Do you feel obligated to serve God? Religion or legalism gives you the idea that it's your duty to serve God. That you have a responsibility to serve God. “Duty” and “responsibility” are synonymous with obligation and indebtedness. If you feel indebted to serve God then you're influenced by legalism. The idea that you owe God is not a Biblical concept. The idea that if you do this then he'll do that, is not in line with salvation which is the gracious gift of God. Jesus didn’t die for you so that you’d owe him. He died to rescue you!
I remember driving on Easter weekend to a pastors gathering where we had about 150 to 200 pastors gathering in a very small town North of Zambia. On our way we drove past this massive church where a huge banner hung outside. On it was a very big picture with crown of thorns and in big words it said” Jesus gave his life for you, the least you could do is give your life for him.” It sounds right but that's that's obligation!
“Jesus has done so much for you what are you gonna do for him?” is not God's heart for you. He didn't give his life so that you could give yours to him. He isn’t forcing you to surrender to him. Surrender is a choice of free-will motivated by desire. If you're doing it from the wrong motivation then it's not going to benefit you! 1 Corinthians 13 speaks about how love is the right motivation – “we can we can give all our goods to feed the poor, we can give our bodies to be burned but if we don't have God’s kind of love it will not profit us anything.” Any sacrifices that we make need to be motivated by love, not obligation.
Deuteronomy 28 shows how legalism or religion brings indebtedness. The Old Covenant system was one of instilling a sense of obligation. Deuteronomy 28 says that only if you hearken diligently to the voice of the Lord your God to observe all to do his commandments this day will you be set on high above the nations of the earth. There's a sense of, “if you want to be set on high, if you wanna be blessed, then you are going to do this and that…and if you don't do this and that, then you’ll be cursed with all these curses.”
Matthew 11:28-30 The Passion Translation (TPT)
28 “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Then come to me. I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis. 29 Simply join your life with mine. Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle, humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me. 30 For all that I require of you will be pleasant and easy to bear.”
Jesus says, “I am your Oasis!” That means that he's our refreshing, he's our place of refreshing, and if you look at this this is an invitation to come and relax! It’s an invitation to come to Jesus to be refreshed, not to come and serve. Many people say that you were saved to serve but that’s not true. Religion with its obligation calls you to do something, but Jesus invites you to be served – to receive from Him. And then, you have another invitation to get involved and serve him, but it’s by no means an obligation! It’s an invitation! Christianity is an invitation not an obligation. Legalism is an obligation that tells you that you have to do this and that but Christianity is an invitation into a life of rest; of trusting God!
It's all about relationship with God! Christianity is not about jumping through hoops and performing and doing cartwheels and doing your best. Christianity is about living a life of trusting in what Jesus has done for you. John 3:16 says, “for God so love the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The aim of Jesus coming was to save us from perishing and give us eternal or everlasting life. John 17:3 says, “this is life eternal that that they may know Jesus.” It’s all about relationship with him! The whole purpose of Christianity is relationship, or friendship with God. Christianity is an invitation to enjoying Jesus, not an invitation to obligation. Ephesians 2:17 says “that in the ages to come in might show the exceeding riches of his grace.” That's why God did what he did for us! To show us his goodness, not so that we can serve him. We cheapen his grace by thinking we have a duty or responsibility to pay him back. It's not our obligation to serve the Lord (and it's a good thing to serve the Lord) but it's our royal privilege as his sons and daughters. It's an opportunity which we are invited into. It's a great delight for us but it's not an obligation or duty.
If you're in a place where you feel that you should be serving God and you realize that you don't have the correct motivation – whether in giving finances into the Kingdom, in being involved in your local church or in sharing your faith with others – if you realize that your motivation for doing those things is wrong, I encourage you to focus on God's love; on how much he loves you, and allow that to impact your heart because as soon as you allow that to impact your heart it's going to cause you to respond to God and want to serve him, and bless him! But the starting point of Christianity is not “what can you do for God” but “what has Jesus done for you!”