Most of the time, serving God is a joy. Things carry a sense of satisfaction and purpose when I know I am in line with God’s will. And even if there is no human recognition or physical reward, I am content to trust that God’s way is best.
But sometimes it is just plain hard.
It’s that old struggle: flesh against spirit.
I know the right thing to do, but I so badly want to go my own way.
And everywhere, there are people rushing to placate my sinful urges. If I selfishly want to ignore my husband all evening when he gets home from work, losing myself in a book, someone will say it’s important for me to have alone time. If I yell at my kids in anger because they’ve broken something precious, someone will say I’m only human, and they deserve to feel the seriousness of their actions. If I eat more food than I need, out of greed rather than hunger, someone will be there, telling me I’ve had a hard week and I deserve to indulge in whatever makes me feel good.
The truth is I am only human. And yes, sinning does come naturally.
Praise God that in his grace, none of it is held against me when I do sin!
But God’s grace is not a license to sin. He has not paid the price for me freedom so that I can be free to sin as much as I want.
When Jesus extended grace to the woman caught in adultery, his words to her were:
“Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
And so, friends, when we do fall in sin, the correct response is not so-called “words of grace” that excuse the sin entirely, and make allowances for it. That is not really grace at all.
Grace is reminding each other (and ourselves!), “You are not condemned just because you messed up; God has already forgiven you. Next time, ask God for the strength to obey him.”
Sometimes obedience to God feels hard. Sometimes it feels unnatural. Sometimes it feels impossible.
But obedience to God is worship; it’s how we show God we love him:
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept 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.”
Yes! This is the way to true joy – loving God and keeping his commands.