Someone once put it this way: “I asked Jesus how much He loved me. He stretched out His arms and said, ‘This much’–and died.” Jesus loved us when we were unlovable and unworthy of His attention and care. Because of His agonizing work as our sin bearer, the way has been opened for those who were “formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds” (Colossians 1:21) to become God’s beloved children, members of His royal family forever. This love humbles us because it is undeserved, but it elevates us because it means that when we come to God by entrusting ourselves to His Son, nothing we do can separate us from His love (Romans 8:38-39).
The more we come to grasp and enter into this divine love, the more we will want to reciprocate by loving and honoring the eternal lover of our souls. As the Apostle John writes, “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). The security and significance of God’s unquenchable love gives us a basis for responding with love for God and expressing that love in tangible ways through acts of loving service to others. In His Upper Room discourse Jesus said, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 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” (John 15:9-10). There is a mutual relationship between abiding in the love of Christ and keeping His commandments.
When we dwell in the sphere of His unmerited love, we begin to see that His commandments are not burdensome but liberating. Abiding in His love, we become more inclined to obey Him not only because it is in our own best interests but because it is pleasing to Him. Thus the Apostle Paul wrote, “We also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him” (2 Corinthians 5:9). The ambitions of this world are directly or indirectly tied to self-aggrandizement, but the ambition of a true disciple is not exaltation of the self but exaltation of Christ. As we grow in discipleship, our motivational structure is shaped more and more by Christ’s love for us and our developing love for Him. “For the love of Christ controls us” (2 Corinthians 5:14). This relationship is reciprocal: The more we love Him, the more we will desire to obey Him; the more we obey Him, the more we will grow in our personal knowledge and love for Him.
Let me offer two questions that can help you assess where you are in this spiritual journey:
- Do you love God more for Himself than for His gifts and benefits?
- Are you more motivated to seek His glory and honor than you are to seek your own?
These questions are pivotal, not trivial, and I would encourage you to make them a matter of prayerful reflection rather than casual notice. If you cannot honestly answer yes to either of them, do not be disheartened, but ask yourself a third question: Do you want your answer to be yes? If so, offer this intention to the Lord as the desire of your heart, for with such offerings He is pleased.
But there is a fourth question that follows hard on the heels of the third: Since this level of commitment always costs, are you willing to pay the price? “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. … He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him. … If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words” (John 14:15, 21, 23-24).
The cost of obedience will take many forms, but if we commit ourselves to loving Jesus, He will give us the needed grace.
Kenneth Boa is scheduled to lead the seminar “Playing to an Audience of One” Nov. 6-8 at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove.