Beware the ungodly yokes we form
The Bible teaches us about two contrasting types of yokes. One is a yoke of slavery that comes from following the desires of our flesh, rather than the Holy Spirit. The other type of yoke is when we are yoked to Jesus. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Jesus is gentle and humble, He will help us with our burdens and give our souls rest.
Galatians 5:1,16 ESV For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Matthew 11:29-30 ESV Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The idea of being “yoked” is to be unequivocally attached to something. One may say that the Hong Kong dollar is yoked to the American dollar. When the American dollar drops in value, so does the Hong Kong dollar. They cannot be separated nor move in opposite directions. Another illustration of being yoked is the three-legged race where teams of two runners each have their ankles tied together as they run. One runner cannot move anywhere without the other. It is almost as if they have become one and the same.
When our souls are yoked to Jesus, we will not feel easily overwhelmed by the things of this world. Our lives will display the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control — and we will no longer crave after the things of this world.
Galatians 5:22-24 ESV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Put in another way, when our souls abide in Jesus, the true Vine, we will move in unison with Him too. This abiding refers to having such a close intimate bond with Jesus that we automatically follow Him wherever He leads us. His thoughts become our thoughts and His ways become our ways. As a consequence, we will bear much fruit (of the Holy Spirit).
John 15:4-5 ESV Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
By contrast, there is a form of spiritual yoking that our souls can form outside of God that does not provide us with Jesus’ rest. Ungodly yokes will leave our souls feeling burdened and:
- Held back and enslaved | Galatians 5:1 ESV For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
- Overwhelmed and troubled | Psalm 88:3 ESV For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol.
- Conflicted and unsteady | 2 Peter 2:14 ESV They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children!
None of these are the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Love God with all our souls
God calls us to love Him with all our souls. This implies that there are things in this world that can, and often will, compromise our loving devotion and loyalty to Him.
Matthew 22:36-37 ESV “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
In the Bible, the Lord also describes Himself as the Husband or the Bridegroom of His people. God is committed to a “one-Husband-one-wife” type of union with us for all eternity. Therefore, He also describes anyone who goes after after other things and idols from this world for security, admiration, comfort, or worship as an adulterer.
Isaiah 54:5 For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.
Ezekiel 16:32-37 Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband! Men give gifts to all prostitutes, but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side with your whorings. So you were different from other women in your whorings. No one solicited you to play the whore, and you gave payment, while no payment was given to you; therefore you were different. “Therefore, O prostitute, hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord God, Because your lust was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your whorings with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children that you gave to them, therefore, behold, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved and all those you hated. I will gather them against you from every side and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness.
We commit “spiritual adultery” when our souls are more devoted to anything from this world than to God. This world, and all that is in it, will eventually pass away. Even heaven and earth will pass away. Only those who do God’s will get to live forever. Spiritual adultery does not pay off at the end.
1 John 2:15-17 ESV Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Matthew 24:35 ESV Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
Ungodly yokes or soul ties
The Bible gives us examples of ungodly yokes we can form on earth that can draw our souls away from the God we love. (Some refer to these as ungodly soul or spiritual ties).
These are yokes to:
1. Unbelievers who influence our thinking and inclinations in ungodly ways | 2 Corinthians 6:14 ESV Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
2. Close family or friendship ties that make it harder for us to say no when they entice us to do things that displease God | Deuteronomy 13:6 ESV “If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ …
3. Ungodly sexual unions eg. sex outside of marriage, prostitution, sexual fantasies etc. | 1 Corinthians 6:15-16 ESV Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.”
4. Centres or people of worldly power and influence (in the case of the Israelites, their yoke of slavery was to King Nebuchadnezzar) | Jeremiah 28:11 ESV … “Thus says the Lord: Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all the nations within two years.” But Jeremiah the prophet went his way.
5. Belief systems, teachings, philosophies of this world that are not centred on Jesus Christ | Acts 15:10-11 ESV Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
6. False gods, evil spirits, idol worship, witchcraft and all forms of occult that “ensnare our souls” | Numbers 25:2-3 ESV These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.
Ezekiel 13:18 NLT This is what the Sovereign Lord says: What sorrow awaits you women who are ensnaring the souls of my people, young and old alike. You tie magic charms on their wrists and furnish them with magic veils. Do you think you can trap others without bringing destruction on yourselves?
Even the wisest of people can make this mistake. Take King Solomon for example. Despite all his God-given wisdom, the king failed to recognise when the loyalty of his soul to God was slowly eroded after he fell under the influence of numerous wives that worshipped idols and evil spirits. He built them idolatrous temples and even bowed down to their demonic gods. The ungodly yokes Solomon formed with these pagan women eventually led to dire consequences for the kingdom of Israel.
