Do not fear. Love your neighbor as you do yourself. Do not gossip or slander. Love God with all your heart. Forgive like you have been forgiven. Do good to those who hate you. Don’t judge. Don’t be greedy. Don’t worry about your life. Pray and give, but no one should notice. Do good to everyone. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Later, the apostle John told the church, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).
God’s word is miraculous and impossible to fully comprehend. Sometimes we read a familiar Bible verse—for the first time. A person can grow up in the church, teach Bible studies, read Scripture every day, and still look at a familiar verse as if it were the first time seeing those words. That is how I felt when I read, “His commandments are not burdensome.”
The first five books of the Bible contain 613 commands. It feels burdensome even to attempt to learn those. Jesus gave many more commands in his Sermon on the Mount. I started reading his commands and eventually gave up, feeling totally defeated. Impossible. God wants the impossible and commands it. Then, the apostle John said that if we love God, we will keep those commandments. And, by the way, his commandments are not burdensome. Those words are found in the Bible and are, therefore, true. But honestly, I’d struggle to prove it.
Why does God command the impossible? 1 John is a powerfully impossible book, commanding Christians to love people like Jesus loved people. John didn’t write the book to illustrate what was happening in the church; he wrote the passage because the opposite was taking place.
It only took a short time for Christians to abuse God’s guarantee of forgiveness to enable their bad behavior. 1 John teaches a powerful lesson about God’s controlling love. Only God can love like John writes about. So why are we commanded to love like God? And how is that command not burdensome?
Jesus told the rich young man to sell everything he owned and give the money to the poor. The young man couldn’t do what Jesus asked so he walked away sad. Jesus looked at his disciples and told them it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. His disciples asked a crucial question, saying, “Who then can be saved?” Essentially they were asking, why did you ask the impossible of that young man? Jesus’ answer to his disciples is still his answer to us today.
Why does God ask the impossible and how are his commands not burdensome? Jesus told his followers, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). A burden is the load of responsibility that we carry. God’s commands are not burdensome because he took the responsibility for them. God asks the impossible and gave his Son the job of carrying the burden. God asked the impossible so that we know how much we need Jesus.
— Do not fear because God is with you (Deut. 31:6).
— Love your neighbor as you do yourself because “God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12).
— Do not gossip or slander “for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:12).
— Love God with all your heart because God is “the Lord, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:5).
— Forgive like you have been forgiven. . . Do good to those who hate you. . . Don’t judge. . . Don’t be greedy. . . Don’t worry about your life. . . Pray and give but no one needs to notice. . . Do good to everyone. Hundreds of impossible commands in Scripture are made possible in Christ because God said, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you” (Ezekiel 36:26).
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:3–5)
We do believe that Jesus is the Son of God. We do love God and believe we can keep his commandments. We believe . . . but Lord, help us overcome our unbelief. Amen?
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