~I think we all know that, from time to time, it can be hard to follow the commands of God. We are sinful people after all. We struggle. Our flesh rebels against our purpose of glorifying the God who made us. And this, of course, is why we are so grateful for grace. We are not saved by being good or doing good.
Sometimes, if we are not careful, we will let ourselves go too far with thoughts about how hard it is to follow the Lord. We confuse what makes following God hard. We mistake our own sinful leanings for harshness in God’s commands. We allow ourselves to think that God really made things tough on us. But this is not and has not been the case.
1 John 5:1-5 – 1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Notice what is happening in this paragraph in God’s word. WE are clear in this paragraph that salvation comes to us from Christ and is by grace through faith. There is nothing here that indicates that we are supposed to perform to gain salvation. There is also a highlighting of the theme in John of loving fellow Christians as a mark of salvation. But at the heart of the passage, we see that a genuine saving faith leads to people obeying the commands of God.
But look even more closely at the end of verse 3, “And his commandments are not burdensome.” How about that? God is inspiring a perfect word. God’s word is more true than your experience or my feelings. And God is clear that his commands are not burdensome.
Christians, this thought should have a few impacts on our lives today. First, it should cause us to give God thanks for his commands. God could have given us commands that are burdensome, and he did not do so. Take a look at old myths, and you will see burdensome commands. You will see capricious deities commanding the impossible of incapable people. But the God of the Bible commands ordinary obedience from people he has empowered to obey by his Spirit.
That verse should also cause us to stop pretending as though God’s word is a burden. God has made it clear that his word is not a burden. God’s word and obedience to his commands is the way to joy. If we love God, we obey his commands. This is no burden, but a delight. Let us not dishonor God by mischaracterizing his commands as if they are hardships.
If God’s commands are not burdensome, we should also stop making excuses for our disobedience. God does command Christians to obey. We do not obey to be saved, but because we have been forgiven. But none of us has an excuse to ignore the commands of God because we feel like they are hard. Instead, we should see that God is kindly giving us ways that we might express love for our Lord and gratitude for his grace as we seek the joy of honoring him.
Can it be hard to obey God’s commands? Yes, but not because of the commands. What makes obedience hard is what we bring to the table. Let us remember this, turn from sin, and love our Lord in obedience to his word.