His Commandments Are Not Burdensome?

The apostle John said God’s commandments are not burdensome. But many people believe they would be too hard to keep and are unnecessary. Are they?

Many who visit our website notice a recurring theme urging them to live by the laws of God. No doubt, many feel this would be either impossible, very difficult or quite unpleasant.

Several of our writers first learned about the importance of obeying God’s laws after they had reached adulthood. Stepping into such a different way of living looked to be something of a challenge for them. I was one of those.

I read about a young man who asked Jesus Christ what he must do to receive eternal life. Christ responded, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). As I read this and many other similar scriptures, it became quite obvious to me that keeping God’s commandments was a necessary starting point in turning one’s life to God.

Not a burden

Many Christian churches teach that keeping God’s commandments is an unnecessary burden. Such a teaching is not scriptural. The Bible presents the laws of God as a blessing for us.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8).

Hundreds of scriptures assure us that rather than the law being a hindrance to success and happiness, it instead offers a pathway to both.

“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm.16:11).

“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:7-8). 

That’s not to say there won’t be some trials along the way, but with the guidance available through His laws, we are able to avoid many mistakes that would otherwise bring pain.

“Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:11).

That’s why the apostle John could say, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

These scriptures are the divine Word of God, who cannot lie. But if you are not yet convinced of that, you can prove they are true by beginning to live by them.

My experience with the Fourth Commandment

I was a young adult when I became convinced that living by the laws of God was something that I must do. One of the first big changes I faced was observing the Sabbath, the fourth of God’s 10 Commandments.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11).

Unquestionably, the seventh day was referring to Saturday, not Sunday, which is the first day of the week. Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry kept this same original Sabbath day, as did the apostle Paul (Luke 4:16; Acts 16:13).

God inspired Moses to record that the Sabbath is a sign between God and His people (Exodus 31:13, 17).

Later, the prophet Isaiah spoke of the observance of this Sabbath day:

“If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 58:13-14).

Not only are we exhorted to observe the seventh-day Sabbath, but Isaiah says we should delight in it! But isn’t the Sabbath a day of restrictions? Is it possible to enjoy keeping the Sabbath?

A test commandment

The Fourth Commandment has been referred to as a test commandment. As much as or more than any other, it immediately and significantly affects one’s lifestyle. On this one day of the week, I was no longer to do my normal work or be involved in recreational activities common to the way I had previously lived. Friday nights and Saturdays were the main times I spent with my friends. This was also when most sports were played in school, college and professionally.

But I had reached the place in my life where I decided, if God said to do it, I must do it, even though it would mean giving up a number of activities I found pleasurable and even though it might put my job in jeopardy. So began a weekly custom of ceasing many activities that previously were very much a part of my life.

While giving up these things was challenging, I discovered many blessings came with the Sabbath. In the midst of this stressful world, I enjoyed time to rest and refocus on the most important things. I was able to spend time with people of like mind in fellowship and worship. I discovered that the Sabbath can also be a blessing for families.

Personal sacrifices

One of Jesus’ disciples spoke to Him of what he perceived as personal sacrifices he was making in order to follow Him. Jesus reassured him that those sacrifices were more than worth it.

Thousands have come to see that, no matter what one may have to give up to walk by God’s laws, He always gives us something better to replace it.“Then Peter said, ‘See, we have left all and followed You.’ So He said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life’” (Luke 18:28-30).

Losing family and friends?

By this time, you might be thinking: If I start obeying God’s laws, it is going to take me away from my friends and maybe even some of my family. I’ll wind up isolating myself from so many who were a part of my life. Who would I have left to hang out with, to enjoy doing things with?

Peter writes of how such changes affect former relationships and how we should view them: “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

“For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you” (1 Peter 4:1-4, English Standard Version).

Not only might friends be surprised to see you change, they might, in some cases, turn against you.

Benefits of obedience

After the crucifixion, when Christ was about to depart from His disciples to return to His Father, He made a most encouraging promise. “I will not leave you orphans” (John 14:18). Not only would He send the gift of His Spirit, but also as He had earlier stated, He would give them many new friends and a spiritual family.

“So Jesus answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life’” (Mark 10:29-30).

Thousands have come to see that, no matter what one may have to give up to walk by God’s laws, He always gives us something better to replace it.

“But as it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him’” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

But, of course, it takes faith not only to believe it, but faith to step out and prove it. As God says of tithing, “Try Me now in this . . . if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).

Things that hold you back

Fear of the unknown often holds people back from doing new things that might improve their lives.

Could there be something holding you back from a new, different and better life? Are you concerned about the loss of the friends you currently have, or what they might think? Are you fearful of how such a change might affect your job or career? Or that you might not meet all the requirements of such a new, different way of life?

Such fears were common to all who stepped out and began their spiritual journey before you. But they had come to believe God’s promises that in doing so, they would gain far more than they would lose. They also understood that a loving God would never ask them to do something that was impossible. Through God’s mercy and the help of His Spirit, they would be able to live by all that was required of them.

“Blessed is the man [or woman] who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1:1-3).

Take those first steps. We can say, based on the certainty of God’s Word, it will be worth it!

About the Author

Bruce Gore

Bruce Gore

Bruce Gore served as a pastor for more than 50 years in the Church of God. He grew up in the South on a farm and met his wife to be at college in Pasadena, California. Bruce and Phyllis were married for more than 50 years before her death in 2019. They had four children and 14 grandchildren.

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