When you’re in religion, you obey God’s commands; but they are a burden to you. You keep them; but deep down, you hate them. The Pharisees were known for dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” when it came to God’s law. But they were also constantly looking for loopholes to get out from under God’s law (Matthew 23:16-22; Mark 7:1-13).
Consider these verses:
Psalm 119:47, “For I delight in your commands because I love them”
1 John 5:2-3 “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”
When you’re in religion, you memorize these verses, you teach these verses, but you don’t live these verses. You don’t experience them. You don’t truly delight in or love God’s commands. God’s law is secretly your enemy because deep down you know you’re powerless to keep them perfectly and so they just become a source of frustration for you.
The Gospel is altogether different.
When you’re in the Gospel, the commandments are not what we do to gain God’s acceptance, but what we do because we have a God who has already accepted us! We are no longer under the law but under grace. The commandments are not an obligation to drag our feet through, but a way to express our love and gratitude for a God who has saved us and brought us into a relationship with Himself through faith in Jesus Christ. They are not chains to keep us down, but wings to set us free.
When we think of commandments, we think of things that confine, restrain, and restrict. We think that God’s commands hinder our joy rather than producing it. When in reality, God’s commands are like tracks for a train. Sure a train would be “free” if you put it on the beach and left it in the sand. It wouldn’t be “restrained” or “restricted” to the tracks. But it wouldn’t run either. It’s precisely by binding the train to its tracks that a train is free to do what it was made to do. A train runs best, fastest, and freest, not when it is released to the sand but when it is confined to tracks.
In the Gospel, God’s commands are not a burden but a gift freeing us to live the life we were created to live. A good litmus test for your heart is to ask why you keep God’s commands? Not do you keep them, but why? Not just do you obey God’s commands but do you love them?