1 Kings 11:4-8 ESV For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods
1 Kings 11:11 ESV Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant.
We also need to be careful that our souls are not yoked or spiritually tied to things that look like they are from God but are not. These include religious cults, schools, fraternities, clubs, and communities that claim to be Christian but encourage its members to do ungodly things. Not everything that is done in God’s name is godly.
Recognising ungodly yokes or soul ties
We recognise an ungodly yoke or soul tie when it feels like something inside us is actively blocking us from joyfully obeying God. Even though we know that we ought, there is an internal resistance that we cannot explain. Our minds are filled with retorts about why it is too difficult, impossible or unrealistic to do so.
We hear thoughts such as, “I know God’s Word says that …
- … God created the world (Genesis 1) — but human scientists say there is no Creator.”
- … God is the Healer for those who obey His commandments (Exodus 15:26) — but human doctors have said I will never get well.”
- … God hates idol worship (Deuteronomy 16:21-22) — but I don’t want to disappoint my family, they expect me to pay respects to the spirits of our dead ancestors.”
- … God forbids adultery (Genesis 2:24) — but this man/woman says he/she truly love me.”
- … Jesus said that it was for our good that He left this earth so that He could send the Holy Spirit to us (John 16:7) — but this institution doesn’t teach about the Holy Spirit so He mustn’t be important.”
- … we should not hold on to spiritually defiled objects (Deuteronomy 7:25-26) — but I can’t let go of this object as it was given to me by someone significant. It is also worth a lot of money.”
- … Jesus came to give me an abundant life (John 10:10) — but I find it hard to accept this for myself because a fortune teller told me that my life would be hard unless I paid respects to this deity once a year.”
Such statements show us that our loyalty to God’s truth and His Holy Spirit has already been compromised and that our souls are perhaps more closely tied to the things of this world than to Jesus.
John 4:23 ESV But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.
All this happens on a subconscious level. We may not even be aware of what we are indirectly tell God about what we truly feel about being fully committed to Him.
The subconscious instincts wired into our brains
As human beings, we often think that we are in full control of ourselves, our thoughts and our desires. Neuroscience is increasingly proving that this is not true.
1. Our beliefs can be subconsciously yoked
There is a part in our brain called the medial prefrontal cortex that is involved in allowing the beliefs of other people to influence our own, whether we intend for them to or not. This part of our brains has a tendency to steer us to move in unison with whatever influences come in from our social context.
The is something that God has built into us because we are meant to gather together in Jesus’ name to influence and spur each another in our faith, to encourage and build one another up.
Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
But the opposite can also be true. If we hear someone tell us that Jesus did not really resurrect from the dead, for instance, the medial prefrontal cortex of our brains will simply automatically receive it and form a connection with what they have said. The greater our attachment or commitment to that person, the more we find our own beliefs and thoughts slowly being swayed by their influence and words in our subconscious minds. An ungodly yoke or soul tie forms as a result.
This will not happen, however, if we are yoked to Jesus and abide in His Word. His truth will set us free from ungodly yokes or soul ties.
John 8:31 ESV So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
2. Our emotions are subconsciously yoked
Researchers from the University of Virginia have also shown that the human brain is wired to connect with others so strongly that it experiences what other people experience as if it’s happening to us.
MRI brain scans in the research study showed that the part of our brains that is responsible for threat response also become active if our friends are threatened. “The correlation between self and friend was remarkably similar,” said James Coan, a psychology professor in U.Va.’s College of Arts & Sciences who co-authored the study. “The finding shows the brain’s remarkable capacity to model self to others; that people close to us become a part of ourselves, and that is not just metaphor or poetry, it’s very real.”
God gave us this ability so that we can connect deeply with one another in God’s love, and hence, “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” just like Jesus did.
Romans 12:15 ESV Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
This emotional connection can also work against the Holy Spirit when we prioritise the emotional connections we feel to relationship over our relationship with God. We are called to love God first with all our hearts, souls, and minds.
Cutting our ungodly ties to the things of this world
It is no wonder that the Bible calls us to be careful not to come under worldly influences that will corrupt our souls and put us into a “drunken stupor”. We need to think soberly about what we are thinking and what we are being yoked to.
1 Corinthians 15:33-34 ESV Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
God’s Word warns us in Romans 12 to test everything we see and hear so as to discern if it is aligned with God’s will for us. We should not simply conform to the patterns of this world and or be led by its influences.
