The God of Yes
The God of Yes
A number of people are either confused by the following statements or strongly disagree with them:
- “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
- “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).
In response to the above statements a good number of people in the world might object to the affirmation that Jesus’ yoke is light or that the commands in Scripture are not a burden. They might say something like, “Wait a minute, isn’t the Bible a book that is constantly telling us what we can’t do and thus limiting our freedom right and left?” Is the idea that the God revealed in the Bible is a God who issues far more negative commands than positive ones an accurate view of what the Bible teaches?
In the Garden
When God gave instructions to the original couple I find that He gave only one negative command (Genesis 2:17). Yet, I find that He gave many positive commands or freedoms: The freedom to procreate (1:28), to subdue the earth (1:28), to with one exception, liberally consume everything He had designed as food (2:16), and to cultivate and keep the garden (2:15). Even the commands to leave father and mother and cleave to a wife were privileges and openings for a freer and fuller life rather than what might restrict freedom.
The Ten Commandments
Included at least two positive commands, that is to honor father and mother (Exodus 20:12), and keep the Sabbath, which was a day of rest (20:9-11). In effect, God was saying, “I don’t want you working all the time”. Here is a timely example of how, when our perspective is off that we can end up viewing something that was supposed to be a great blessing as a burden. In the time of Amos, instead of appreciating this day of rest from a long work week, many Israelites could not wait until the Sabbath was over (Amos 8:5). So, take care, when you yield to sin you can even end up resenting and messing a really good thing. As far as the rest of the Ten Commandments, i.e., the prohibition against idolatry, murder, adultery, stealing, lying and coveting, those are attitudes and actions that any emotionally and mentally healthy individual would want to avoid. In fact, no normal person would ever want to live in a culture where such things are both common place and lawful.
What is the Great Commandment?
When Jesus was confronted with the question, “What is the great commandment in the Law?”, He responded with two positive commands:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:37-39). Then He would add, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (22:40). In other words, every command, both positive or negative that God has ever given in the Old Testament fits into either a manifestation of a love for God or love for others, or both. Observe, that according to Jesus, a negative injunction such as, “Thou shalt not steal” is part of a positive command. If you really love others, you will not steal from them. Paul said it this way, “Love does not wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10).
The Good News/The Positives
Instead of being book of depressing or negative news, the Bible actually contains a lot of great news. For example:
You were not born a Sinner
Adam’s transgression in the Garden did not automatically taint or condemn you. His transgression brought sin into the world, but, whether or not you sin is your own choice (Romans 5:12). The only sins that can condemn you are the sins that you commit (Ephesians 2:1). Neither did any of the sins of your past ancestors or even the sins of your parents (Ezekiel 18:20). Rather, you were born into this world pure and innocent (1 Corinthians 14:20).
Fate Does Not Determine Your Future
Jesus would have never said, “Come to Me” (Matthew 11:28) if all our choices had already been determined before we were born. In like manner Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate” (Matthew 7:13). There are ultimately only two future realities, that is, heaven or hell (Matthew 25:46), yet I have been given just like everyone else the power to choose between them these two fates.
Genetics and Upbringing Do not Rule You
You are not solely at the mercy of the chemicals flowing through your body. The poor choices of your ancestors do not result in a doomed future for yourself. In fact, God actually addresses such an issue: “What do you mean by using this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying ‘The fathers eat the sour grapes, but the children’s teeth are set on edge?’ As I live, declares the Lord God, you are surely not going to use this proverb in Israel anymore” (Ezekiel 18:2-3). Then God quickly gives a couple of examples that were contrary to the theory of the time, particularly He describes a very evil man (18:10-14) who has a son and the son “observed all his father’s sins which he committed, and observing does not do likewise” (18:14).
You Do Not Need a Perfect Environment
Many of the early Christians had come from extremely difficult and tough backgrounds (Titus 3:3; 1 Peter 4:1ff). When they heard the good news, it was often mixed with opposition and persecution (1 Thessalonians 1:6). Frequently, their upbringing had been one of darkness (1 Peter 1:18). So, you do not have to hear the gospel under perfect circumstances. Neither do you need ideal circumstances to overcome temptation or grow spiritually (1 Peter 4:12; 16; 5:10; 2 Peter 3:18). The early Christians found themselves surrounded by darkness, opposition, temptation, false teachers, error, false brethren, church problems and persecution, and yet many of them thrived.
You Have a Willing Spirit
While in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus admonished His tired and sleeping disciples and said, “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38). This is one more reminder that there is part of us, a very important part of us that is created in the image of God (James 3:9). Or as Solomon noted that God created man with eternity in his heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). I believe the point can be made that all human beings have part of them that wants to be good, wants to do the right thing, and wants to move towards God. Not only would such be the result if every human being was made in the image of God, but equally the fact that when people go into sin they end up hardening their heart or searing their conscience (Ephesians 4:18-19 “having become callous”). In order to remain in sin, you just have to harden your heart, you must silence the voice of that willing spirit or you couldn’t live with yourself.
For Ordinary People
When Paul spoke of the segment of the population that had responded to the gospel, it was that portion that included regular, ordinary and everyday people. “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong” (1 Corinthians 1:26-27).
You Do Not Have To Do It Alone
God designed a relationship with Him that includes the church, a body of people in which we can be edified, strengthened, equipped, taught, supported, corrected and encouraged (Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:11-14).
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017