This is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)
When you read today’s verse, do you wonder why John added the words “his commands are not burdensome”? I’m sure we all remember times when God’s commands seemed like an incredible burden. Forgiving someone who has wronged us . . . loving someone who is unlovable . . . serving someone who is never satisfied . . . saying “No” to sin when our flesh is urging us to say “Yes” . . . all these things are difficult! They certainly feel “burdensome,” if not impossible.
The reason John could say that the commands of God are not burdensome is provided in the front end of the verse, where John tells us that we are to express our love for God by obedience to Him. When we keep our focus firmly fixed on our love for God, obedience is no longer burdensome. This is how we move from obedience feeling like a duty to becoming a delight.
In the parable of the prodigal son, we see just how odious obedience had become to the elder brother. When his younger brother returned home after squandering his inheritance and their father welcomed him with open arms, the elder brother was furious. “Look!” he fumed at his father. “All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders” (Luke 15:29). Do you see it? He was perfect in his obedience to his father, but his obedience gave him no sense of satisfaction, much less joy. It was simply a burdensome duty that had descended into drudgery. He was not obeying his father out of love; he was obeying out of self-love and a desire for what he hoped to get from the father.
So let me ask you: Is your obedience to God a delight? Have you found the path of righteousness and holy living to be not burdensome? Are you able to say along with the psalmist, “I delight to do your will, O my God” (Psalm 40:8)? Only to the extent that your heart beats for Jesus will your answer to those questions be a resounding “Yes!”
Our Lord Jesus provided us the most magnificent model of delighted obedience, saying, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (John 4:34). Think about it this way: Jesus forgave those who treated Him terribly; He loved those who were unlovable (sinners like you and me); He served those who were never satisfied; and He was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). And He said that obedience was His very sustenance! He delighted in doing good for the glory of His Father in heaven. Obedience is never a burden for those who love God, because one of the primary blessings God gives to His children is a heart that turns the duty of obedience—a duty that we all owe to the One who gives us life and breath and everything else—into an unimaginable delight. May that delight be the confession of all our lives!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!