Many times seemingly impossible pairs of words are pitted against each other:
- Legalism vs. love
- Law vs. grace
- Faith vs. works
- Heart vs. behavior
- Love vs. command
- Heart vs. mind
But what if pitting these against each other is creating a false dichotomy? (at least in all of the above except the first pair)
Jesus' own words from His conversations with the disciples should clear things up for us...
"If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15).
"If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:10).
"If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed" (John 8:31b).
"For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels" (Mark 8:38).
"Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:19).
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven...Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken to a wise man who built his house on the rock...But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand..." (Matthew 7:24,26).
"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore and make disciples...teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always..." (Matthew 28:18-20).
Jesus said about Himself: "But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do" (John 14:31).
Who is willing to accuse Jesus of "legalism" because He obeyed His Father's commands?
Jesus' closest earthly friend, the apostle John, adds these words on the topic:
"By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (I John 5:2, 3).
I conclude from the quotes above that:
When we love the Lord, we really do want to obey Him.
Obedience both expresses our love for Him and ushers us into deeper relationship with Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit who make their home within us.
The commands of the Lord are designed for our blessing, protection and reward.
Obedience to His commands is a step of faith. Consider Jesus' command to love our enemies. Obedience could result in death. It is a calculated risk based on His promises, example and character.
Greatness (or smallness) in God's Kingdom is determined by our obedienceto His commands and by teaching others to do the same.
Obedience to Jesus' commands results in stability during the storms and trials of life and ministry.
Obedience to His commands opens the way for fullness of joy and for growing friendship with our Master.
Obedience to His commands results in continually abiding in Christ and experiencing His gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
The Great Commission is a mandate from Christ Himself to invite men and women worldwide of all people groups to voluntarily surrender to the Risen Lord in wholehearted obedience to all of His commands.
Obedience to His commands protects us from being ashamed when He comes back again.
Treasuring His words and obeying His commands anchors our lives and ministries to the eternal.
Obedience to God's commands demonstrates that we genuinely love our Christian brothers and sisters.
Obedience to His commands is not burdensome to those who are true children of God.
An example of this connection between love and duty is clearly seen in the life of a mother who wakes up in the night to care for her crying child. She gladly experiences discomfort and loss of sleep to care for her child...because she loves him/her. In her weariness, she does not consider her sacrifice to be a burden.
The more we love Christ, the more gladly we obey Him. And the more we obey Him, the better we get to know Him and the more we experience His presence, power, protection, blessing, fruitfulness and reward (though we don't obey Him for that purpose). We obey Him because we love Him!
Blessings as you lovingly, deliberately, trustingly obey Him this week...and invite others to do the same.
--Written by: A.R.