give you rest.' There is no doubt about this. If they come, he says, 'Ye shall find rest unto your souls.' Then why not go? Why carry a heavy burden, when somebody freely offers to carry it for you? In exchange he will give his own burden, which is light. The 'yoke of bondage' is a galling yoke. From this Christ will set all free who will come to him, and he says, 'If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.' John 8:36." 
The only part of this lesson we are told to commit to memory is: "Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Luke 9:23, NKJV).
Ellen White, a strong supporter of the 1888 message, writes: "We are to bear the yoke of Christ that we may be placed in complete union with Him. ... Hear what God says: 'If any man will come after me,let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.' The yoke and the cross are symbols representing the same thing." [2; emphasis supplied.] The Bible has made it clear that anything leading to salvation that has man's fingerprints on it, is a yoke of bondage--continuing sin.
"The failure with many people is that they make a distinction between the cross of Christ and their own crosses. There is no cross that comes to any person on earth, except the cross of Christ. If we will always remember this, it will be life and joy to us.
"The Lord does not give us some crosses of our own,--little crosses adapted to different ones,--one having one cross and another another. We cannot separate Christ from His cross. Christ is crucified; He is the only crucified one; therefore whatever cross comes to us must be the cross of Christ; and that cross is with us continually. But in the cross of Christ we find Christ Himself.
"What do we get through the cross?--Forgiveness of sins, reconciliation. 'Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.' 1 Peter 3:18. 'That He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross.' It is the cross, then, that unites us to God, and makes us one with Him. Everything then that is a real cross is life to us, because it brings us to God. Take the things that come to us; new duties, perhaps, are revealed to us; sins, it may be, are shown to us, that must be denied. Different things come up that cut directly across our habits and our own way and convenience. We can take them in a hard and cheerless way, groaning over our religion, and giving everybody that comes near the idea that it does not agree with us, but that we must endure the service of Christ, hoping that by and by we shall get something better, when we get out of this grinding service. Or we can find joy in the cross, and salvation and peace and rest, by recognizing that cross as the cross of Christ.
"Suppose we are stingy. Well, we have to make sacrifices for the cause of God, and so we know we must give something. We groan over it, and shrink from it, but finally by dint of hard work, will manage to give something. Then we think afterwards of what a hard cross we have borne. ... Not so; when we take it that way it is our own cross, with Christ left out; and there is no salvation except in the cross of Christ.
"With a thousand other things it is the same. We mourn over them, and it is only by will power that we force ourselves up to the rack, and take the bitter medicine, consoling ourselves with the thought that by and by all this will be ended. We shall not have such hard times when we get into the Kingdom.
"Possibly we put this rather strongly and yet this is the idea of the Christian life with a great many people who profess to be Christians. We sing of the 'resting by and by,' and of joys to come, giving the world the idea that there is no joy in the present. The idea too commonly is that the harder the cross is, the more joy there will be when it is done with.  This is not Christianity at all but heathenism.
"Now all these things we have been laboring over may be things that God requires us to do. He doesn't require us to scourge ourselves with whips, or to go on pilgrimages on our knees; but the only difference between ourselves, when we have made burdens of our duties, and the man who has scourged himself or worn a hair shirt, is that we make our penances out of those things which God requires, and he makes his out of those things which the Lord has not required. Yet we have thought we were better than he!
"Both classes are trying to put up a cross that would take the place of the cross of Christ. People ask the Lord to accept their offering for sin. Every cross men bear in that way is hard. If that were all that is in the cross, those crosses ought to have served the purpose; for they were bitter and cruel enough. Then there must be something else in the cross besides hardness. Popularly the idea is that anything that is a discomfort--that a person doesn't like to do--is a cross, and some men perform their duties ... to make themselves uncomfortable all the time.
"The idea has been, 'No cross no crown;' the more we suffer, the more we shall enjoy by and by. This is the time of suffering; by and by we shall have the time of enjoyment. So we will endure it. Certainly, we thought, these crosses will bring us nearer to God.
"We were always wanting to get nearer, and yet finding ourselves afar off. Then we did not have Christ in the cross, although we persuaded ourselves that we were believing in Christ and bearing His cross. ... The trouble was that we had a cross in the place of the cross of Christ,--a substitute for it.
"Who was on that cross?--Self. The power of the cross of Christ is the power of His life,--the power of an endless life. The power in our crosses was only the power of our own life, which is nothing, and could not bring us nearer to God. We were crucifying ourselves on our own crosses; and as we thought that those crosses were the cross of Christ, we were putting ourselves in the place of Christ." 
Remember, there is only one actual cross in the world, and that is the cross of Jesus Christ. To accept the popular old covenant view that Christ is only near us, we would need to crucify ourselves on our own cross near Christ. This is a false "truth" with no salvation or forgiveness of sin in it.
The message brought to us in 1888 refuted this popular view and restored the cross of Christ to its rightful place within the church--within the believer. It was this restoration that was rejected.
"The question for everyone is, 'Do you know that Christ lives in you? Are you joined to Him?' There are many who are workers for Him professedly, who dare not say that Christ lives in them; they do not know that Christ is one with them. When we were bearing crosses after the manner we have described, we could not say, 'Christ liveth in me.' So we were separated from Him, and thus separated from His cross. It was self in the place of Christ, 'a form of godliness but denying the power thereof,' for the power of godliness is the cross of Christ. We denied the cross of Christ, and so denied the power of the Gospel.
"Christ was crucified for sin. There was no cross except for sin. He bore our sins. There is wonderful joy that comes to us in this, that while we are yet in sin we are permitted to claim Christ as ours, and to say, 'I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.' If we could not assert this with all assurance while yet sinners, we never could assert it. But while in sin we may claim Christ as ours, and that He is in us. We know it because the Holy Spirit says that it is so. To the man who believes the Lord and dares assert it, it is everlasting strength.
"Christ is the present Saviour of all men. ... To take up the cross is to take Him. To deny self is to own Him. To crucify self indeed is to take His life, and the life we live with Him is not one of hardness and discomfort, and the performance of disagreeable duties for the sake of joy by and by, but it is the constant springing up of life and joy; so that with joy and not groaning we draw water from the wells of salvation. It makes all the difference when we have His cross." 
Will we accept the message God sent to us in 1888, or will we blindly remain under the yoke of bondage while awaiting further eternal consequences? Will we accept the message of Christ in us--not just near us?
 E. J. Waggoner, "Judgment and Mercy," The Signs of the Times, Nov. 3, 1887.
 Ellen G. White, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1090.
 E. J. Waggoner, "The Cross and Crosses," The Present Truth, Feb. 22, 1894.