Romans 12:2 ESV Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Without the conscious filtering or control of our thoughts, our brain will automatically form connections with the influences it perceives around us. When we are exposed to them repeatedly, our brain will move these influences higher in priority in our subconscious minds. These can then form a very real invisible and imperceivable war against our souls, an internal conflict, when we are confronted with God’s will.
1 Peter 2:11 ESV Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
It is only when we fully submit under the authority of God and pray to renounce and cut ungodly soul ties to the various things of this world in Jesus’ almighty name and ask Him to renew our minds, that our internal battles will become much easier to overcome. We will find that we are not so easily tossed to and fro by the every wind of teaching, human manipulation, and deception that blows our way. Our minds become clearer and our anxieties will subside. We unyoke ourselves from our flesh and take on Jesus’ yoke.
Ephesians 4:14 ESV so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
Cutting ungodly yokes or soul ties, however, does not mean we literally break off all our relationships. Rather, it is simply a prayer to “cleanse ourselves of every defilement of body and spirit.”
2 Corinthians 6:14,7:1 ESV Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? … Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
Here are some examples of how we can pray.
- Unbelievers who influence our thinking | We may need to repent of idolising people of power and influence whom we have sought to follow or mimic more than Jesus, and then cut ungodly soul ties with them.
- Belief systems, teachings, philosophies of this world | We may want to repent of placing greater faith in the belief systems and teachings of this world than in God, and pray to cut ungodly soul ties with the teachings and people that have influenced our thinking in Jesus’ name.
- Idol worship and witchcraft | We certainly need to repent of dabbling in idol worship or witchcraft, and ask God for forgiveness for subjecting our bodies to idolatrous rituals, chanting, or offerings etc. Then we can cut ungodly soul ties with the spiritual masters who have discipled us to follow Satan and false gods.
Let us ensure we abide in Jesus and no longer be unequally or sinfully yoked to idolatrous things. Here are some testimonies to illustrate.
Testimony 1: Ungodly yokes to objects
“For 30 years, I have shared my bed with two baby pillows since birth. No matter where I went, I would bring at least one pillow with me. I couldn’t sleep without them. Whenever I was overwhelmed with heartbreak or stress, the first thing I turned to was my pillows.
My husband would often suggest to let go of these baby items but I resisted. I told him, “They came before you and have stuck by me for longer.” We had a few tiffs about my pillows – until I learned about ungodly yokes and soul ties.
I realised my heart was yoked to these items. I was allowing mere objects to defile my heart, my soul, and my marriage. Convicted, I repented and asked for God’s forgiveness one evening. Then I grabbed the pillows, trembling and sobbing, and put them in the garbage bin. I prayed and cut soul ties with the pillows, and rededicated myself fully to God. Now, I don’t even miss them! And my husband certainly hasn’t.
When I cry now, I cry to God, the One who sees and hears everything and loves me. Praise God!”
Testimony 2: Ungodly yokes to teachings
I am currently receiving training to become a psychotherapist. As a part of my training, I am required to study and learn about different types of mental disorders. To me, my studies seem to be purely academic and intellectual, but I overlooked the spiritual influence of studying mental illnesses. It is never God’s will for His creation to suffer from mental bondages, and by studying the symptoms of mental disorders, I am essentially studying the work of the enemy.
After several weeks of learning about mental disorders, I unknowingly yoked myself and grew more intrigued by the different manifestations of mental illnesses. I fantasised what it would feel like to experience hallucinations, depressive symptoms, and dissociative disorders. After a while, I started feeling melancholy and hopeless about life. What surprised me the most was I did not find any problem with that. It was as if I was under some sort of hypnotism. I imagined that God gave me those feelings so that I could learn about these mental disorders more effectively.
During this period, I also felt very vulnerable to judgments and fantasies. I could not control myself but to judge women as “sluts”. My mind was also filled with sexual fantasies of married couples having sex. These thoughts felt so real as if they were an integrated part of me. I did not recognise how I was under demonic influence until I cut ungodly soul ties with my course materials.
After I cut ungodly soul ties, I felt something leave the back of my neck and shoulders. I was told that my eyes and face looked clearer than before. The thoughts of judgments and fantasies still lurk around, but I know that they are not coming from within me, but externally. They go away when I simply tell them to in Jesus’ name.
There was another time afterwards when I was reading my textbook on the topic of substance-use intoxication. I started to feel everything around me slowing down. My vision and mind was slowed down significantly. I remembered to cut soul ties with my studies this time around, and I was able to think clearly again almost immediately.
The enemy can subtly enter our mind by disguising himself as scientific facts or academic knowledge. It is important to examine what we are submitting our minds to and unyoke ourselves from constructs and systems of this world.
To receive notifications of new posts from Teaching Humble Hearts, please subscribe here .