No one enjoys being told what to do.
To those outside the Christian faith, the idea that God would lay claim to every part of my life—from what I do with my sex organs to where I spend my extra money—is oppressive and even repulsive. In the year 2015, obeying authority is uncool.
But there was one man who enjoyed being told what to do by God: Jesus Christ. Consider the crazy implications of Christ’s words before going to the cross: “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. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:10-11).
Realize what Jesus is saying here about his own joy in life. “I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” He found sheer delight in keeping God’s commands, and it was that same joy that he wanted to pass along to us.
Obedience is for Our Joy
Jesus is not saying that we must obey the Father’s commandments to merit his forgiveness and favor. We cannot; we are sinners by nature and subject by default to God’s wrath, not his love. God forgives us by placing our sin on Christ’s cross and crediting Christ’s perfect obedience to our account, which he does the moment we place our faith in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
But now that we are brought into such a relationship with God through Christ, how are we instructed to fully enjoy our adoptive Heavenly Father? The way Jesus did: though bedience!
Even for many of us Christians, following Christ feels at time to be a drudgery of dos and don’ts. We forget what Christ promised in these precious verses. We can loathe his lordship far too easily.
Yet Jesus isn’t the only example of someone who loved to obey God. It is possible for us to feel that same pleasure, because God puts that desire in the hearts of all his true children. Consider some of King David’s words: “I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me” (Psalm 16:7). “Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it” (Psalm 119:35). But how can David, who also committed adultery and murder, rejoice that God tells him what to do?
Consider what David says before he praises God’s commanding authority. In Psalm 16, the Lord is David’s only source of goodness in life (see v. 1). The Lord is David’s chosen lot—a vast, beautiful inheritance (v. 6). The Lord is the thirst-quenching drink in David’s cup, his chosen source of joy and strength (v. 5).
It is because David so highly prizes the richness of God that he delights so much in fellow believers (v. 3), while refusing to even associate with the hollow lives of those who reject all that God is for them (v. 4).
So perhaps the better question is: seeing and tasting of God’s goodness in this way, who wouldn’t “bless the Lord who gives [counsel]”? God’s instruction is not oppressive; it is the “path of life” and the way to “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore” (v. 11). Those pleasures are not the fleeting pleasures of sin, but the awesome brilliance of a loving relationship with God through Christ.
God leads you not merely for the sake of exercising authority over you. He leads you to himself to experience delight in him.
Learning to Love Lordship
If we despise and reject God’s commandments and his authority over our behavior, it is because we have simply forgotten that fellowship with him is our ultimate good.
Understanding God’s goodness is not something we can naturally do on our own. We are far too blinded by our sinful nature and the false promises of worldly satisfaction around us. It is only in Christ that God illumines your heart supernaturally that you can perceive how good he truly is for you.
That light-bulb moment of realizing God’s goodness comes through seeing Christ and what he did to save us. That the holy God of the Universe added a human body to himself and became lowly, just to suffer and die the way you deserve as a sinful human, is the electricity that the Holy Spirit uses to defibrillate your dead heart that rejects God’s authority.
Without that jolt that replaces a stony heart with a beating heart that is capable of knowing God’s goodness, it is impossible to follow God’s commands—much less enjoy them.
Examine yourself. Don’t white-knuckle your way to obedience. Consider the goodness of God. Know that his leadership of your life is his means of drawing you to all of the goodness found only in him. And obey, that your joy may be full.
Image credit: True New Zealand Adventure Tours (CC 2.0)