Beloved, His Commands Are Not Burdensome

Dear friends,

That’s the phrase that John used often in 1 John.  Dear children…beloved.  It reflects the love he has for the people he is writing to, the people who he loves because Jesus has first loved us.  The target audience that John was writing to were believers in Christ, people who had confessed that Jesus is the One who is light and in whom they walk and live.  The people who are trusting in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sin, and who know that even when they do sin, that Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for their sins (1 John 2:1-2).

It is in that same tone of deep love that I write this letter to you, the one who claims to follow and trust in Jesus.  I am not writing to those of you who don’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior yet.  I pray you will someday, but it is incorrect for me to assume that you want to align your life with the things of God, when you don’t personally know that God through a saving relationship with Jesus yet.

Instead, I’m writing to those who claim to know and love Jesus, and at the same time, find themselves living with their boyfriend or girlfriend, or their fiancé or fiancée.  Before you close this internet tab hear me out.

As Christ followers, our identity has been made new in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Through Christ, we are children of God, adopted by His grace, redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and sealed and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1).  As followers of Jesus, we are given a new heart and a new Spirit is put within us.  And now our focus is not to live for ourselves, but for Jesus and the glory and honor of God, the One who saved and rescued us (2 Corinthians 5:15).  One way we live for God is to obey His Word.

1 John 5:3:  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

So Jesus says the greatest thing we can do as Christians is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:34-40).  And then John says to the beloved in 1 John 5:3, that one way we love God is to keep His commandments.  But note that His commandments are not burdensome.  So God is not a cosmic killjoy.  He is not a Debbie downer.

But rather, His commands are intended to bring joy, freedom, delight, and rest (Psalm 16:11).  His ways lead to life.  Our selfish ways, even when they appear to be right, lead to destruction (Proverbs 14:12).

Marriage, romance, intimacy, and sex.  None of those were created by man.  They aren’t marketing schemes or creations of the human heart.  But rather, they were created by God Himself.  He is the designer of marriage and all that it entails.  And before you think God is some prude, consider that Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed in the garden.  That is God’s heart for a marriage.  That there would be freedom, and no shame in the midst of a lifelong covenant relationship between one man and one woman.  And if you still think God doesn’t consider romance and intimacy important or part of His plan, you should read the Song of Solomon, especially chapter 4.  Seriously, you should.

And even more than marital romance, marriage between a husband and wife is intended to be a picture of something much greater.  A picture of the Church being the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27), and our groom, Jesus, is forever faithful to His people.

So again, the Lord and His commands and ways are not burdensome.  But rather, the Lord is out for your joy and delight.  The enemy is out to steal, kill and destroy.  Jesus desires you to find abundant life in Him and His ways, not just in this life, but for eternity (John 10:10)

In our culture, we have cheapened the significance of a covenant marriage relationship.  The culturally normal thing to do is to date, then move in together, and then maybe, eventually, at some point, when we get around to it…get married.  But in doing so, we have removed the beautiful mystery and adventure of a man and woman, being joined in marriage and then beginning to live life together, as one flesh, no longer two (Genesis 2:24-25).

All that beautiful mystery is removed when we do it our way and just move in together.  In a sense, we are saying to our Lord, I think your ideas and words on marriage are decent, but…I’ve got a better way.  We elevate our ways higher than His ways, and in doing so, reveal that our hearts are not fully trusting in Him.  We may say we are trusting in Him for our salvation, but then intentionally and willfully choosing to live how we want to live.  And in doing so, we must ask ourselves the question, do we really know Jesus?  And that is not my question, but the question that John asks in 1 John 3:6.

Sex outside of a husband and wife covenant marriage relationship is continually declared as sin throughout Scripture (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20, Colossians 3:5-6, Ephesians 5:5, and others).

And you might say, well what if we live together, but we don’t have sex?  Two thoughts…one is that you clearly have more trust in your sinful flesh than I do in mine.  Jesus said the flesh was weak (Mark 14:38), and from my own life, I wholeheartedly agree.  Jesus teaches us to pray, lead us not into temptation (Matthew 6:13), and yet when we live together, it would seem we are really not asking the Lord to keep us from temptation.  Instead the Bible calls us to flee from temptation (2 Timothy 2:22, 1 Corinthians 10:13).  So when tempted, we escape, we avoid, and we run away (Genesis 39)!

