The commands of God can be a heavy reality. The Lord calls us to love him above all things, to love others as ourselves, and to even love our enemies. We are commanded to be content in all circumstances without coveting, and to not only tell the truth but defend those who are maligned. As sinners who break all of these commands the law can be crushing. They show us the way to go, and then reveal that we are prone to go our own way (Rom 7).
For the unbeliever the law of God, if taken seriously, is a burden too great to bear. For the unbeliever the law not only commands and convicts, it also confounds and condemns. The Law stands true and bears witness against one’s sins leaving him or her without excuse before the face of God.
But, for the believer the law of God is not burdensome.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome.
1 John 5:3
The Apostle John’s words might not quite resonate with you and your experience of God’s law as a Christian, but let’s consider how King David spoke of God’s commands. In Psalm 19 and 119 David says he delights in God’s law, finds it “sweet”, comforting, and even reviving to the soul. The commands of God amount to a joyful song (Ps. 119:54)! His rules and statutes are not a burden to him.
The law of God is a burden to everyone under its curse, but a blessing to the people of God. How can this be?
The law is not a burden to the Christian because Jesus has fulfilled the law on our behalf. His obedience has replaced our disobedience. He kept God’s commands for sinners who have ignored God’s will. His righteousness has been credited to the unrighteous that in him we can become the righteousness of God. The law is no burden for the Christian because in Jesus we now measure up the standard God has given in his law.
And the law is not a burden to the Christian because Christ has not only given us his righteousness, but has taken our sinfulness on himself and paid the price of our lawbreaking on the cross. Jesus received our condemnation that we might be justified. The law is not a burden to the Christian because it no longer condemns us.
Yes, we continue to struggle to keep the law, but the law of God is not a burden. The sin that remains in us is the burden we bear. Paul’s frustration with his inability to keep the law is good (See Rom. 7:7-25). He lays the blame on himself, on his flesh. The law isn’t the problem, he is. And yet, even in the midst of his struggle he can praise God because the law no longer condemns him (Rom 8:1).
We hate our sin but love God’s law. It is, as Jesus says, an easy burden and a light yoke (Mt. 11:29-30).
The commands of God direct us both in seeing our need for a Savior and in the way God calls us to live. For the believer the commands of God are not burdensome. We can delight in them as we seek to keep them, even though we fail, for the law is now only a lamp to guide us in godliness.