At Theological Life this morning we briefly discussed motivation for obedience in the Christian. How I read scripture, I think it is clear that for those in Christ the motivation for obedience is the love of Christ and the truth of the gospel. For some this is difficult. They can grab a hold of concepts like ‘duty’ or reward for motivation to live differently, but motivated by the gospel? That seems too hard to ‘do.’ While these other motivations may play some part, if we are not supremely motivated by what Christ has done for us out of love and how he is continually changing us through the Spirit, we are missing something.
My buddy Seth pointed out a section from Elyse Fitzpatrick that gets at the issue. The distinction is subtle but vitally important.
“Let me explain how the truth that love motivates obedience usually plays out in my heart. I think, Okay, I’ve got the “love God” part down, so now I need to concentrate on being more and more obedient to prove it. It’s right there that I fail to get the emphasis right. I gloss over the motivating role that love plays and focus in on what I need to do instead. I mistakenly assume that my love for him is what it should be. But this verse isn’t primarily meant as a correction to lazy believers. It is meant to tell us what the key to obedience is.
“The key to a godly life is not more and more self-generated effort. Instead, Jesus is saying, “Love me and your obedience will flow naturally from that love.” The secret to obedience isn’t formulaic steps found in a self-help book. It is a relentless pursuit of love for him. How then do I cultivate the sincerity of love that motivates obedience? By focusing more intently on his love for me than on my love for him, more on his obedience than mine, more on his faithfulness than mine, more on his strengths than mine.” – Elyse Fitzpatrick, Comforts from the Cross, page 60.
The scripture she is focusing on is John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”