The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Equally Yoked’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 11/15/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1ORjm68
This Sunday is the third and final message in our series titled, ‘Real People, Real Problems.’ The intent of the past three Sundays has been to equip our members with practical tools to deal with the issues they encounter on a daily basis. First, we covered how to share the Gospel with skeptics. Then, we went over time management. Finally, we are looking at the importance of reserving romantic interest for people whose passion for Jesus Christ is the same as ours.
If you’ve ever been to a Christian marriage seminar or relationship workshop, you’ve probably heard the term “equally yoked.” You probably know that it’s good to only date other Christians. Reality, however, often makes this difficult. “How do I meet other Christians? “ you might wonder. “What if I’m not interested in any of the single people at my church?” is a logical question.
My heart especially goes out to single Christian females. There is a crisis of Biblical manhood in today’s church. Young men who boldly accept Jesus Christ, and live out their lives in light of the truth of the Gospel, are few and far between. But they do exist!
Today I want to examine the importance of being equally yoked. If we’re going to strive to think, talk and act in a certain way, it’s wise to understand why we seek that direction in the first place.
Paul unveils the term, ‘equally yoked,’ in his second letter to the Church at Corinth. He strongly exhorts every believer in Jesus Christ to make it a priority to date, and marry, another believer:
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” – 2 Cor 6:14-18
Paul uses the term ‘yoke’ on purpose. A yoke is a wooden harness that is put around the necks of two animals, typically oxen. The yoke has two-fold purpose: 1) it binds the animals together so their movement can be more productive, and 2) it connects to a cart or plow so that as they move, they can pull together.
In order for a yoke to be effective, the two animals have to be the same size. It would be unproductive for an ox to be yoked to a donkey, for example. The ox would move forward with strength and speed, pushing his side of the yoke aggressively. The donkey, however, would lag behind as a result of his smaller size. The end result? Lack of forward motion. The two animals would move around in a circle, with the stronger member of the pair pulling all the weight. The load they are trying to carry together would go nowhere. It would actually be more beneficial to ditch the yoke and let the ox carry the weight himself! Very little is accomplished by an uneven pair.
When it comes to romantic relationships, the outcome can be exactly the same. If both male and female are not strong in the things of the Lord, the relationship will go nowhere. The load – the burden Jesus Christ has given us to share the Good News – will not be moved, and nothing will be accomplished. The “stronger” member of the couple will end up doing all the work, and pulling all the weight, while the “weaker” member flounders. Round and round they will go, perpetually moving in a circle.
The Old Testament is full of examples where the people of Israel yoke themselves to unbelievers. The result is always disastrous. Whenever God’s people marry into families that worship other gods, the idol worship rubs off onto His people. Romantic relationships with those who worship idols instead of God is one of the primary causes of sin in the Old Testament. Time and again, we see unrepentant Gentiles lead some (or even all) of the Jewish people into sin.
In Old Testament history, the men of Israel would frequently find themselves attracted to the women of a foreign land. They would marry into their families, and worship their gods. We even see this happen to King Solomon:
For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. – 1 Kings 11:4
The Bible calls Solomon the wisest king to have ever lived, except for Jesus Christ. If even the wisest man to walk the earth was pulled into sin because he was unequally yoked, how much more careful do we have to be!
Fellas, I’m going to just come out and say it: the men are the primary culprits here. What happened to all the single young men in the church? We’ve lost our passion for God, and fallen subject to lust for idols. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a young woman who is on fire for God fall in love with a man who claims to be a Christian. Then, several months into dating, she finds out his commitment to Jesus Christ is surface level. Before you know it, neither one is coming to church. Unfortunately, the romantic relationship usually wins out, and it’s not long before we stop seeing that couple in church.
For the single women who are waiting for their God-given husband: do not give up hope! God has the perfect man for you. He might not be sitting in the same church as you, but he is out there somewhere. Please don’t give up hope. God is good, and He delivers on His promises.
We see the importance of having a strong, Christian man as the leader of the household in Scripture:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word… – Ephesians 5:22-26
On the surface, it seems like wives have the tougher job. We look at that passage, and we get scared by the word submit. The reality, however, is that the husband has the most difficult job of all! While wives have to submit, husbands have to die! Husbands are commanded to die for their wives, just as Jesus Christ died for the church!
If the man in any Christian relationship is not willing to step up to the plate and be a bold, faithful leader of his household, then he is not living up to God’s design. It is the husband who must shoulder the burden of spiritually guiding his whole family. It is the husband who is ultimately responsible to make sure his children know the Gospel. It is the husband who must give his wife the space and time required so that she can grow in intimacy with God.
Ladies: do you really want to waste time with a man who doesn’t live up to that standard?
I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of waiting until marriage to have sex in any relationship. God designed sex for the covenant relationship. When we share intimacy with our marriage partner, we are sending a clear message: I am willing to be naked in front of you, and give you everything I have to give.
