If the Christian life were the easiest that there is, men would flock to the banner of the cross by the millions. But it isn’t, and Jesus warned His disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’ Matthew 16:24
Yet, the Christian journey is filled with joys that more than compensate for all of our self-denial. Still, we should be fully aware of the duties which must be performed if we are to be saved. We would be ingrates indeed if we refused to bear the responsibilities God has given us while accepting his divine blessings.
Christian duties are not as heavy as we might think. Jesus said, ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ Matthew 11:29-30
John further teaches, ‘In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.’ 1 John 5:3
However, the yoke of Christ may become heavy if it is worn in the wrong way. Jesus intends that we serve him willingly and joyfully. As one comes to love Christ more and more, the service he renders to him becomes more a pleasure and less a duty.
If we consider it only as an onerous obligation and not a privilege, it will become burdensome. Yet, the devout Christian will find that because he loves his Heavenly Father and desires to worship him, his duty is transformed into pleasure.
Again, giving of one’s financial means to the Lord is a duty. One may say, ‘How little can I give and still be saved?’
If he approaches his duty in this way, it will be hard to bear because he will begrudge every penny that he gives. On the other hand, if he truly loves the Lord he will say, ‘How much can I give because I love him?’
He derives pleasure from giving and regards it as a privilege rather than an obligation.
On one occasion a lawyer asked Jesus, ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’ Matthew 22:36-40
These commandments are so great because they involve our two major relationships, with God and with our fellowmen. All other commandments are related to these. For example, we are to seek first the kingdom of God, Matthew 6:33.
But if we truly love God with all our heart, soul and mind, we will do this. We are forbidden to steal, Romans 13:9. But if we love our neighbour as ourselves we would not think of taking what belongs to him. The commands to love God and love our neighbour involve our duties to them. Consider some responsibilities that we have because we love God.
When tempting Jesus, Satan asked Christ to worship him. To this, the Lord replied, ‘It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’ Luke 4:8
True worship is the reverence and veneration which we extend by our actions and thoughts to God. We may worship him publicly in company with other Christians, and we may do so privately as in personal prayer. It is the duty of Christians to worship in both ways.
One’s private worship will include his study of God’s word and his communion with God in prayer. No Christian should neglect or forsake these acts of consecration as they are means of drawing us to our Heavenly Father.
However, some mistakenly think that private worship is a substitute for the worship we extend to God when in the company of other Christians. It is not. In Hebrews 10:24-25 we are commanded, ‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’
This refers to the assembly of Christians for worship. If we allow other things to interfere with our public worship of God, we are neither performing our duty nor exercising our privilege of venerating the Father.
Our assembly for worship should be with the regularity that characterised the early church. The scriptures indicate that Christians in apostolic times assembled each first day of the week to worship.
But if we worship with fellow Christians only occasionally, or even only once or twice a month, when we are able to assemble more frequently, we do not please God because we are forsaking worship in order to satisfy personal desires. Yet our love for him should be so great as to make us want to worship. The Christian who must be prodded to worship his creator is greatly deficient in his spirituality.
One of the great obligations which we hold toward God is faithful stewardship. A steward is a manager of the possessions of another. A steward is a manager of the possessions of another. Human beings are inclined to regard those things which they have as belonging exclusively to them. However, God owns everything.
The Psalmist said, ‘The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.’ Psalm 24:1. Even our souls belong to God. Ezekiel 18:4.
Paul teaches, ‘Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your bodies.’ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Since we belong to God, we must conclude that he is the actual owner of all our material possessions, our talent and even our time. Every action must be taken in the light of the question, ‘Am I using my stewardship well?’
If we squander our money upon worthless things, we must account to God. If we waste our ability when it might be devoted to worthwhile service, we stand condemned before our Master. If we throw away our time, we are misusing our stewardship.
A duty which is actually a part of our stewardship is that of giving of our means to further the work of Christ. The New Testament does not fix an exact percentage to govern our giving to the Lord’s work. But it does reveal several principles which should regulate our giving. We are to give according to our prosperity.
We must give purposefully and cheerfully, 2 Corinthians 9:7. However, the real secret of acceptable giving is found in the example of the Macedonian Christians of whom Paul says, ‘In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.’ 2 Corinthians 8:2
Why did they give liberally from their poverty? Because Paul adds, they ‘gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.’ 2 Corinthians 8:5
They had learned that true stewardship is not simply in giving one’s possessions to the Lord, but in giving one’s very being to him. And having thus dedicated themselves to his service they found it easy to give liberally of the meagre things which they owned.
This is a question that a lawyer once asked Jesus when he had told him to love his neighbour as himself. Jesus replied by relating the parable of the good Samaritan, Luke 10:30-37.
The lesson of the parable is that being a neighbour means to render service to others, whether they are friends or total strangers. To love one’s neighbour as oneself, therefore, is to be a servant to man, and especially to those who are in the body of Christ, Galatians 6:10.
Jesus taught the apostles the meaning of service when he washed their feet on the night of his betrayal, John 13:2-11.
He was showing them that if he, their Master, would perform the most menial task to help them, then there is no service so lowly that they should not perform it. As Christians, we may serve in countless ways, by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, and extending hospitality to strangers. Opportunities to serve are always present, but we must be alert to seize them.
Only God knows the number of souls that have been won to him because sinners saw Christ reflected in the humble service of children of God. One of the best ways to win the lost is to put Christianity into action by serving others and giving an example to follow.
This introduces another responsibility of the Christian, to set an example in godly living, Romans 14:7.
Each person has an influence upon others. If it is not for good, it will be for bad. No man can isolate himself and say, ‘What I do is my own business,’ because what he does will affect others, whether he likes it or not. Jesus showed the importance of our influence when he taught, ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. ‘You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’ Matthew 5:13-16
Our lives must be pure and chaste so that they will reflect only credit to the name of Christ.
One of the great responsibilities which we owe our neighbour is to teach him the gospel. Salvation is through teaching. Jesus taught, ‘No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.’ John 6:44
Then in the following verse, he showed that this drawing power is exercised through teaching. ‘It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.’ John 6:45
Every Christian must be a teacher. We read that when the Jerusalem church was persecuted, ‘Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.’ Acts 8:4
One reason that the primitive church grew so rapidly was that each Christian had a conviction that he had a permanent responsibility to teach those who were lost.
The Hebrew writer criticised his readers because, ‘though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.’ Hebrews 5:12
Of course, all cannot preach publicly, but all can in their own way tell the story of the cross to their families, their friends, and their neighbours.
In no way may one demonstrate his love for his neighbour more than in revealing to him the way of salvation. If you love him, teach him.