Burdensome Obedience

A couple of Sundays ago I talked on 1st John 5:3…this is love for God: to obey his commands, and his commands are not burdensome. I begin with how a lot of us have a hard time hearing the truth of that passage because obedience really does feel like a burden in our lives. Of course, if we believe the Bible to be true, then it’s certainly not God who’s making it that way. It’s us. God’s not our problem. We are. So what are we doing to make obedience a burden? Here’s a few of my answers…

1. When we obey in an effort to win the approval of others rather than God. Obedience then is not about our response to God’s love, but rather about us making a good impression on people we think have some sort of say about our righteousness (i.e. ministers, elders, church members, etc.). And trust me, people are harder to please than God.

2. When we make our salvation contingent on it. I’m not talking about “obeying the gospel” but rather our attempts to “obey all the rules correctly so God won’t send us to hell.” We shouldn’t obey because we’re scared of God sending us to hell, but because He’s already saved us from there!

3. When we elevate the non-essentials over the essentials. For example, when we put church attendance or worship styles on par with the practice of mercy, justice, and faithfulness. There are simply some commands that are more important than others. See Jesus’ comment about “straining gnats and swallowing camels.”

4. When we obey human commands instead of God’s commands. Things like “you should always wear your best to worship” or “don’t dance.” The problem with trying to follow human commands is that they are endless and ever-changing, whereas God’s commands are finite and eternal.

5. When we focus more on polishing up the outside than we do on changing the inside. Obedience then becomes more about presentation than transformation. And God has made his preference clear…”Man looks at outward appearances, but God looks at the heart.”

2 thoughts on “Burdensome Obedience

  1. From Donald Miller’s “Searching For God Knows What””[God], like the one I believed in, was a bridge for the psyche, an invention to calm our nerves and keep us in line. The small church I had been raised in, and from which my framework for God had been hoisted, provided no bulwark of protection from this attack, but rather an unforitied access to a straw man. We were all getting cuddly with Father Christmas, it seemed. I didn’t have a relationship with God; I had a relationship with a system of sinple ideas, certain prejudices, and a feeling that I and people who thought as I thought were right.”

  2. I agree with some of what you are saying here and disagree with some. You are lending to a casual relationship with Christ and a consumerist approach to religion. Obedience is not about rule-keeping as much as it is about complete submission to God. Mercy, Justice, and Faith are indeed the more important matters. But I don’t think obedience is burdensome because of man-made laws that are unjustly bound in the church – I think it becomes burdensome for people who are not fully dedicated to God.

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