All in the name of Love:
Staci was insanely crazy over Brian. They had been “hanging out” for about 8 months now (to Staci and her other college freshman friends, that constitutes a deep relationship). Brian was more than she dreamed, athletic and smart. He seemed to know where he was headed in life, yet he could have fun. They would spend nearly every weekend together: bowling, movies, games with friends. He bought her flowers for Valentine’s Day, a cool birthday gift, and paid for their meal nearly every time they went out. Staci could tell Brian loved her, and since Christmas time was coming up she was anticipating Brian taking the next step in the relationship by making it official. They had never kissed, Staci was not a forward girl at all and it seemed that Brian respected that. Christmas eve came, Brian asked her out to her favorite restaurant. They got in the car and headed off to what she just knew was going to be the most exciting night of her life thus far. She was wondering how he would make it official. He told her to close her eyes as they were heading down the highway – she did and her anticipation grew. A few minutes later he told her she could open them. They were in the middle of nowhere, but she recognized the spot per what she had heard about it. This was not the place people go to maintain a serious relationship, but where shallow flings were carried out. She had to be wrong, maybe he was just going to talk. Then as he began to inch closer to her, the look in his eye made her uncomfortable. She immediately opened the passenger door, and ran for the road as she dialed for a friend to come get her. Brian didn’t go after her, he had been rejected, but no matter to him – there were others. Staci, on the other hand was crushed. For days she didn’t eat. He had done so much, how could he not love her! The food, flowers, time together – it was all for what he could get from her. It was all a front. The actions said, “I love you!” but Brian’s heart was far from loving Staci.
Staci made a mistake – she saw actions that a lover would perform out of love and mistook them for love itself. Many Christians make the same mistake.
You see, loving God and obeying God are NOT the same. Love is the root, obedience is the fruit. Many take Jesus’ word, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” And they flip it to say “To keep my commandments is to love Me.” Although seemingly insignificant, it bears grave danger to those who ascribe to and teach it. It’s legalism in priestly garments – hypocrisy. Like anything else, it produces after its own kind. Love for God will produce obedience to God, but obedience to God is not to be substituted as love for God. Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. Peter’s response was, “LORD, you know I love you!” Jesus didn’t reply “Well then, you must already be doing everything I want you to do.” Rather He gave Peter a command to follow out of the love Peter already had for Him.
When we substitute rules for relationship we may look good outwardly, we may have a form of godliness, but the power behind that obedience is not biblical. The motive, what should be love for God, is really fleshly motives. Some in this group even rely on their obedience as proof to themselves that they love God. I have seen lists such as a daily checklist of things to do to be a 5 star Christian. Whether intended to or not, this tends to come across as saying “do these 5 things daily and you will be a top notch Christian!” It actually bypasses the heart and defines loving God in tangible terms.
This is not to say that if one truly loves God there are not certain things he will do, but rather to emphasize that the performance of those duties are not to be equated with loving God. So, one who attempts to keep God’s commandments does not necessarily love Him. If one says that he loves God, and doesn’t obey God then he proves by his actions that his love is false. But one’s outward obedience to God’s commandments does not prove positively that one does in fact love God. I know some of you are probably raring to cite I John 2:5 to me, “but whoever keeps His word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in Him:” I am not denying this truth, rather emphasizing what legalism overlooks – the heart. To keep God’s commands from the heart is what John is speaking of when he talks of obedience. Jesus said, “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS,
BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’ ” (Matthew 15:7-9) It’s not in the keeping of the tasks, but the keeping of them from a heart of love.
To love God is to treasure, exalt, desire, prize God above all else. Obedience will be the fruit of this treasuring God with one’s heart. But the danger today is that pastors and teachers are giving people a list and say, “If you want to love God then do these things.” Or “If you really loved God then you would do this (and proceed to give them some man made mandate).” And the people set out to show themselves and others that they love God. From start to finish it’s all flesh. Some keep the rules out of fear that God will make their life miserable, some out of fear of the preacher, some fear the gossips, some just like to be able to be put in the “righteous” category; but those who live with no real love for God are all guilty of walking according to the flesh. Trying to explain this to them is like arguing with a fence post, as they just point to all they’re doing as proof that you’re obviously wrong.
Motive matters. A good motive doesn’t make a wrong action right, nor does a right action compensate for the wrong motive with which it was performed.
My intent is to encourage those who read to search their heart.
May we be so consumed with a passionate love for The LORD that we can’t help but pursue Him obediently.