Sunday, March 1, 2015

Love Is Obedience

                In the Garden of Eden, when God created man in His own image, He desired to have a relationship with man. In that relationship, He asked of Adam one thing. That one thing was to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 1:26-27). Everything else in the garden was fair game. There was nothing else that was withheld from Adam, except that tree. However, sin found its way into the heart of Eve and soon Adam, and the fall of all mankind would follow. God did not ask Adam and Eve to stay away from that tree because He was withholding anything from them. He asked them to stay away from that tree because He knew that when they ate of it, they
would die. That desire that He had for a perfect, intimate relationship with them would perish, and they would be tossed into the trappings of sin. He asked them to stay away from it because He knew that through His commandment to stay away, they would live a life of perfect peace with Him. In the end, that is all He wants for each and every one of us. He desires for us to live a joy-filled, peace-filled, intimate life with Him.
             One of the things that I have been pondering on and thinking about is the commandments of the Lord. We know that now we live under an umbrella of grace, that when we sin we have the blood of Jesus Christ to wash us clean again. We no longer have to live under that power of sin and death because we have been made free from it. However, I do also see another part of scripture that I think we overlook often times because we don’t really understand it, or perhaps, we aren’t ready to live it. Jesus tells us in John 14:15 that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments. All throughout the Bible I see the same scriptures being written, the same words being spoken to us by God our Father- Keep His Commandments.
                “You shall therefore love the Lord your God and keep His charge, His statutes, His rules and His commandments.” Deuteronomy 11:1 (ESV) is just one of the many other examples that we find in scripture. But, since some of these words are written in the Old Testament, under the old Mosaic Law, do they still apply to us today? Do we have to keep all ten of the commandments that were given to Moses? Is that what it means to “keep His commandments”?  For those of us who are Christians we know that it is impossible for man to be able to keep all ten of the commandments found in Exodus 20. There is no way we can because we are sinners. But that is why Jesus came.  He came to set us free from the Law and from sin and death. So why is the keeping of God’s commandments still relative to our walks today? Because our love for God is seen in our obedience to His Word; if we love Him, we will do what His Word tells us to do, including the Ten Commandments.
                “And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:38-39 (ESV)
                The word that is used for love here in this verse and in the Deuteronomy verse above refers to a love that longs after something or someone. It is a love that desires. It is an intimate love that longs to be with the other person. What we learn then from this word is that to love the Lord our God means that we long for Him, we desire Him above all others. The love He has for us is an intimate love, a purposeful love, a passionate love. If you ever doubt the love God has for you, look to the cross and the sacrifice He gave to show you how much He loves you.
               When I read this definition of love I thought of a high-school crush, that first love. The feelings that you had for them were overwhelming. You wanted to be near them all the time, every single moment of the day was spent thinking about them, talking to them, just being near them. You did everything in your power to get them to notice you and to reciprocate those feelings. You might have joined the debate team, or tried out for a school play, just so they would see you and perhaps, just perhaps they would return the feelings of love for you that you had for them. Your sole focus and purpose was to get them to feel for you the same way you felt for them.
   This same principle is what I see here in these scriptures of loving the Lord our God. The Lord our God stretches forth His love to each and every single person on the face of the earth, just hoping that we will notice, just hoping that we will reciprocate the love back to Him. We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) Daily we see His love, His mercy, and His faithfulness toward us. Every single morning, with the rising of the sun there is a new day to experience and be a part of the most amazing love story you will ever know. He loves us with a perfect love, and He hopes that we will return it.
                But how do we return this kind of love? We are less than perfect, and our love is tainted by sin. This was true before we knew His love, but now that we know His love, we can reciprocate it by our obedience to His word. If you love Him you will keep His commandments. If you tell me you love God, then that love will be reflected in the way you live your life. The choices you make, the friends you hang with, the people you help, all of the love that you say you have will be seen. It will be manifested in your everyday life. Your life will seek to uphold His word in every single moment of your every single day.
                The Lord Jesus tells us that we are to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls and minds, and not only that, but we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We cannot love at all if we do not love Him first. However, if we love Him with all our hearts, all our souls and all our minds then we will want to love our neighbors, and we will, in fact, be keeping His commandments too.
                Jesus says we are to love the Lord our God with all our hearts. The heart is the seat of all emotions, and it is also the seat of sin in our lives. Our hearts is the place where our desires, passions, emotions, and dreams come from. Our hearts are the place where sin dwells. But it is also the place that God speaks to us and influences us to love Him. If we love the Lord our God with all our hearts then our desires become His desires, our dreams become His dreams, our passions become His passions. Our hearts become subject to Him and we will want to keep His word, because our hearts will love Him above all others, including ourselves.
                Next Jesus tells us that we are to love the Lord our God with all our souls. The soul is where our will comes from. It is the seat of purpose, drive and determination. It is where our rebellion comes from as well. Our disobedience comes from our souls. Love the Lord our God with all our souls means that we have crucified our flesh and it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us, and the life that we do live we live for Him and Him alone. (Galatians 2:20) Our souls, our desire for self will be in total surrender to His will. When we say “not my will, but Your will be done” we will truly mean it and live it. The life of Jesus Christ will be seen in us.
                Lastly Jesus tells us to love the Lord our God with all our minds. Our thoughts are tainted by sin and the sinful nature that resides in our hearts. In our hearts sin dwells, which will try to rule our souls and our minds. But we have been set free from sin and death through Jesus Christ our Lord. The only power sin has over us is the power we give it. A life that loves the Lord their God will have a mind that meditates on Him day and night. (Joshua 1:8) It will seek to know His word so that it may walk His word.
                Paul refers to this as well in Romans 12:1-2 when he tells us to “present our bodies as living sacrifices” , offering to Him daily our hearts, souls and minds, so that we can be holy and acceptable to Him, which is our reasonable service. We must allow Him to take control of our thoughts and our minds and conform us through His Word into His image, renewing our mind to focus on Him and Him only. I know that for myself, when I spend more time with the world than I do with Him, I begin to slip away and slip into the sinful nature that is still buried within my heart. If we truly love the Lord our God then we will be willing to let go of those things that we know are leading us away from Him, those things that we know do not glorify Him and we will seek Him and Him alone.
                If we love Him we will keep His commandments. We will not have other gods. We will
worship Him and Him alone. Our possessions, our jobs, even our families will be second and third and fourth in line to Him. If you truly love the Lord your God you will desire Him above all others. If you lost it all, your home, your husband, your children, all of it and had nothing left would you still follow Him? Would you still love Him? Would you still choose Him? In the end, if we have Him, we have everything. If we love Him we will be willing to sacrifice for Him just like He was willing to sacrifice for us.
                Our hearts, our minds, our souls, they are His. Our love for Him is seen in the way we live our life for Him. If we love Him, in the end, we will keep His commandments. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.” (1 John 5:1-3 ESV)

                If we love God, it will be seen in the way we live our lives. Loving God requires sacrifice. He showed us His love by His sacrifice; we show Him our love by our sacrifice of obedience to His word. If you love Him, keep His commandments. Amen?