For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)
John’s words provide important insight into the nature of Christian obedience. As missionary and martyr Jim Elliot once wrote, “Commandment-keeping is terribly laborious when it doesn’t spring from an eager . . . heart.” From where does this eagerness of heart come? It comes from God alone. To be eager to obey Him, we must love Him, which means that we first need new hearts, for the human heart, in its natural state, cannot possibly love God (Ez. 36:26).
Thus any attempt at obedience without love issuing from a new heart cannot please God. There are two main reasons for this.
First, obedience without love is cold and perfunctory; it is duty and drudgery, not delight. And God wants our commandment-keeping to be borne out of love.
Second, obedience without love nullifies the Gospel. It seeks to get from God by virtue of one’s own striving what Christ’s cross has fully and freely provided in advance. Paul told the Galatians that if our obedience could earn God’s approval, “Christ died for no purpose” (Gal. 2:21). You can’t love God while trying to earn from Him through commandment-keeping. Such “obedience” is an attempt at manipulation; it isn’t love. And anything less than “faith working through love” belittles the Gospel of grace (Gal. 5:6).
For these reasons, the apostle John can say, “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.” It is God’s love that changes us at the deepest interiority of our being, putting new desires in our hearts—desires that align with His Word. When those desires are present, His commands are not burdensome; they are instead a delight. Such is the nature of Christian obedience.
So I must ask, What is your heart’s desire? Has obedience become cold and perfunctory for you? Do you ever find yourself just going through the motions of commandment-keeping without any real affection for Christ? Or perhaps you’ve not been obeying Him, and it’s time to change course?
What about Sunday morning? Will you see to it that you show up for church with a desire to obey God by worshiping with His people (Heb. 10:24-25)? By serving? By greeting? By giving? Or will your church attendance be void of any real affection for the Lord?
As you prayerfully consider those questions, there’s one thing you need to know: You are loved, and because of that, God has given you a new heart. Let that sink in. Let it take hold of you. Maybe your affection for Jesus has begun to lag. If so, you need to know that His affection for you never will. And when it comes down to it, the good news of His unfailing love for us is the only thing that will re-invigorate within our hearts a fresh desire to obey: “We love because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19).
Set List for Sunday, August 26, 2018:
Whole Heart (S. Curran, E. Cash, L. Giglio, B. Younker, M. Malone)
Worthy Of Your Name (B. Brown, S. Curran, B. Younker)
You Are God And You Are Good (M. Carter, A. Ivey, J. Reeves)
Come Thou Fount (R. Robinson)
Heart Abandoned (S. Curran, K. Stanfill)