- Association of Certified Biblical Counselors - https://biblicalcounseling.com -

His Commands Are Not Burdensome

The task of biblical counseling and discipleship almost always includes encouraging people to keep God’s commandments. For this reason, 1 John 5:3 can help equip us to counsel and disciple more effectively, because it teaches a very important perspective about God’s commands: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

Only those who see that “His commandments are not burdensome” will end up keeping them. If a person believes any command of God to be burden, he will not be very likely to keep it (and certainly will not be very likely to keep on keeping it). How does one end up with this perspective about God’s laws?

Looking at 1 John 5:3 in context, we see that this perspective is a reality only for those who have been born of God (5:1, 4, or “born again” as John 3 puts it) as believers in Jesus (5:1, 5). Only true Christians will keep God’s commands, as only Christians will view them as non-burdensome. For people to adopt this perspective about God’s laws, they first need to believe in Christ and be born again.

But we should also help believers pursue greater obedience by reminding them why they should not see God’s commandments as burdensome. With that goal in mind, here are four reasons why Christians do not view God’s laws as burdens to begrudgingly bear

1. God’s commandments are not burdensome to us because we love Him.

That is the clear truth taught in 1 John 5:3. Obedience is the result (and proof) of love for God. When a person is born again, love for God is planted in his heart alongside faith in Christ (5:1-2), and obedience follows. The new birth that made us a child of God put in us a “natural” desire to want to please our Father. Christians obey God because… they want to. And they want to because they love Him.

Because of this love, keeping His law is not a heavy load that believers wish they did not have to carry. Just like Jacob spent 7 long years laboring for Laban in Genesis 29, but it seemed like only a few days because of the love he had for Rachel (Genesis 29:20).

If ever we hear a believer talking about any of God’s commands as if they are burdensome to him, we can appeal to his love for God. Remind the believer that obedience to that particular command is an opportunity for him to demonstrate his love for the God that he loves.

2. God’s commandments are not burdensome to us because we believe His love for us.

If love for God is the fuel for non-begrudging obedience, what is the fuel for love for God? Several good answers could be given, but the nearest answer to 1 John 5:3 is that we love because He first loved us (4:19). This is a second reason why God’s commandments are not burdensome to us.

Christians are those who have come to know and believe the love God has for us (4:16). When we see how He has given His Son, we have definitive proof that His heart towards us is love (4:9-10). And since we have come to trust that His heart towards us is love, we believe that the commands He gives to us must also be given out of His love for us. Our faith in Christ teaches us to view everything that comes to us from God’s hand as an expression of benevolent, fatherly love, including the commandments He hands down to us.

The cross convinces us that God loves His children, so His commands must be for our good always (cf. Deuteronomy 6:24; 10:13), even those commands that call for radical self-denial and sacrifice.

Because He sent His Son to save us, we know His heart behind His laws is not to burden us. A believer who is freshly and deeply convinced of God’s love for him (because of the gospel) will not view God’s laws as burdensome.

3. God’s commandments are not burdensome to us because we are empowered to keep them.

In the new birth, believers do not merely receive a desire to do God’s will; they receive also grace to be able to do it! For Christians, God’s commands are both desirable and doable. And part of why Christians find the commands desirable is because they find them doable.

Jesus taught that the rules of the Pharisees and scribes were burdensome because of the impossibility of actually doing all the things they said. In Matthew 23:4 Jesus said the scribes and Pharisees “tie up heavy1 [1]The Greek word translated “heavy” in this verse is the same one translated “burdensome” in 1 John 5:3. burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders.” The Pharisees’ rules were so persnickety and pointless, and there were so many of them, that it was an oppressive burden to try and keep them all. The person who did try to keep them felt crushed and buried under the cumulative weight of them. No one’s shoulders could carry the load.

God’s commandments are not a heavy burden tied up and laid on our shoulders that crush and oppress us, because believers are enabled by the power of the Spirit to stand up under the yoke that He lovingly lays upon us.

The yoke of God’s law does not crush us because we are yoked to Jesus (Matthew 11:29-30), who has redeemed us from lawlessness and gives us grace to say “no” to ungodliness, and be zealous for good works and obedience (Titus 2:11-14).

If a believer begins to view any particular command of God as a burden, perhaps that is because they have started to lose hope, and view themselves as utterly unable to keep it. They need to be reminded that isn’t true, because of what Christ did. We are to consider ourselves (i.e. have faith that we are) dead to sin and alive to God with Christ (Romans 6:11), raised with Him to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). Christians shouldn’t say, “I can’t,” about any obedience, because of Christ’s work. Thus, God’s laws are not burdensome to us.

4. God’s commandments are not burdensome to us because we are not condemned by them. 

Finally, even though all Christians will find God’s commands to both desirable and doable at some level, all Christians also will still fail to keep them perfectly in this life.

But when a believer transgresses a command of God, he does not need to despise the command, because he knows he is already pardoned for that transgression in Christ. For unbelievers, the transgressed commands of God all spotlight the condemnation from God that they deserve and are destined for. But transgressed commandments are not indictments that God will charge against believers on the judgment day. He has already charged them against Christ. Because Jesus died and rose again, all who trust in Him are forgiven all their trespasses. God has canceled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. He set it aside, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14).

In the context of faith in Christ the Savior, God’s laws do not need to be crushing and grievous to me, because they do not condemn me. Jesus died for all the ways I have failed and will fail to keep them. Furthermore, we know that Jesus kept all of God’s law perfectly, and God credits His record of perfect law-keeping to our account (2 Corinthians 5:21).

So the child born of God can say, “It is my earnest desire to keep God’s commandments, but even when I fail to do so, they still are not burdensome to me, because I have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who is the propitiation for my sins” (1 John 2:1-2). Because of Jesus, sinners like us can sing to God, “Oh, how I love Your law!” (Psalm 119:97).

God’s commandments are not burdensome to believers because we love Him, are convinced He loves us, are empowered by Him to obey, and forgiven by Him when we don’t.

This blog was originally posted at CBCD, view the original post here. [2]