My other thought on if you live together and yet abstain from sex is that your testimony for Christ to the world around you is still hindered and hypocritical.  The world around you is still assuming you’re having sex.  As Christ followers, we are to shine like stars (Philippians 2:15) and live honorable lives among our unsaved neighbors and friends so that we might reach them (1 Peter 2:12).

To live a life that reflects Christ doesn’t mean we are perfect or pretend to be.  It does mean though that we are seeking to be holy, because God is holy (1 Peter 1:16).  We are pursuing to live a life that honors the Lord in all things, not just some.  Keep in mind, this decision to move out and to no longer live together is ultimately not just about you.  It is also about your unsaved friends who are watching your way of life in Christ.  If you have children (no matter their age or if they are an adult) it is about their future and the example you are setting for them now.  They need to see a mom and/or a dad, who is not just talking the talk, but walking the walk, and giving the Biblical reason(s) why.

According to a recent study, more than 60% of first marriages are now preceded by living together, compared to virtually none 50 years ago.  If you’ve been divorced before, the justification for living together outside of marriage goes up dramatically.

And there are a variety of reports out there on the effects on a future marriage and/or children because a couple lived together.  Various conclusions could be made from the stats, but what you will not find is consistent evidence that living together before marriage actually helped couples prepare for marriage.  Or that it led to a more successful marriage.  In fact, what you’ll find is the opposite.  So your justification of ‘trying it out to see if the relationship will work’ just isn’t valid.

You might be thinking, do you realize what it would cost us financially to have to move out, or it would just be such a hassle?  Yes, I’m aware.  But at the end of the day, I’m much more concerned about your spiritual and relational health, than your financial health.  Financial strife can be easily overcome compared to spiritual and relational hurt.

And if finances or finding a place to stay for the months leading up to the marriage is the only thing in your way then let’s talk.  In the past, we’ve had Crosspointers offer up temporary space in their house to serve a couple in this way.  Years ago, Heather and I had a friend stay with us until her wedding day, because her home wasn’t nearby and finances were tight.  So just know you’ve got a church family that loves you and is available to love you in the most practical of ways.  It would be unloving to call you to change, but then offer no help for you to make that change.  This is one way we are dedicated to one another as the family of God.

Listen, I’m not asking you to change because of stats though.  Last time I checked, reports and statistics are not life changing and heart transforming, and aren’t always interesting either.  I am asking you to change because of the faith in Christ that you profess.  I’m asking you to repent.  And repent simply means to change your mind and agree with God on what His Word says and then align your life accordingly.

Sex outside of marriage is like drywall mud.  It covers cracks in the relationship, but eventually the crack will reappear.  The sex is actually keeping you from working on the issues in your relationship that need to be worked on prior to entering into a covenant marriage.  Sex is giving the illusion that everything is fine, when it may not be.

And you might read this encouragement and go what an old fashioned prude.  Or do you realize how hard it would be to stop being intimate?  Uh…yes.  Steinbeck, are you some sort of killjoy?  Not at all.  Rather what I want you to see is that what you’re doing now is killing your lifelong joy.  I’ve been married nearly 20 years.  Believe me; I’m all about a marriage that is romantic, affectionate, and full of physical intimacy.

But it starts with doing it God’s ways.  He’s the designer of the marriage relationship and the giver of the gift of sex, intimacy and friendship, so trust in Him and His Word.  He knows what He is talking about, infinitely more than you and I do.  Turn from the sin, agree with God’s ways and commands, and trust in Him.  It is for your good and joy, and for His glory.  And I know some of you might say, well, our story is different.  Or we’ll beat the odds.  Listen, you don’t beat the odds by proudly doing things according to your ways.  You beat the odds by humbly trusting in the Lord’s ways instead.

Beloved, His commands are not burdensome, but for your joy and His glory.