Another challenge we all face in the area of lifestyle is the high standard of Jesus’ call to discipleship. When we reduce that standard to a list of rules to keep and the burden to keep the rules becomes too great, there is a temptation to give up on the Christian life. But under the New Covenant, rule-keeping by will power has been replaced by an unfolding of our new nature as we more and more yield to the new influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. A way to think about getting out from under the burden of rule-keeping is this.
Have you ever heard someone say about their job, “It doesn’t really feel like work, because I am doing what I love?” It does happen. And it happens in the Christian life as well. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (I Jn 5:2-3). Depending upon how you were introduced to the Christian life, “His commandments are not burdensome” may be news to you. It was sure good news to me.
Tying the flow of God’s love to our keeping of the commandments – as John does twice in this passage – always seemed like a “catch” to me. Aha! This love of God is not entirely unmerited. There is a performance required on my part to earn God’s love. There is a requirement to obey and, by the way, the standard – all that Jesus asks – is incredibly high. Not just high, but maybe out of reach.
Then I began investigating why I was not experiencing “His commandments are not burdensome”, because honestly I found them quite difficult. You cannot read the gospels with an open mind and not recognize that this discipleship business is serious stuff. It really goes against our natural grain.
The promise of I John 5:3, “His commandments are not burdensome” came into view for me as I began to understand the provisions of the New Covenant. I came to see that the joy in following Christ’s commands was not found in working harder, it was found in resting in and appropriating the new nature that He has given us. It lies in abiding in His love. “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love” (Jn 15:9-10).
When we abide in Christ’s love, we are inviting the facts of the New Covenant to become our experience of the New Covenant. And when we do, His commands are not burdensome, because they were exactly what our new nature was made to do. Just as someone may say about their vocation, “I enjoy this because this is what I was made to do,” so we too can say about the commands of Christ, “I enjoy them, because this is what I was made to do!”