“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

John 14:15

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 

John 14:21

 …I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.

John 14:31

What is the relationship between love and obedience? Do I earn God’s love through my obedience?

Obedience is an essential quality of a disciple of Jesus.

Jesus gives us the true pattern. In verse 31, he says that he does what the Father commanded “so that” the world may know that I love the Father. Jesus’ obedience was intended to be a demonstration of his love for the Father. Is that the ultimate motivation for Jesus? And, does that mean that we obey so that the world will believe that we love Jesus? Is that the motivation for our obedience?

No. Jesus obeyed the Father because he loves him. The fact that his obedience demonstrated to the world that he loves the Father is a side-benefit. Jesus loves the Father because it is his nature; God is love (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, as one, all are love). Each member of the Trinity cannot not love. It is their nature. Obedience of Jesus to the Father is a natural effect of being God and being a Spirit-filled man without sin. I know this can get confusing. Let’s concentrate on Jesus as a man rather than Jesus as the Son of God.

Jesus was the perfect man without sin. When John baptized him in the Jordan River, the Spirit descended as a dove as a sign of the coming/filling of the Holy Spirit in Jesus, the man. Jesus never stopped being fully God while at the same time was fully man. I believe that the Scriptures teach that Jesus operated as a man without sin, in perfect fellowship with the Father and filled with the Holy Spirit. What’s the point?

Jesus lived in obedience to the Father because he loves the Father, not to prove his love or earn the Father’s love or approval. His obedience did, however, demonstrate his love for the Father.

The issue for us is to love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. If we do that, obedience will never be a problem.

So, is obedience required of a Christian? Can’t I just believe the gospel and I’m good? Yes and No.

I know I am getting complicated here. The answer is yes if we understand the full ramifications of the gospel that not only are our sins forgiven and we are guaranteed a place in heaven, but we have also declared that Jesus is Lord, which means that we are his slaves. Slaves obey (or they are in real trouble). Another ramification of the gospel is that God loved us so much that he gave his only Son, and when he regenerates us, our hearts are made new, and we are now able to love him.

And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. 

Deuteronomy 30:6

Having a circumcised heart is an Old Testament metaphor for being regenerated or born again. One reason to be born again is so we can love God. It comes with the territory.

The answer is “No” if we think our obedience will earn forgiveness or any other merit with God. We are not capable of adding to the finished work of Jesus. But when we accept the finished work of Jesus, we are changed, and obedience is natural.

Loving God and obeying God are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other. So, I say that if you have confessed Jesus as your Lord and you are not living in essential obedience to him, you are miserable. You are miserable because you are behaving contrary to your new nature.

The other option for one who does not essentially obey Jesus (I say “essentially” because I know none of us can live in perfect obedience to Jesus now, but our lives can be characterized by “essential” obedience to him.) is to realize that he isn’t really a disciple of Jesus at all. He has not been born again at all. I would not expect that person to obey Jesus because he is still living in darkness and under the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who works in the sons of disobedience.1

If we know we are sons of God and are having difficulty with our obedience, there is a solution.

Submit yourself to God

  • Repent and confess our sin of disobedience
  • Repent also of the underlying heart condition that contaminates your love for Jesus (Do you love the world more than you love Jesus? Do you fear man more than you fear God? Just a couple of possibilities)

Resist the devil

  • The devil is a tempter and a deceiver. Speak to him and tell him you belong to Jesus and he has no right to harass you. Tell him to leave.
  • This won’t get rid of your own flesh, but it will rid you of any demonic temptations that you may be dealing with. Your repentance deals with your flesh.

We, believers, do live in a war zone, a spiritual war zone. We are battling with the world, the flesh, and the devil. None of these have the ability to defeat a child of God who walks in the Spirit. If you find you are not being obedient to Jesus, ask yourself, am I loving him? Do I need to repent of a cold heart? Have I left my first love for Jesus?

Deal with it! God will extend all grace to us as we fall before him. He loves us as only God can love even when our love for him grows cold and needs the fire of spiritual romance with God to be stoked. Purpose to set your heart on him, set aside the time and place to make love to God and he will meet you there.

  1. Ephesians 2:2