January 3, 2014
My mother was a great teacher of many things: piano, Easter egg decorating the Ukranian way, knitting, music, cooking, but best of all, negotiating the lowest price with any salesperson. Most importantly, she was also a great Bible teacher for Vacation Bible School, her children, and for many adult Sunday School classes. She would simplify complex concepts for us. One concept that was always more difficult to grasp was the question of obedience to God vs. our independence and “free-will.” Discussing aspects of culture, arts, fashion, and expression, especially with the members of the younger generation like my daughters and nieces, the issues of tattoos, styles of clothing, piercings, watching movies, and college decisions all lead to some intense unpacking and discussion.
I talk a lot about the aspects of Obedience vs. Relationship, because so many people struggle with these concepts, as they sometimes seem mutually exclusive or contradictory. One way to sum it up is, “Just love God with all you have … then do whatever you want. For if you truly love God, you will do nothing to hurt Him.”
As I read today’s scripture the order seems pretty clear. If we love God first, then we will obey Him. Our Lord never insists on obedience for eternal life. In fact, He always stresses wanting a relationship with us above all else. He pursues us across the multiverse, from eternity past, desiring fellowship and union with us even when we are disobedient, in fact, because we were disobedient. He even died for us to provide reconciliation, restoration and relationship, not to merely make us obedient.
If He wanted to motivate obedience, He would offer heaven only to the obedient, or threaten to send the disobedient to hell, or give you extreme consequences every time you disobey. But God does none of these. Instead, He rewards us based on the status of our relationship with Him … where we are on the relationship growth curve with Him.
God very clearly stresses what we ought to do, but He never forces us to do it. We find, and He desires, that we will obey Him out of love for Him. Also propelling us to good works is the knowledge that what He instructs us to do is actually the best for us to do … period. Notice that when Jesus spoke about discipleship, He prefaced it with an “If,” clearly telling us we have a choice. When we are in relationship with Him and really love Him, we will obey. If we are truly wise, we will follow His guidance … if we really want comfort, we will trust and follow His direction.
Today, focus on growing your love for God. Focus less on the do’s and don’ts and more on simply getting to know God, His heart for you, and all He has done for you. You can’t help but love Him and then want to please Him, just as we are motivated to please anyone we love. When you have a choice, ask yourself, “Why am a choosing this option?” Hopefully, you answer, “Because I love God,” not “Because I need to do what is right.” For if you truly love Him, you will be less prone to do anything to hurt Him. You say you love Him, so whether you please Him or you hurt Him is your decision, so choose well.
Dear Father God, I thank You, Father, for the freedom to choose. I thank You, Father, for the clarity of the messages from Your Son, Jesus. Help me, Father, to grow my relationship and love for You … and then let that love guide all my decisions and actions. I pray, Father, that You protect me from every evil influence that distorts my lenses and impairs my decisions. I pray in the name of my savior and model, Jesus Christ; and all God’s children say – AMEN!
“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23