If we want an ever-deepening relationship with Jesus Christ, obedience is key. You might be thinking, "But this is legalism. What about grace?"
First, we must understand that the imperative to show our love by obeying the Lord's commands was not addressed to the world at large. It's only for those who've already put their trust in Christ alone.
If you have not put your faith, hope, and trust in Christ to forgive your sins and give you eternal life, then you can't have an intimate relationship with Jesus. Plus, you can't experience the comfort given by God because you can't obey His Word.
We can't be forgiven of our sins and delivered from God's judgment, we can't gain eternal life, through obedience. In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."
But we can't forget what Paul says in the next verse. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
The grace we experience when He makes us a new creation, turning our heart of stone into a heart of flesh, produces a life of good works. That's why, when James tells us, "Faith without works is dead"
(James 2:14-26), he's saying Christ is the root and works are the fruit.
The key difference between being legalistic and being obedient is to love Jesus. But far too often we forget the difference between the two. If we had any doubt what it looks like to obey God's Word, Jesus clarifies it four times in our text.
- John 14:15: "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments."
- John 14:21: "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me."
- John 14:23: "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word."
- John 14:24: "He who does not love Me does not keep My words."
The difference between legalism and obedience is love. If you love Jesus, you will obey His Word. That's why the only way anyone can find true encouragement, hope, comfort, and love is through obeying the Lord's commands. In this way, we build a deep intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
Jesus knew the only way His disciples could make it through trails, persecution, and hardships was to have a close relationship with Him. Without this relationship, the disciples wouldn't be able to face what lay ahead of them. And why would they want to? The same is true of us.
Because obedience is the way to build our relationship with the Lord, we must know His Word. How? By studying it regularly. We must read the Scriptures over and over, until they shape our worldview—and then continue to read and study it.
Our love for the Lord will grow, as will our desire to obey Him. We will no longer be content to cheat on our taxes, disregard traffic laws, and condone immoral sexual behavior. We'll realize that much of what we thought was right is wrong and vice versa. (See Isaiah 5:20-21.)
Obedience isn't simply knowing biblical facts. Instead, God's Word must mold and shape us. It must guide our motives and actions.
If you're tempted to look at porn, you remember Paul saying in 1 Corinthians 6:18, "Flee immorality," and you do it. It doesn't matter that you couldn't remember the whole chapter or even the whole verse. You remembered the command and obeyed it.
That's what Jesus is talking about. He's saying, "If you love me, you'll not only know my word; you'll believe it and apply it."
We must be careful not to give the outward impression of obedience from the heart. In Mark 7:6, Jesus told the Pharisees they knew the Scriptures well. In fact, in order to be a Pharisee or scribe, you had to go through 40 years of intense study of Scripture.
That's why, when the Magi went to Herod and asked to see the new King of the Jews, he went to the religious leaders. (See Matthew 2:5-6.) When he asked them where the King was to be born, they said, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet."
And then they quoted Micah 5:2, "And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel."
They didn't hesitate. They didn't talk amongst themselves. They knew where the Messiah was to be born. Why? Because they had spent decades studying the texts just to become Pharisees, and that study didn't stop.
Jesus knew this, but He also knew that they merely honored God with their lips. Their hearts were far from Him. God doesn't care about us going through the motions. He doesn't care if we've memorized every word, every punctuation mark, ever line of God's Word. None of that matters if we have a heart of stone. None of that matters if we haven't truly put your faith, hope, and trust in Christ as Lord and Savior. We must be careful that we're not just going through the motions. Instead, we must obedient because He has changed our heart.
The other thing we must be careful of is not being selective in our obedience. We all fall into this. There are a lot of people who look down on individuals who drink alcohol but are struggling with gluttony. Others criticize and condemn those who cheat on their spouse. Yet, they look at pornography. Many people would never consider robbing a bank but take extra long lunch breaks, thereby, stealing from their employer.
Jesus didn't say, "Keep the commandments that are easiest to obey." He said, "Keep my commandments" period.
I don't want you to worry that you can't truly love the Lord because you don't obey Him every moment of every day. None of us do.
Remember what Jesus said of His disciples in John 17:6, "They have kept Your Word."
Really? These men bickered amongst themselves, debating who was the greatest. They abandoned Jesus in His darkest hour. They misunderstood what He had come to accomplish. They doubted His resurrection.
But Jesus wasn't looking at these details. He was looking at the overall direction of their lives, not if they had kept His commandments perfectly.
Theologian A. W. Pink said, "Two things are true of every Christian: deep down in his heart there is an intense, steady longing and yearning to please God, to do His will, to walk in full accord with His Word. This yearning may be stronger in some than in others, and in each of us it is stronger at sometimes than at others; nevertheless, it is there! But in the second place, no real Christian fully realizes this desire. Every genuine Christian has to say with the apostle Paul, 'Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own' (Philippians 3:12)."