Obedience Because of Love
As we grow in our walk with Christ there are times where we question whether we truly love God or not. We are fully aware of our weakness, we know how often we fall into the same sin habits and we realize we are in daily need of His forgiveness. This was the case with me growing up. I would remember the words of Jesus in the Bible,“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (John 14:23) and it challenged me. I knew how bad I was at following His commands and thought that I didn’t really love Him. I believed that Jesus was standing over me, sternly waiting for me to figure out how to stop sinning to prove my love for Him. This led to an obedience motivated by fear, trying to obey His commands because I was afraid of what He might do if I messed up.
During my time as a missionary in Hong Kong with OneEleven, the Lord changed my perspective. I began to study John 14:23 and discovered that my interpretation was incorrect. Jesus isn’t scolding me to prove my love for Him -- “or else”. He is showing me that true obedience is motivated by love.
As Johann Albrecht Bengel put it: “Love...goes before keeping of the commands.” In other words, one obeys because one loves. In the same way that we want to serve our friend or spouse because of our love for them, so our love for Christ should motivate us to serve Him and obey His commands. A fear-based obedience is unbiblical (1 John 4:18-19) and when it is replaced with a love-based obedience, it changes the way we pray and do missions. (When I say “fear-based obedience, I’m not referring to the fear of the Lord, which is a healthy reverence and respect for Him who, while being our loving Father, is also King and Judge. I’m referring to the kind of fear one has when they think of an abusive parent or guardian.)
God’s love changes our prayer lives, and through that, changes the way we do missions. I experienced this shift in Hong Kong.
Love gives confidence and fuels prayer. We pray differently when we know that we're speaking to someone who loves us more than we love others. Picture the person you love the most, whether it is your spouse, child, parent, grandparent, friend, etc. God loves you far greater than you love that person. In the same way you love talking to that individual, He loves talking with you.
Since this change in my life, I've started addressing the Lord as “Abba” in my prayers. In Romans 8:15, the Apostle Paul uses this name in the manner of an affectionate child addressing his “daddy”. Now, I lift my prayers up to the God of all creation, knowing that He is my loving Father who wants to hear my voice.
This is important because it changes the way we approach missions. When we experience the Father’s great love for us, it transforms us and we can’t help but want to love Him in return. When we grow in love for Him, it motivates us to follow Him and keep His commands (John 15:9; 14:23-24). This is the reason why we go to the nations, this is why we build houses of prayer and churches, and this is why we preach the gospel. We love because Christ first loved us.
Love motivates us to share Christ with everyone. Just like we tell our peers about things we love, such as our favorite movie or TV show, we want to tell others about Jesus, because we want them to experience the same transforming love and salvation that He gave us.
When our obedience is based on fear, it brings shame, condemnation, and a constant striving to prove ourselves to God and to earn His love. When our obedience is based on love, it brings confidence, acceptance and the understanding that God our Abba delights in us and rejoices everytime we say “yes”. We obey because we love; He loves because it’s who He is.
Let us receive His love so that His name would be glorified in us, so that we would be transformed and that those who see our transformation would come to know Him as well.