Freed to enjoy God forever: A reflection on God’s commands for obedience

How we feel about the imperatives in Scripture reveals much about the condition of our hearts. For those whose hearts are hard, commands seem like unwarranted intrusions into our otherwise free living. Christians who have been softened by the grace of God see God’s commands in a different light. When the light of the cross of Christ is shed upon these imperatives, they become less drudgery and more joy. That’s why the apostle can write such a shocking statement in 1 John 5:3 “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” Well, if they’re not burdensome, what are they? They’re our joy.

When we get down to the basics, Christianity is quite simple. Christians are people who have realized that they’ve dumbly been walking toward eternal hellfire and having discovered that they’re desperate and determined to do whatever it takes to escape. They hate sin and its effects, so they not only cling to Christ for salvation from the eternal punishment of sin but they also cling to the Word for salvation from the immediate consequences of sin. They seek salvation from hell and despair. They’re not content to wait for the joys of heaven; they do all they can to bring the joys of heaven down.

And that’s why Christians love obedience.

Obedience releases us from the tangles of sin and frees us to enjoy God forever.

I treasure all the commands I find in Scripture because behind them I hear the voice of a loving Father telling me where to find true joy.

Obedience is often seen as a straight jacket. Born-again believers, who have been given eyes to see the greatness of the glory of Christ, see obedience as a treasure map. It doesn’t restrict me from pleasure, it enables me to find that which is my heart’s greatest delight—Christ.

 

Obedience and its effects on the soul

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth…love one another earnestly” (1 Peter 1:22)

When we obey the truth the soul is purified, its size enlarged, its capacity for joy deepens. We are less enthralled with trivialities, more in awe of truly important things, and we are enabled to love, because love is the overflow of joy in God.

When we disobey the truth the soul is tainted, it shrinks in size, its capacity for joy shrivels, it is more easily lured by the lusts of the flesh, and it is unable to love—being preoccupied with itself.

Here’s the lesson: obey. It’s good for you.

 

Why you’re suffering

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Look at that little clause: if necessary. Peter is saying that suffering only happens if it’s necessary. Necessary? Trials are necessary? Pain is  necessary? Necessary for what? Who decides if it’s necessary?

God decides.

Yes, God– in his infinite and perfect wisdom, deems how much suffering we need to go through. And he is not wrong.  He decides flawlessly.

O, There is so much hope in those two little words! First, we see that every single ounce of suffering is necessary to maximize God’s glory and our good. Second, we see that God will never put us through unnecessary suffering. What reason to rejoice! God has allotted for us the perfect amount of pain in this life– not too much, and not too little– in order to shape us toward Christ-likeness.  When you’re suffering, know this: it’s necessary!

Sometimes languishing Christians don’t respond well to other Christians trying to encourage them with the truth of God’s good use of trials in their life. They respond “I already know that!” or “I already learned that lesson!” Here, God says, if you’re suffering, there’s yet a lesson to be learned. None of us have arrived, and therefore, none of us are exempt from the seminary of suffering.

So when you’re suffering, be thankful that God is giving you what you need for Christ-likeness. And seek to understand what God is teaching you.

Let none of us despise the discipline of God, for

“the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.” Proverbs 3:12

Are you a suffering Christian?

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith– more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire– may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7

Here, Peter is motivating these persecuted Christians to suffer well by encouraging them that their suffering will result in Jesus’ exaltation, not by encouraging them that their earthly suffering will cease. In other words, Peter believes that our suffering is worth it as long as it brings Jesus glory. And he thinks we should feel that way too– rejoice in suffering.

He is assuming that our deepest longing is not for comfort, but to see Christ exalted. Because if that’s true of us, we can rejoice in our sufferings because they glorify God. Period.

We cannot suffer well if we want something more than to see Jesus glorified. If I want comfort more that God’s glory, I will be angry at God when he takes away my comfort. If I want money more than God to be exalted, I will be angry at God when I can’t make the budget work. If I want my life to go according to my plan, I will not be able to suffer well, because when God, in his grace, “ruins our plans,” we will be so audacious even to question the goodness of our Creator. As if he violated our rights.

This is not only a theological point to be agreed with, this is a standard by which we can measure our hearts. The times we feel most depressed, most angry with God, most unsatisfied with life– these are the times we need to reevaluate what our hearts are loving most.

Peter reminds us to endure suffering with joy, because, in the end, God will be glorified.