As a pastor, I hear that question often.Generally after a service someone will come up to me and ask, “If Jesus did it all and we are no longer bound by the law, what difference does it make if we are obedient or not, seeing as we are fully loved and completely forgiven?”
To which I invariably reply, “It makes all the difference in the world!”We are finally and fully motivated to please God because we are fully loved and completely forgiven.Our obedience flows from a heart that overflows with thanksgiving for all Jesus has done for us andhas promised to complete in us.
So . . . why obey if Jesus is the only way?LOVE!In his book, The Disciplines of Grace,Jerry Bridges writes:
Love for God, then, is the only acceptable motive for obedience to Him.This love may express itself in a reverence for Him and a desire to please Him, but those expressions must spring from love.Without the motive of love, my apparent obedience may be essentially self-serving.Negatively, I may fear God will punish me, or at least withhold His blessing from me, because of some disobedience.I may abstain from a particular sinful action out of fear I will be found out or because I don’t want to feel guilty afterward.Positively, I may be seeking to earn God’s blessing through some pious actions.I may conform to a certain standard of conduct because I want to fit in with and be accepted by the Christian culture in which I live.I might even obey outwardly because I have a compliant temperament, and it is simply my “nature” to obey my parents, or my teacher, or civil authorities, or even God.
Think back for a moment: can you remember a time when your obedience was rooted in either the negative or the positive—the desire to avoid punishment or to gain a reward?To be sure, negative and positive motivations may in fact change behavior.But make no mistake;these motivations simply cannot transform the heart.Only love for our Lord can do that, and only behavior that is rooted in the love of God is worthy of being called obedience.
We don’t obey because of what we can get or avoid getting; we obey because we love the One who loved us enough to give us everything good we have:
- ·Eternal Life
- ·Everyday life in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit
We obey because we are overwhelmed by the amazing love of our willing Savior, who hung on our cross in order to give us every spiritual blessing.Jesus suffered the penalty we should have suffered for our sin . . . and He was without sin.He was perfect in every way,yet instead of being glorified by us He was crucified by us.Instead of being honored, He was dishonored in the worst way.
For Christ’s love compels us . . . (2 Corinthians 5:14)
Jesus took our place out of love.He was born because He loved us.He lived a sinless life because He loved us.He died a sacrificial death because He loved us.He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father because He still loves us and will continue loving us for all eternity.So the only right motive for any kind of obedience on our part must flow out of a heart that loves Jesus.“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Think about this:more important than our obedience is the motive behind it.Obedience that does not come from a heart that beats for the love of Christ is disobedience.Only obedience that is rooted in love is true obedience.Make no mistake; what we do matters to God.But why we do it matters more.Jesus is the only way, and we obey to simply say, “Lord, how I love you!”
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!