Why is it whenever someone starts to talk about keeping God’s commands, people get uneasier than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockers? Why when John pointedly tells us, “His commands are not burdensome” (1 John 5:13), do so many people act like they are?
- Maybe it’s because they know someone who is a legalist. Instead of having the obedience of faith that Paul talks about in Romans 1:5 and 16:26, the legalist has faith in their obedience. They think they can be good enough to be good enough. That’s a poison pill if ever there was one. Knowing that’s wrong, how many people overcorrect and decide that any serious attempt at obedience is automatically legalism?
- Maybe it’s because they think obedience is not “spiritual.” Everyone is supposed to submit and obey God, but some people want to do something different, something special. King Saul fell into this trap (1 Samuel 15). Paul told the “spiritual” Corinthians (see 1 Corinthians 4:10ff), that what he was writing was the Lord’s command and anyone who thought they were “a prophet, or spiritual” (14:37 ESV), should acknowledge and obey it.
- Maybe it’s because they are holding on to something. For the rich, young, ruler it was his material wealth. For Demas, it was “because he loved this world” (2 Timothy 4:10). Some people start to squirm when someone talks about obedience because they know they are withholding from God.
- Maybe it’s because they fail to realize God works with us. I had a professor in college who on exam day would walk into the room reminding us that “the weak die along the way.” Sadly, some people see God that way. To them, He’s nothing more than a deity who throws a book at them and tells them to get with it. Paul told the disciples at Philippi to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose,” (Philippians 2:12-13). As any good parent knows, children learn obedience as their parents work with them.
- Maybe it’s because they fail to personalize their obedience. If Jesus walked into the room you are in right now and told you He needed a volunteer to do something for Him, you’d jump at the opportunity wouldn’t you? Then what if said, “I need you to keep God’s commands.” From that point on, your attitude about keeping God’s commands would be totally transformed. Instead of feeling burdened by them, you would be enthusiastic and excited about the opportunity to do something for Jesus. There’s an old story about two men working on St. Paul’s Cathedral. One was asked what he was doing and he said something to the effect of, “I am doing the backbreaking work of hauling, cutting, and dressing stones.” Another man who doing the same work was asked the same thing and he replied, “I’m helping Christopher Wren, the world’s greatest architect, build a cathedral for God!”
Well, what are you doing?