Vol. 4, No. 8
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Several years ago we heard the late and deeply respected Batsell Barrett Baxter preach a wonderful and moving sermon to which he gave the title that we have used above. Brother Baxter was attempting to get us to see that duty is not a bad motivation, but it can actually become a way of life for us when our duty toward God becomes the deepest desire of our hearts. When our desires come to correspond with the desires of God, then we find nothing painful about serving him in any capacity in our lives. In later times, we have come to call this "cooperation with God." When one's greatest desire is to comply with the commands of God, one finds nothing negative about doing so. If a person finds himself having the negative emotion of resentment because he must do the duty of God, then he may rest assured of the fact that duty toward God has not become his desire. If we, like spoiled children, must have a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down, when it comes to serving God, there is something seriously wrong with our attitudes toward God and things divine and spiritual, to say nothing of the fact that there is something wrong with our attitude toward his marvelous Word.
Jesus Christ, our Lord and Redeemer, came to this earth to do his duty toward God on behalf of mankind. So completely did he do that duty that he was able to say to the Father, just hours before his crucifixion, "I have done all that you gave me to do..." Jesus did not serve God in part but in whole, making sure, for the sake of our redemption, that he did everything that God intended for him to do. Everyone knows from a reading of the third chapter of the Gospel as recorded by John, that Jesus did all that the Father commanded him because of the love of the Father, and of the Son, for mankind. Here we can see that there is a definite connection between duty and love. Love always constrains one to do his duty toward God and his fellow man. Paul taught in 2 Corinthians 5:14 that it is the love of God that compels (constrains) us to be reconciled to God. Love has constraining power for both God and man. God's love constrained Christ to do his duty on behalf of mankind, and that love reciprocated by man causes him to be reconciled to God, and to live for God with no thought of resentment. When one stops to think about the matter, resentment is a rather childish emotion anyway. A child who wishes to play all the time will probably resent, at least at first, taking on some of the growing responsibilities that are his to learn. But when he matures, this resentment should pass away as he finds satisfaction as well as a sense of accomplishment in those things which he formerly found encroaching on his playing time. In time, what happens is that the child's duty becomes his desire, and once that happens, he can happily go about doing his duty and finding great pleasure therein.
There is an old saying, "Love God and do as you please." This proverb has been greatly misunderstood and not a little maligned in recent years. The author of the proverb meant that if we truly love God we will want to do only those things that will bring God the greatest pleasure. We will want to do this because of the gratitude of our hearts for the great blessings that God has brought to us in salvation.
Love and duty are so vitally related that they cannot be separated. This is true both of God and of man. For example, on the part of God we read, "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Since man can do nothing on his own part to save his own soul, but must rely on the wisdom and knowledge of God, God decided in his infinite wisdom to provide a way of redemption to man. It was love (agape) that caused God to demonstrate his own love toward us by sending Jesus to die upon the cross of Calvary. It is this very same kind of love that causes duty to become desire in the life of the Christian. When one loves God, and loves the duty assigned him by God then the carrying out of that duty is so inexorably connected with love that one cannot find where the motivation of love ends, if it does, and the motivation of duty begins. Thus, if one does what he truly loves to do in the service of God, he will probably not even think in terms of "duty," but in terms of "desire." But if he does think in terms of "duty," he will find nothing negative or distasteful about that concept.
It seems to me that all this confusion over duty is nothing more than another well-orchestrated movement by Satan to get us to think as did Adam and Eve that there is something distasteful about one doing his duty in any aspect of life, and particularly in the Christian life. If one goes about thinking that he must plod on reluctantly doing his duty toward God in order to earn his salvation, he has missed Christianity completely, and needs to study his Bible and allow the conversion process to take place on a genuine level.