“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15
Let’s just be honest—this verse can feel a bit like a “because I said so” warning from your parents. You know what I mean, when you were younger (or maybe still now, no judgment) and your mom or dad tells you something to do. Our initial reaction is to ask, “Why?”
The same thing can happen when we hear one of God’s commands. Simply put, God could say, “Because I said so,” and leave it at that. In the verse above, Jesus says we will obey him if we love him. That still leaves room for us to ask questions. Why does obedience follow our love for Christ? Why does Jesus want to tell us what to do with our lives?
The truth is, God does not owe us an answer to that. He is all-powerful and created everything (including us). He is in charge and does not have to give us answers. But thankfully, in his graciousness, he provides them anyway.
Here’s the short answer: Obedience leads to freedom.
I’ll go ahead and admit that at first glance…this feels counterintuitive. It does not seem to make since that obeying someone else’s commands means we are free. Freedom means doing whatever we want…doesn’t it? Freedom means we are the ones in charge and we make all the decisions…right?
This is how the world would define freedom in our lives. Just think about being younger and dreaming with your friends about what your future holds….FREEDOM. No curfew, no chores, nobody telling you what to eat or when to clean your room. This is what the world tells us freedom looks like. No rules! In fact, that is even what our natural desires lean towards. Being FREE of rules.
This lack of direction and rules isn’t truly freedom at all. This leads to chaos. Without direction, we end up obeying our natural desires which….leads to sin.
Here’s the deal: we either do things that honor God or we do things that dishonor God. There is no in-between. Anything that dishonors God is called sin, and this makes our Enemy pretty darn happy. So we either obey God with our actions, or we sin. The temptation of sin is way more powerful than we tend to realize. (**Let me clarify an important point here: If you are a follower of Christ and have placed your faith and trust in him as your savior, then the ultimate power of sin that leads to eternal separation from God is DEFEATED. Sin can't win in that way. But the Enemy and our fleshly, sinful desires can still affect our actions now.)
So our actions are never TRULY apart from anyone’s direction. We are either doing what God wants or what Satan wants.
Paul says this pretty clearly in Romans.
“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” Romans 6:16
In choosing not to obey God, we are choosing to follow sin, and thus become a slave to sin. We have the ability to choose what we will do. But it will always be pleasing to either God or to Satan.
Here is how I think about this—which of these two beings do I want my actions to please? Which one is looking out for me and telling me to do things that will actually be for my good?
The answer is so obvious and yet we often neglect to think about our choices in this way. In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they would have life and have it abundantly.” (The thief is Satan, by the way.)
When the things God tells us to do seem difficult (they often are), mundane, tedious, or they just don’t seem to make sense, I remember this verse. The enemy wants me to choose the way opposite of God. He wants me to believe that God’s commands are unnecessary and simply God’s way of taking control. However, getting me to believe these lies is only the enemy’s way of achieving his end goal—“to steal and kill and destroy.” Personally, I want no part of that.
Now, here is where the awesome and exciting news comes in! The second half of this verse tells us what we are promised from obeying God’s commands! We don’t earn our salvation or more love from God. We do not simply obey out of fear of a mean and powerful dictator who will destroy us if we ignore his rules. Listen up—We get life! Abundant life!!!!!! (I wish I could use all the exclamation points here!)
The commands God gives us are so that we can live our lives to the fullest and find our greatest pleasure—in Him. Not what we think would make our life full or what the world tells us would be satisfying. But rather, what the Creator and Sustainer of everything we know has told us is good. God is the source of all of our joy and his commands teach us to live in the way that he knows is best for us. That is, in the way that brings us closer to him and more in line with his will.
God didn’t have to design the world this way. He did not have to make a way that we could know him, much less find our joy and satisfaction in him. It would be totally right and just and acceptable for God to make us and then yell commands at us all day and punish us when we disobey. He inherently deserves all of our obedience. However, this is not in his character. He is deserving of obedience and full of all power, yet he is also kind and good and loving. He made a way for us to obey and glorify him that also brings us joy and satisfaction. He did this out of pure love for us, his people.
Jesus, fully God and yet fully man, is the only one who perfectly lived out a life of obedience to God. And listen to what he had to say about a life lived in obedience:
10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:10-11
Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience, and he says it brought him joy! Now he wants us to have that same joy! And he knows where it is truly found—in obedience to the guidelines for living that God has given us so clearly in scripture and called us to faithfully live out.
Sarah is first and foremost a child of God who is passionate about making sure that the people in her life know how deeply they are loved by our Father. She currently spends her days ministering to middle school and high school girls at a church in southwest Austin. In July of 2017, she married the love of her life, Matt, and they are currently figuring out this whole “adulting” thing and building a life together. You can find her at @sarahrinn_