We don’t normally link love with obedience. We certainly don’t do it the way Jesus does when He says, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Excuse me?!?! If that doesn’t sound a little strange to you, here’s what you should do: take your best friend out for coffee and suggest this as the new organizing principle for your friendship. My guess is that isn’t going to go so well! But we don’t have the luxury of dismissing something as crazy when Jesus is the One talking. We need to understand this link between love and obedience. John 14 shows these ideas are linked in at least two different ways.
Link #1: Love Precedes Obedience
Jesus spends the first 14 verses of the chapter giving His followers reasons to love Him deeply. Here’s a quick summary:
- Belief in Jesus combats anxiety. (Verse 1)
- Jesus is preparing a place for us in His Father’s eternal house. (Verse 2)
- Jesus is coming again. (Verse 3)
- Belief in Jesus is the only way to enter the Father’s house. (Verse 6)
- When we see Jesus, we see the Father. (Verse 9)
- Jesus’ miracles testify to His divinity. (Verse 11)
- Jesus hears and answers our prayers. (Verse 13-14)
All of that lays the foundation for three simple words in verse 12, “believe in Me.” Jesus isn’t trying to crush His followers into submission. He wants to capture their hearts. He wants them to see Him for who He really is and fall in love with Him.
Jesus is concerned about love before He ever gets to obedience. That’s the essence of the gospel. Jesus never tells spiritually dead people to clean their life up and then come to Him. He awakens dead hearts to His glory and leads people who once hated Him to delight in Him.
So much of our evangelism looses sight of this truth. We want to convert people to the Christian lifestyle before they are converted to Jesus. But that’s not how Jesus does it. Love precedes obedience.
Link #2: Love Produces Obedience
That’s verse 15. And 21, 23 and 24. A heart that has truly been captured by the glory of God will joyfully obey Him and submit to Him. Why? Because we know He is good, wise, faithful and will never lead us astray. We know our hearts are deceptive, our emotions are unreliable, we lack wisdom and we’re plagued by a horrid selfishness that clouds our judgment.
Somewhere along the line, people started to peddle a version of Christianity that divorced love and obedience. It’s a version of Christianity that goes something like this: Jesus just wants to be your buddy and you can live life however you want; in fact, He’s a useful antidote to guilt. That’s not the Jesus of the Bible. He’s not a beggar hoping you’ll let Him into your heart. He’s a Sovereign King who is infinitely worthy of worship.
If we love Him, our hearts will be marked by an increasing desire to obey Him.
It’s easy to focus on obedience. We get really good at keeping score in our lives and in the lives of others. But all of our score keeping yields little change. True change comes when we shift our focus to loving Jesus. As we fall more in love with Him, obedience will by the inevitable by product.