Do I have to obey Jesus or do I get to obey Jesus?
The right answer is clear. The honest, personal answer each may give might not line up so squarely. Truth be told, there is great joy in following the commands of Jesus. As one of his followers, John, attested, “His commands are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3). Christ Himself promised, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30). Why then does obedience become a burden rather than a joy in our lives? I would suggest that if the task of obedience is burdensome, then it may not be a burden Christ gave! Another explanation may be that we are doing it alone. He did say that His yoke was easy. Is a yoke not made for two? Take a look at John chapter 15 for a further explanation.
One of the reasons the task is not burdensome is that our strength and ability to obey comes from Jesus, not from ourselves. In John 15:1-6, Jesus makes the analogy that He is a vine and we are the branches. The fruit of obedience never come out of cut off, disconnected branches. It comes from people who are connected the Christ, the One who provides the life giving source of nutrients to the branches.
How do we connect to Jesus to access these resources in order to strengthen our obedience? Jesus gave two simple ways. The first is as easy as asking! “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7). The second takes time but is truly enjoyable. If we take time to understand and believe we are loved by God, a devoted obedience will be the natural result. “As the Father loved Me, I also have 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.” (John 15:9). The disciple who lives this way consistently will come back again and again to this cycle of love and obedience because it results in great joy. “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)
But what is it that He wants us to do? There is no limit to breaking down the specifics but the heart of it all is simple. “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13) A self-sacrificial love is the heart of all that Jesus wants from us. As promised, loving others results in greater joy than any other worldly pursuit. More than that, we have an example in Christ who laid down His life for us.
Perhaps we may not feel qualified for the mighty task of loving others. Would it surprise you to know that Jesus has placed great confidence in you for this work? He chose you, not just to be a servant, but to be a co-worker who receives all the benefits that Jesus Himself does. “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:14-15). And, yes, it was a choice! You were hand selected by the Lord of the Harvest to work with Him. “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16).
To say the task is not burdensome is not to say that there won’t be troubles. Jesus promised that if we join in His work of loving, there will be people against us. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18). Yet even in that struggle there is a great relief: we do not have to take the opposition personally! The opposition comes because they are against God, not against us. “But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” (John 15:21).
Still concerned about fully committing to the work of loving others out of obedience to Jesus, telling them about His love? There is one last great promise. You will have help every step of the way. “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” (John 15:26-27). The helper is the Holy Spirit, God dwelling in us. This is a result of salvation. If you have been trying to be a good person alone, why not invite the Holy Spirit into
your life? To be saved means to call out to God and admit you are a sinner. In God’s love and grace, He restores us and cleanses from sin. Then, He begins to do the work of making us righteous. Finally, we GET to obey Jesus in the strength of HIS might!