Obey out of Love – Comply out of Fear

He is a prominent professional, a celebrity of sorts, a pillar in the community it is her word against his.  When he demanded of her what he considered to be a favor in the front seat of his luxury car two years ago while giving her a ride home, she felt she had to comply with his demands. “If he was just anybody, I would have jumped out and ran. I would have screamed and fought. I would have done what I needed to do, but with him being who he is an officer of the court a prominent judge with an impeccable record, I was afraid, I feared the worst if I did not comply with his wishes.”

While it is true one of the first things we learn when we begin to understand God is that He hates sin, and for those who choose to practice it in defiance of His law they will surely die (Ezekiel 18:4). It is verses like those found in the book of Ezekiel, that have people who will say, “You believers obey God out of guilt, fear, or some sense of obligation, as for me I don’t want that for my life”. Certainly there are those who would agree that knowing you would lose your life over breaking a rule is cause for concern and fearful compliance. Therefore, when we first start obeying God, for some it could be out of fear, that is to say, fear of the alternative, death. The truth is Fear is a trickster; it manifests in all kinds of ways, as obsession, confusion, loss of control, or dysfunction in any area of a person’s life.

For the believer, it is not a matter of feeling intimidated by God or His character. To “fear” the Lord God is to give Him the highest respect. Nevertheless, out of respect for His person and authority, we want to walk in all His ways and keep His commandments. Out of “love,” we serve Him with all our heart and with all our soul—rather than merely out of an obligation or fear. There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When you are afraid, you will pull back from life. The opposite is true when you are in love; you find yourself open to all that life has to offer with an unbridled passion, an excitement, and acceptance. God loves us, and that love is behind the laws and commands He has set in place for us.

God does not want us to be in continual terror of Him, though that may be where we start in our relationship with Him. Proper, mature fear of God means having a healthy reverence and respect for the most powerful Being in the universe and the laws He has set in place for our own benefit. We fear God and keep His commandments because He is love. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep (obey) My commands” John 14:15.  What He is saying is that when you love Him, your obedience to Him will flow out of a healthy, loving relationship.

The more we keep God’s law, the more we come to understand God’s love for us. We begin to see that God’s laws were not just an arbitrary set of high-stakes rules He set in place just because He could. We discover that He gave us His good laws because He knows that following them will give us the best life possible. In Ecclesiastes 12:13, the word “fear” does not just mean, “to be afraid.” It carries the additional meanings to stand in awe of, to reverence, honor and respect. We are the ones who make the Bible complicated by refusing to see the common thread throughout all of Scripture. There does not seem to be a connection between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament that is to say unless you understand the cross. This is where God’s wrath for sin and love for sinners was forever satisfied.”

John 15:9-11, draws a beautiful connection between God’s love and our obedience saying, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete”. Notice Jesus did not say, “If you keep My commands, I’ll love you.” He already loves you perfectly, and completely He could never love you more than He does at this very moment.

Many of us do not grasp the enormous extravagance of our Father’s love and the lengths to which He is willing to go to show His love. You cannot say you love Jesus and then go live like the devil. You cannot say you are a Christian and then keep on living a self-centered life. You cannot say you are a follower of Jesus and then select the verses that you want to listen to and ignore the ones you do not like. The Apostle Paul prayed in Ephesians 3:16-19 after speaking to the Gentiles about the things of God and His plans for them. He prayed that they would “…grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”. I wonder what would happen today if we could all grasp that concept.

God’s Peace!

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