The man has to be the one willing to put a stop to sexual intimacy before marriage. He needs to be the leader when it comes to setting healthy boundaries, and sticking to them. Too often, the woman in a young Christian couple has to fight against a man who wants to test physical boundaries before the marriage ceremony has taken place. This is not God’s original intention for our relationships! The man is supposed to strengthen his future wife – not weaken her!
Are You A Consumer?
In the United States, we’ve adopted a consumer mindset when it comes to dating. We tentatively enter into emotional and physical intimacy with someone of the opposite sex, but we run at the first sign of discomfort. If things get difficult, we leave. If we no longer get exactly what we want, we flee.
But God didn’t design us to be consumers; He designed us to be in covenant. He designed us to view dating as a very serious decision: an expression that we are interested in potentially marrying a person. He designed us to view marriage as a permanent commitment: to honor someone for the rest of our lives, and to give everything we have – physically, socially, emotionally, and financially – to that person.
Imagine if God looked at you with a consumer mindset! What if every time you did something that made Him unhappy, He could turn around and walk away? What if the best hope I could give you as a pastor was that if you try your best, God might like you? That wouldn’t be much of a relationship, would it?!
God honors you with a covenant relationship, so that you can honor your spouse in the same way. He promises to never leave or forsake you (Deut 31:6), so that you can make the same promise to your spouse. He teaches us to serve by laying down our lives, just as Jesus Christ laid down His life for the church!
The Marriage Crisis in the United States
There is a marriage crisis in the United States. The effects of our consumer mentality are catching up to us. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), as many as fifty percent of married couples in the United States divorce.
Unfortunately, statistics in the church are no better than the general population. The divorce rate for Christians is the same, at about fifty percent. In fact, some studies prove that Christian couples are actually more likely to get divorced than couples who don’t have Jesus at the center of their marriages. In 1999, the Barna Research Group found that born again Christians are actually more likely than others to experience divorce! 
That’s terrifying, isn’t it? Even if you are born again, your chances of divorce are half!
There is, however, an answer. You can drop your chances of divorce substantially by doing one simple thing: by making the commitment with your spouse to do one simple activity that can completely change your life.
The difference is prayer. You’ve probably heard the expression: Families that pray together, stay together. It’s not just folklore; it’s fact. In 1997, a Gallup Poll showed the divorce rate for Christian couples who pray together regularly is 1 out of 1,152. 
That’s less than one tenth of a percent!
Here is the point. If you and your spouse don’t pray together, you might as well flip a coin to determine if you’re going to get a divorce. But if you pray together every day, you’ll stay together for the rest of your lives!
The Importance of Prayer
Prayer with my wife is my favorite part of being married. The Holy Spirit loves to take advantage of situations where two or more believers are gathered together to worship God:
Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. – Matt 18:19-20
Whenever my wife and I are together, it is DONE! Jesus promises that when we get together and pray in His name, that He is in our midst. God promises that when my wife and I agree in prayer, whatever we ask for is complete: it is, “…done for [us] by [Our] Father in heaven” (v 19). Don’t you want your marriage to look the same way?
My wife and I both dated people who weren’t Christians before God introduced us to each other. We know what it’s like to do relationships the wrong way. If you’re testing the waters and considering abandoning your commitment to wait for the right man or woman, accept my plea: DON’T DO IT! Believe us when we say that the right way is worth it!
Paul’s instructions to be equally yoked are not emphasized in Scripture by accident. God doesn’t ask us to hold out for a strong Christians spouse just to torture us: He does it for our benefit. If we rush into a serious relationship with the wrong person, the results can be excruciatingly painful; but when we hold out for the fullness of God’s promise, we will find everything He has set aside for us to enjoy.
So what if you’re already married, and your spouse has not said yes to Jesus Christ? Scripture has encouragement for you too:
But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? – 1 Cor 7:12-16
I meet many women who were already married before giving their lives to Christ. If the husband doesn’t accept the same invitation for salvation, the woman can be “stuck” in an uncomfortable situation. The believer’s responsibility is to honor the sanctity of marriage, while waiting for God’s Holy Spirit to do the hard work required on her husband’s heart.
No one comes to God unless the Holy Spirit draws him (Jn 6:44). It is your responsibility to share the Gospel with your spouse: to plant the seed. It is the Holy Spirit’s joy to save his soul: to water and cultivate that seed.
We had a beautiful testimony in our church recently. One of our members met a man on the bus who had never been to church. He shared the Gospel with that man, and gave him an invitation to service.
The man was a husband and a father. He still had no interest in church, even after that conversation. However, he passed the invitation along to his wife and daughter. The daughter started attending first. She fell head over heels in love with Jesus. She was baptized: first in water, and then in the Holy Spirit. The mom was next. She started coming to church with her daughter, and has given her life to Christ.
Several weeks ago, God did the impossible. As this mother and her daughter came to service, they brought someone in tow: the husband finally came! Because of the changes he saw in the lives of his immediate family members, he was ready to make a decision for Jesus.
That miracle came about because of one thing: prayer. As we pray according to God’s will, God honors our prayers. So whether you’re already in a relationship, or believing for the perfect relationship to start, pray without ceasing!
– by Pastor Mike White
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