“Go, make disciple of all nations…”
Anyone who has even limited familiarity with Multiply knows that this is at the core of it all. The Great Commission – Jesus blessing His followers to go and lead others to follow Him as well (Matt 28:18-20).
Does this command feel like a blessing or a burden to you?
Here’s some encouragement for those of us who sometimes feel burdened by what we perceive to be the impossible task of walking the tightrope of obedience without falling into the sea of legalism below. “The gate is narrow, and the way is hard that leads to life” (Matt 7:13-14). This is true. But tip-toeing down a wobbly tightrope that is thinner than your foot may not be the best analogy for obeying God. The reason that the “way is hard” is not because we must earn something from God by obeying Him, but because following Jesus brings opposition from the world.
Of course, just because our obedience doesn’t save us doesn’t mean it’s not important. After all, it was Jesus who said, “every healthy tree bears good fruit” (Matt 7:17).
So where is the connection? How do you trust in Christ and follow Him well (which involves action, to be sure) without feeling legalistically burdened by the weight of His commands?
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night. (Ps 1:1-2)
Did you catch that? We are blessed by God in obedience as we delight in His law. This is because when His law is our delight, obeying it is not weighty legalism, but joyous love. And the only way we can delight in God’s law is through God-given faith in His Son, Jesus – the fulfillment of the law and Word made flesh (Matt 5:17, Jn 1:14). So trust in Him, not yourself, and then freely love Him well by obeying Him. How gracious of Him to bless us with commands through which we can properly love Him! This is delight in the law of the Lord.
In other words, while legalism binds us to achieve righteousness on our own via the law, God gives grace so that we can delight in the law from our heart, and this frees us to obey Him because we want to, not because we have to. This is evidence of saving grace, and this is what the Lord desires of us – an earnest longing to obey, even if our attempts are imperfect, because we love God and delight in His commands.
In that line of thinking, 1 John describes delighting in God’s law like this:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 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 Jn 5:1-5, emphasis added)
So before you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and force yourself to do some stuff that you don’t really want to do deep down inside (which, by the way, is a pretty decent description for legalism), examine your heart. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Why are you making disciples? Is it because you love God? The answer to that last question ought to be a resounding and delighted “Yes!” for all who are following Christ.
Trust Christ for your salvation, and then love God by obeying His commands with a heart that is overflowing with thankfulness and joy. God’s commands are a blessing, not a burden, but only when we delight in them. If you don’t find yourself delighting in God’s commands, ask Him for that delight. Over and over, more and more, with persevering trust in Christ. Only through Him will the burden of God’s commands ever be alleviated.