Christ gives us some “musts.” He says we MUST love God with ALL our heart. We MUST accept the gift of undeserved grace of salvation for ourselves and profess that acceptance. The gift is not merely given, but must be claimed and that claiming means you accept ANOTHER “must,” He says we MUST engage the “great commission” of sharing that gift and our testimonies towards it, seeking to bring disciples and those we love (if we are Christ-like) to Him that they might also be likewise. He even says to His recalcitrant disciples and those who claimed to follow Him then, “of what use is your coming behind me saying Lord, Lord! IF YOU WILL NOT DO WHAT I SAY?”. Confusing obedience to God with bondage is a serious theological confusion in the Eurocentric world and one extremely dangerous for one’s immortal soul status.
Atheists make the same argument. Why do I need to obey God, when I can just live the moral life of my choice according to my own understanding and principles and be equally or more moral than you? Christ is the Way. A Way must be walked. If any man shall follow me, let him PICK UP HIS CROSS.” To be Christian is to obey Christ and Christ has rules. He sums it up when He says He will separate the goats from the sheep. That separation means there is a difference and the difference is not about mere words or human rituals, but sheep are obedient and goats act according to their own wills. It is a teaching of Satan that comes through Eurocentrism which defines freedom in an atheist way as “freedom” from the need to obey God. It is the same teaching, as implied by the mythology of Adam and Eve where it is acknowledged what God wanted them to do and then they are told to do something else based on their own wills, understanding, and preferences. The purpose of the narrative is to point out that if you do that, things go bad. A Christian who claims Christ must obey Him or choose another path.
This kind of confusion can lead one falsely to believe that you can be Christian without walking the Christian path and fool God by just showing up at the end saying “I claimed you, I just didn’t do anything you told us to do, or fail to do anything you told us not to”. That is the perennial argument of the atheist. In fact, the only difference between that and philosophical atheism is that the true atheist denies God outright. This logic says there is a God and I claim Him, I just plan to do my own thing. That won’t work and I condemn this confusion in the name of Christ. In fact the one called Paul makes it clear this won’t work. When he came upon churches that were engaged in great sin and corruption, he noted that Christ does not save that we sin, but that we engage the process of progressive sanctification He is working IN us, that we become new men and women. If we are still going to be the old one, doing the same old thing, and justifying it, while claiming to be Christian, our conversion is incomplete.
I do not claim obedience to Christ is easy, or the path I would choose all the time, or without temptation or other problems. In fact, like the path to Calvary it is rough, hostile, and difficult in a world of nonbelief, but it is the path the Christian chooses out of love. We should not be in bondage to man, because we are given in marriage to Christ. To confuse THAT engagement with human bondage however, is the greatest of errors and a trick of the evil one.
The Lord says that the greatest commandment is love of God, which requires obedience and that if one loves God truly, one will be obedient to the laws of God, not by ritual, or nationality, or ethnicity or practice before man, but merely out of that love and the desire to please God. For the God I love, will I serve, and if I serve I will serve according to HIS will and out of that love. “Not my will but THY will be done” It’s not bondage, it’s a gift of my free love for Him who did the same for me.
I may desire to be disobedient to Christ’ will in my life as revealed to me by the Holy Spirit. I may actually act on that desire and thereby sin, but I will NOT double down on my transgression, making God the liar, by declaring that the Spirit never told me what to do or not to do, or that it never revealed that there were consequences to my choice. The atheist wants the blessings of God without God. The reluctant Christian wants the salvation of Christ without the progressive sanctification which involves the relinquishing of their own will for God’s. But I MUST decrease in me and He MUST increase in Me.
For example, either Christ says we are charged with speaking our testimony and making disciples or he does not. Either His words are true or they are not. A Christian, in fact rather than just name, does not get to decide whether they think they should share their testimony and try to spread the good news of Christian salvation. It’s not an “option”. But since they are excited about Christ and what He has done and is doing in their life and what He can and will do for others, the task of following the commission is a task of joy and not of bondage. But it is an instruction and one cannot disregard it if one claims that they are obedient to Christ. Disciple MEANS discipline. One cannot be the first without having the second.
Those who get off on that track might want to remember Jonah’s situation. He had a whale of a time, metaphorically dealing with His will.