“If you love me, keep my commands.” –John 14:15
To love Me is to obey Me. To obey Me is to love Me. I have heard the interpretation of this verse that to obey God is to love Him. Obedience is His love language and that is how He receives love. That to obey Him is to show your love for Him.
“In fact this is love for God: to keep his commands.” –1 John 5:3a
A few weeks back, I was struggling with this idea. Crying out to God to enable me to obey Him. I just so desperately want to obey Him. To honor Him, serve Him, and please Him. This truly is the deepest cry of my heart. Yet I seem to consistently fall short and fail. I can’t “do” all the “things.” I never seem to be obeying enough. Always an area I’m lacking in. Then He brought this revelation to mind.
“What if loving Me is obeying Me? What if loving Me with all your heart is obedience to Me?”
Tears pricked my eyes. My love. That’s what God wants. Just to love Him with all that I am. He doesn’t want my actions apart from my heart. When He has my heart, He has my all. When He only has my actions, He doesn’t have me. Jesus wants me. He came for me, not my actions. He said of the Pharisees,
“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’” –Matthew 15:7-9
Jesus didn’t come to bring behavior modification, He came for heart transformation. When your heart is transformed, so is your behavior; when only actions are changed, your heart still remains darkened. When you have the heart, you have the person; when you have the actions, you only have them for a season. God has always been a jealous God. He wants a love relationship with His people. Just like in marriage, you don’t want the fidelity purely based on rules, you want the fidelity because the person loves you and wants to remain faithful. Actually, you want them to love you so much that infidelity isn’t even an option. Just like loving your spouse with all your heart makes it easy to remain faithful, so does loving God with all that you are makes it easy to obey Him.
“If you [really] love Me, you will keep and obey My commandments.” –John 14:15 AMP
It will be easy to keep and obey God’s commands if I love Him. The depth of my love isn’t dependent upon my obedience. My obedience however, is rooted in my love. The more I love God with all that I am, the more I want to obey Him, serve Him, and honor Him. It is desire that drives me to obey.
Obedience doesn’t always lead to love & desire for God, but love and desire for God always lead to obedience.
A few days later God brought up this idea of “If you love Me, you are obeying Me” in a group discussion. I was expressing and asking why I try so desperately to obey. All of a sudden it hit me. God was removing performance based love in me.
I believed that if I obey, then God can be proud of me and love me. I would be pleasing and worthy of love and acceptance. But my love and acceptance isn’t based on my obedience, it’s based on Jesus Christ. He is stripping away every part of my foundation that is based on me, and building me on Christ and Christ alone. The blood of Jesus is my only merit for acceptance in the Beloved. He loved me and accepted me while I was still His enemy.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” –Romans 5:8
Why do I think the Gospel is any different today than it was on the first day I believed? My salvation wasn’t based on my obedience or own merit, so why do I think my sanctification is? It was by grace alone, through faith alone, in the Son of God alone. So why do I think that the rules are any different now? Because I know more now than I did then? Just because I’ve changed, doesn’t mean Jesus Christ has. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Gospel is still just as good of news to me today as it was in the beginning. I am an imperfect being in need of rescue. I will forever need God to rescue me. No matter how long I’ve been walking with Him, that will always be true. I need to be rescued.
Obedience isn’t just for God, it’s for me. To obey God means it will go well with me. God asks me to obey Him for my benefit. He wants what’s best for me. Obedience is trusting that God knows better than I do.
“In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” –1 John 5:3-5
His commands are not burdensome. For His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Everyone born of God overcomes the world. God wants me to be an overcomer, not to be overcome. He tells me to obey Him for my benefit. For my well-being. For my good.
“By keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, O Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you.” –Deuteronomy 6:2b-3a
Obedience is the outward result of an inwardly transformed heart. A heart in love with God. Obedience brings experiential understanding and knowledge of God. It is the vehicle that takes knowledge from the head to the heart.
The reason obedience is so important is because many people say they love God, but their lives don’t reflect it. It is hard for our human eye to measure just how much someone’s heart loves God, but we can measure it by their actions. God cannot be deceived. Jesus came so that the hearts of men would be revealed. He knows what’s in each person’s heart. To say you love God and no one can judge your relationship with Him based on your actions is a deception. Just like you can tell when a young man is madly in love with a maiden by the way he swoons over her, he talks about her, and his grand romantic gestures towards her, so it is with a heart in love with Jesus. He is all you can talk about, all you think about, the only Person you want to be with. A heart in love with Jesus can’t help but to obey Him. If you truly love God, your life will reflect it. That’s why God has been saying from the beginning,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” –Deuteronomy 6:5
He knows that if you love Him you will obey Him. He knows that our hearts lead our lives.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” –Proverbs 4:23
God is honing in on me loving Him. On my love for Him being the root of my obedience. Because if my heart is absolutely abandoned to Him in a wild love affair, there isn’t one thing that He asks of me that I won’t do. But if I still love self, or if I base God’s love for me on my own merit and obedience, I’ll never be able to do what He is asking of me. Because His grace in my life isn’t based on me. And He will tear down every part of my structure built on self.
Love Jesus with all of my heart and I will obey Him. If I truly love Him, I can’t help but obey Him.
Lord I pray that you refine me from the inside out. Change me Lord. Change my heart. I so desperately need You to change my heart Jesus. May I have one desire: To love You with all that is in me.
3 thoughts on “Love & Obedience: It Starts With the Heart”
So good Tesia…I understand the performance based life so well. Praying that God would help me to love Him the way I should.
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Thank you for the encouragement! It truly blessed me.
Thank you, Tesia. Especially the part about performance based.