1 John 5 | Joyful Obedience

1 John 5 | Joyful Obedience

Throughout his letter, John has tied together the love of God with the keeping of his commandments. He would have us know merely professing one loves God without expressing love through obedience is a misnomer. This is important in view of the fact a certain group of so-called believers in John’s day claimed God loved them and they loved God, while they lived lives of disobedience to God. John reminds us (again) those who love God will always keep his commandments.

Yet John then adds a powerful incentive for our obedience—“his commandments are not burdensome!” For many, the word commandment carries with it the notion of something difficult, requiring much sacrifice. John would have us know that the commandments of God are not a heavy thing at all but joyful for those who love God. The word burdensome in the text is a Greek term meaning ‘oppressive or difficult of observance, grievous, oppressive, afflictive, violent, strict, stern, severe,”

Where then do we get the idea that God’s commandments are hard and that living a life of obedience to God is difficult? This does not come from the Father but from the enemy of our souls who first suggested to our first parents in the Garden that God was a difficult taskmaster who was depriving them of something good by restraining them from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Ever since then he has worked hard to perpetuate the idea that keeping God’s commandments is difficult and burdensome. Multitudes of people live dutiful lives void of joy, persuaded that this is the lot of those who obey his commandments. Still others postpone coming to Jesus because they are persuaded that they want to derive all they can from life before they submit to God and give up all the fun.

Yet Scripture says “the way of the transgressor is hard.” It is not the keeping of the commandments of God that is difficult but living a life of disobedience that is really burdensome. In the Upper Room discourse, Jesus spoke of keeping the commandments of God in the same breath as he spoke of the joy that would be theirs because of obeying his commandments. This is where true joy lies. Are you living a life of joyful obedience? Or have you listened to the whispers of the enemy who tells us submitting to God is a difficult and burdensome thing?


  1. Mark Medley

    Thanks, Neil for reminding us that the commandments are an invitation into a joyful relationship with a good Father.

  2. Gareth Henderson

    Great word. I have found in my own life that the greatest motivating factor for sustaining a life in Him and for intimacy in the Godhead is His love.
    Every other thing that has moved me or motivated me has fallen to the wayside. It’s like Jesus’ yoke pushes off all other yokes. As the revelation of His love grows, my desire and obedience does as well. The process is beautiful and gentle. As He draws me after Himself, He deals with the sins and selfish clingings. (work of sanctification). I have found, as many have, that the pleasures He offers are far superior to the pleasures the world offers.

  3. Scott

    This is a well timed word from God Neil. It is so true that we can slip into the belief that those who follow their own desires are ‘free’ and we are the ones ‘obligated’ to obey and therefore in some type of bondage. Living a life given over to God is truly one of freedom. Through obedience to God’s laws I have freedom from guilt, shame, condemnation and the many penalties that accompany the sins my carnal mind would want me to follow. I also believe so many of our young people who grow up in the church struggle with this very thing because of the pressures they receive from all around them to do things their way. Many have to go into the world and experience for themselves the often times difficult price that come from the ‘freedom’ of doing things their own way. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Christine Cunningham

    I remember when I was a babe in Christ attending a very legalistic church. Condemnation came from the shepherd behind the pulpit every time we gathered. I remember thinking I could never be good enough! But God gave me my own little upper room in the attic of my grandparent’s house where I had the privilege of getting alone with God. He began showing me the truth of his love and the freedom that comes when we seek him and obey his commandments. Oh the joy that fills our hearts when we listen and obey! Thanks to all our leaders who are committed to teaching the truth!

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