Sunday Sermon: Not That Heavy

It was a short walk, maybe about 10 steps, from my bedroom to the kitchen where my mom would sit at the table. Often I would make those few steps to go to her with a question on how to do something.

How do I solve this problem? How do I answer this question? How do I get out of this bit of trouble?

We all go to our parents, especially our mothers, for assistance, because we trust them and know that they will help us. So, we go with our questions looking for help and trusting that our mothers will try to lead us in the right direction.

So it is with questions in mind as we gather today. I think all of us gather for worship each Sunday with a very basic question on our hearts. That question is this: How do we live this life that Jesus desires? In other words, how are we to follow what Christ desires for us today in a world filled with all of its challenges, obligations, and influences?

Without a doubt, following Jesus is the hardest thing we will ever do in our life. It is not easy. We desperately wish that the life of Christ is as easy as saying we believe. Sometimes we think that once we believe, we should have it all figured out about what we are to say, what we are to believe, and what we are to do. Yet, it is not that easy, no matter how hard we wish it is. Following Jesus will stretch us. Following Jesus will confuse us. Following Jesus will change everything about us, so that we will be a different person as a result of our faith in God and how that faith impacts our life.

Questions about how to live this life out are perfectly acceptable. If we didn’t have questions about faith and what this life means, then we would not want to be challenged or pushed by our love of Christ.

The one thing about questions is that they need discernment and an attempt to find answers. We come to look at this passage from 1 John 5:1-5, seeking the answers to this question that we have about how do we life this life out. We want to open ourselves to the presence of the Holy Spirit to discern what God wants us to hear from these words. As we read this passage, we get a sense that we live this life by holding together our love of God and each other with a desire to follow what God desires for us.

This passage is a perfect place for us to seek some guidance with our question of how to live this life that Christ desires, because the people to whom John was originally writing wrestled with similar questions. They were starting this community that we now know as Christianity and doubts were already starting to come up about who Jesus truly is. Connected to this were questions about what Jesus’ teachings meant for our daily lives and the life of this new community.

Sound familiar to our question, does it not? John takes their questions and he openly engages them. John shows us that questions of faith are not to be run from, but to be engaged with the loving hope of seeking Jesus’ true desires and wishes for us. Engaging our questions often leads us to a deeper intimacy and trust with God.

John opens his expression of what this life means and how we live out our faith by calling to mind the community that we are born into. By our faith in Jesus, we become members of a new family. This is the family of God and the kingdom of God. We become part of God’s family and have become his children. That identity of being part of God’s family is centered on the idea of love. Love that is expressed towards God and each other.

We are called to be people who love God and love all of God’s children. That means that we live out this life by expressing the same love God shares with us, the love we express for God, with one another. We are to love each other with acceptance, hope, and a connection that is expressed to all of God’s children. We are not selective with our love, but express it just as God has shared it with us.

At the same time, John builds on the idea of love through an understanding of the commands from Scripture, the Old Testament. Not only are we called to love God and one another, but we are to also be obedient to what God desires for us. Faith means holding in relationship the idea of loving God and each other with being obedient to the truth of God’s word.

This is a message we see through Scripture. One of the primary ways we love God is by living in adherence, obedience, to God’s truth. Moses led the people of Israel to hold these two ideas together, especially in the message of Deuteronomy where the people are reminded of their covenant with God before entering the Promised Land. At the same time, this was one of the primary messages that Jesus shared with his disciples, especially in his final moments with them before his arrest. Love is expressed through following God’s truth.

If we truly want to follow God and express our love of the Lord and for each other, then we will live with a desire to be obedient to what God desires. This is sometimes one of our hold backs in following Jesus. We will say things like, “Did God really mean for me to do this?” “Do I have to obey all of what God says,” or “All I have to do is believe. Faith doesn’t have to change my life.”

Each of these statements have a common theme to them. They are based on the idea that following God’s word is too difficult and burdensome. There is no doubt that Jesus’ words are hard and difficult, but John says they are not burdensome. What does he mean by that?

He means that following Jesus does not mean that we are met by an undue burden or a task that is without help. By this, he is drawing to mind some of the ways the Pharisees and Sadducees would interact with the words that we know as the Old Testament. They would place extra responsibilities and obligations on top of God’s desires and told the people they had to follow those desires if they really wanted to follow God’s will. In doing so, they would place an undue hardship or burden upon the people. It made it too difficult to follow what God desires.

Anytime we add something on top of God’s word, we are adding a burden upon Scripture. That is not an expression of love or obedience to God’s desires. When we try to make Scripture say something it does not say, when we try to adjust it to fix our own wishes, or when we make people do more than what Scripture says, we add a burden that Jesus does not place. We make following Jesus a burden. Jesus does not.

He does not, because Jesus is always with us. By our faith, Jesus walks with us and guides us, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, on how to live out the desires and teachings that he has before us. We often think that we are alone in trying to figure this life out, but the fact of the matter is that God is always there and God always walks with us in helping us follow his love and truth.

When we are reminded that Jesus is always with us, it allows us to experience Jesus’ victory that has overcome the world. Jesus’ victory is what his death and resurrection accomplished. He defeated the powers of this world that seek to hold us back by his love and grace. That victory is shared with us through faith and it is a victory that we claim as we seek to follow in Christ’s footsteps. Just as Jesus’ victory defeated the powers of this world, it allows us to overcome the things that seek to prevent us from following Jesus, whether they be our own fears, doubts, questions, or the obstacles the world tries to put before us.

Following Jesus’ desires is how we express our love of the Lord and for each other. The only way our faith is lived out in the world is by living for God in every aspect of our life, especially in our love of God, our love of each other, and our love for the world. If we truly want to live for Jesus, then we will seek to follow his words and desires with a loving devotion that claims his presence in our lives. Faith is best expressed when God’s children express their love of the Lord in how they live by God’s desires every day and in every relationship.

The good news is we are not alone in seeking to live this way. We do not follow God in a vacuum. We do not follow in isolation. God goes with us. God gives us the strength and ability to follow.

It is not too burdensome to follow Jesus. God will give you the ability and the tools to follow him. God has already given us the ability through the life of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit. All you have to do is to claim the victory, seek to love the Lord, and live with a desire to have everything about us shaped and informed by his love and truth.

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