As followers of Christ, our greatest delight will always be found in our obedience to His Word.
Jesus said, “If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (Jn. 15:10-11). In this statement Jesus links obedience and joy in a cause and effect manner; that is, joy results from obedience. Only those who are obedient – who are pursuing holiness as a way of life – will know the joy that comes from God.
Where love is the compelling power, there is no sense of strain or conflict or bondage in doing what is right: the man or woman who is compelled by Jesus’ love and empowered by His Spirit does the will of God from the heart.
Prior to our faith in the pardoning grace of the cross, the law ultimately could only be a condemnation code specifying the reasons for our death penalty. Now that Christ has paid that penalty, however, the Law is a map of blessing showing how those God has made right with Himself can further experience His love, bring honor to the One they love, and share His love with others. Understanding that the Law no longer condemns but guides us to spiritual safety, worship and fellowship makes its standards a delight, and indicates why antinomianism shackles God’s people to unhappiness. Denying people access to God’s path of spiritual safety is a contradiction of grace.
Genuine obedience is an act of delight-driven duty. The greatest way to honor the one who commands is not to obey because one must, but to do what is required with joy, having willingly given oneself to his authority.
When the law of God is written in our hearts, our duty will be our delight.
The faithful, effective Christian life, however is not simply a great emotional adventure filled with wonderful feelings and experiences. It is first of all the humble pursuit of God’s truth and will and of conformity to it. The obedient Christian experiences joy and satisfaction beyond measure, far exceeding that of superficial believers who constantly seek spiritual “highs.” Life in Christ is not sterile and joyless. But true joy, happiness, satisfaction, and all other such feelings are by-products of knowing and obeying God’s truth.
Tell the men of the world, and, let them see by your example and spirit, that Christianity is not the gloomy thing they imagine – that a life of holiness is a life of real happiness – of happiness for time and for eternity. But, oh! tell them, there is something gloomy – the joy, which blazes for a moment like a dazzling meteor, and then vanishes forever – the hopes, which are dependent on worldly possessions and worldly pleasures.
Not only is disinterested morality (doing good “for its own sake”) impossible; it is undesirable. That is, it is unbiblical because it would mean that the better a man became the harder it would be for him to act morally. The closer he came to true goodness the more naturally and happily he would do what is good. A good man in Scripture is not the man who dislikes doing good but toughs it out for the sake of duty. A good man loves kindness (Mic. 6:8) and delights in the law of the Lord (Ps. 1:2) and the will of the Lord (Ps. 40:8). But how shall such a man do an act of kindness disinterestedly? The better the man, the more joy in obedience.
Joy is not just the spin-off of obedience to God, but part of obedience. It seems as though people are willing to let joy be a byproduct of our relationship to God, but not an essential part of it. People are uncomfortable saying that we are duty-bound to pursue joy. They say things like, “Don’t pursue joy, pursue obedience.” But Christian Hedonism responds, “That’s like saying, ‘Don’t eat apples; eat fruit.'” Because joy is an act of obedience. We are commanded to rejoice in God. If obedience is doing what God commands, then joy is not merely the spin-off of obedience, it is obedience. The Bible tells us over and over to pursue our joy (Psm. 32:11; 37:4; 67:4; Lk. 10:20; Phil. 4:4).
People say to me, isn’t Christianity about following (implied: outdated and meaningless) rules? No! It’s about following Jesus which means living according to His nature so that our relationship with Him will be strong and our lives will be blessed. Don’t buy the lie! Not following Him is slavery. Following Him is liberation. Those weighed down with the most anxiety, guilt, shame and fear in life are those who are following Christ the least. External rules are a burden. There is no power to obey them. Rules do not change a heart. Our Lord changes our hearts. He gives us grace-empowerment. He provides purpose in doing it His way.
I cannot conceive it possible for anyone truly to receive Christ as Savior and yet not to receive him as Lord. A man who is really saved by grace does not need to be told that he is under solemn obligations to serve Christ. The new life within him tells him that. Instead of regarding it as a burden, he gladly surrenders himself – body, soul, and spirit- to the Lord who has redeemed him, reckoning this to be his reasonable service.
Obedience rendered without delight in rendering it is only half obedience.
I do not know when I am more perfectly happy than when I am weeping for sin at the foot of the cross.
I would sooner be holy than happy if the two things could be divorced. Were it possible for a man always to sorrow and yet to be pure, I would choose the sorrow if I might win the purity, for to be free from the power of sin, to be made to love holiness, is true happiness.
No man should desire to be happy who is not at the same time holy. He should spend his efforts in seeking to know and do the will of God, leaving to Christ the matter of how happy he should be.