His Commandments Are Not Burdensome
Written by Pastor Jim Law
Some years ago media mogul Ted Turner suggested that we ditch the Ten Commandments and hold a contest on who could come up with a better set of guidelines. To put forward the idea of replacing God’s standard of righteousness, and the foundation of jurisprudence, with pithy progressive ideas is the epitome of what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery.” Lewis was referring to the danger of saying that things are better because they are new, and deficient because they are dated.
Ted Turner is not the only one who advocates jettisoning the Ten Commandments. Pastor Andy Stanley in his recent book, Irresistible, writes,“The Ten Commandments have no authority over you. None. To be clear: Thou shalt not obey the Ten Commandments.”
Stanley sought to establish that any contamination of the old covenant commands upon the new covenant life found in the grace of Jesus Christ would be a corruption of the whole relationship. However, Stanley ignores that the Old Testament is full of examples of God’s grace and compassion for His wayward people. (Exodus 34:1-6; Psalm 103)
When Moses received the Ten Commandments on top of the mountain, Israel was below breaking covenant with the golden calf. Upon seeing this Moses shattered the stone tablets. (Exodus 32:19) However, God’s grace is on display when He commands Moses to cut two new tablets, and again He would write these wonderful words of life for His wayward people.
In Exodus 34, this is how Yahweh, the Lord God, is described and revealed, “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7)
Stanley’s view of the Old Testament directly contradicts the teaching of Jesus Christ who never once questioned the authority and trustworthiness of the Old Testament. The commandments that Stanley calls his readers to not obey are all affirmed and commanded in the New Testament. The exception would be the Sabbath command which is presented as fulfilled in the rest found in Christ. (Hebrews 4:1-11)
Marvin Olasky warns in his review of Stanley’s book, “If we unhitch the church from the Old Testament, we lose its powerful documentation of how deep our sin problem is.” If we don’t understand that sin is a transgression of God’s law, then grace is not that amazing, and we are not really guilty of much.
Through Moses, God repeated and expounded the Law in Book of Deuteronomy, He said to Israel, “if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.”(Deuteronomy 28:1)
Not only did he promise blessing, He communicated in no uncertain terms, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”(Deuteronomy 32:46-47)
“Well, that is the Old Testament,” some may argue. Okay, let’s go to the New Testament where we find that the Apostle John states how we are to regard what God says and how His precepts are to impact our lives, “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.” (1 Jn 5:2–3) God’s commands are good and loving and never should be viewed as a hassle.
From the beginning of the biblical record, we see how easily the human heart stumbles headlong into deception. The environs of Eden were magnanimous, and yet in time the goodness of God was brought into question. God had given to Adam and Eve full reign to subdue and manage His creation. They were free to eat of every tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and with that prohibition was a promise that the day they ate of the tree they would surely die. (Genesis 2:17)
When the tempter came to Eve in Genesis 3, the perfect provision of the garden was dismissed because they began to focus on the one thing they couldn’t have. God had given a command that should have been respected and obeyed. In this we see the depth of sin’s deception. We resent God’s commands and insist on moving out on what we think is best.
Within the garden of Eden, with the bite marks still visible on the forbidden fruit, a promise was made pointing to One who would come to destroy the works of the evil one. (Genesis 3:15) Through His life, death, and resurrection Jesus Christ extended a new agreement between God and the human race. By faith in Jesus, God’s grace takes our commandment-hating-hearts of stone and gives to us a heart of flesh.
The Spirit’s work of regeneration transforms us from commandment breakers to submissive children who learn to say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Obedience is working out our faith in real time. We will never be reconciled to God by commandment keeping, but that is not a call to disobey God’s commandments. The Law of God is a schoolmaster which leads us to see that we need a Savior, and that savior is not us.
Jesus once asked, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46) We are not to be like the horse who needs bit and bridle to remain in check. We know that we are prone to wander. We know that because of the Law which reflects the perfect character of God.
Under the “Law” with its tenfold lash,
Learning alas, how true—
That the more I tried
The sooner I died,
While the “Law” cried—
You, You, You
Hopelessly still did the battle rage.
“Oh, wretched man,” my cry—
And deliverance sought
By some penance bought
While my soul cried—
I, I, I
Then came a day when my struggles ceased,
And trembling in every limb,
At the foot of a tree,
Where One died for me,
I sobbed out—
Him, Him, Him…
We need Him, who kept the Law perfectly, to represent us. We need a Redeemer who could make right our offenses. Jesus Christ has done these things and more. He is mighty to save. Friends, following Him is not a burden or a hassle, this is good news.