It is very common to hear statements amongst Christians such as, ‘This life is not easy’ or ‘It is not easy being a Christian’. Now, we all agree that there is a cost to being a Christian, however, the cost is usually not what is in view. A type of burden is usually assumed. So we now ask, ‘Is being a Christian burdensome? The book of 1 John 5:1-5 is helpful here to aid us answer the question, as well, as to give guidance to liberate Christians from this assumed burden. John Piper’s reflection on the passage is helpful, and I will borrow his thoughts on the matter.
Read 1 John 5:1-5 before moving on
This passage tells us that the commandments of God are not burdensome. Why not? Because “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” Here is our roadmap for the journey, telling us how to get to the point in our lives where the commandments of God are not a burden, but a joy.
Verse 4 says that two things overcome the world: 1) everyone who has been born of God, and 2) our faith. And verse 1 sets out the relationship between faith and new birth (being born again): “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God”. So our new birth gives rise to faith in the promises of God, this faith overcomes the world, and that overcoming takes away the burdensomeness of the commandments of God.
How does this work? What is the connection between the burdensomeness of the commandments of God and the world? It seems to be two-fold. The commandments of God are burdensome to us on the one hand because the world tempts us to believe that obeying God’s commandments is not as satisfying as disobeying them (and we naturally tend to agree with the world). On the other hand, there is something in us that loves to agree with the world. Before the new birth (before one is born again) we are “from the world” (1 John 4:5). Anything contrary to the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life is a great burden and folly to unregenerate man. [Hence, we enjoyed the things of the world].
- It’s a burden to be sexually pure if you believe the message of the world that fornication or adultery really will give you more satisfaction.
- It’s a burden to be honest on your tax returns if you believe the message of the world that more money will bring you satisfaction.
- It’s a burden to witness to a colleague if you believe the message of the world that Christians are foolish and that getting egg on your face [to being mocked] is to be avoided at all costs.
- It’s a burden to say, ‘I’m sorry; I was wrong,’ if you believe the message of the world that more satisfaction comes from keeping up the front of strength.
But if the world could be overcome, then the commandments of God would not be burdensome. They would be the way of joy and peace and satisfaction. What can overcome the temptations of the world? What can unmask the lies of the world?
God can. And he does it by causing us to be born again so that we can see the infinite superiority of the promises of Christ over the promises of the world. The result is that we trust Christ and by trusting him overcome the temptations of the world.
Faith says to every temptation of the world, ‘No. Begone! I know where true satisfaction is to be found. God has loved me with an infinite love. He promises to work everything together for good for those who love him. He withholds no good thing from those who walk uprightly. Nothing you offer can compare to the joy of his fellowship now and the glory to be revealed hereafter. World, you have lost your power. I have become the glad slave of a Good Master. His yoke is easy and the burden of his commandments is light.’
[Hence, the commandments of God are not burdensome when truly we have been born again and are walking rightly, following Christ in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Instead of a burden, there is actually joy and contentment in such a soul; even when difficulties do come, such a soul is truly sorrowful, yet rejoicing. And dear saints that is how we shock this burdensome world and point all who are watching us to the Saviour.]
 John Piper, Astonished by God (Minneapolis, 2018), pp. 129-131.