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Starting to obey

“One of the reasons we experience so much failure in the Christian life is that we think more about obligations then we do gospel declarations. We focus on the imperatives, but we pass over the indicatives. We fail in our doing because we fail to grasp first what Christ has already done. This leaves us powerless – running on our own steam. Only when you realize that the gospel has nothing to do with your obedience but with Christ’s obedience for you, will you start to obey. The only Christians who end up getting better are those who realize that if they don’t get better, God will love them anyway.” – Tullian Tchividjian, “Jesus + Nothing = Everything

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Joy in Obedience

“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3

If only I could live as the Lord commanded, perfectly. Life would be so much better! But as I hear them and read them, they seem a journey too far for my brokenness. But John tells us they are not burdensome. Perhaps when I see a burden, I have misplaced love.

Think of Jacob and his example of working and waiting for Rachel. The work was tiring, sun cooked labor. But to Jacob the seven years of hard labor were but as days because he had so much love for Rachel.

Then the older brother in the story of the prodigal son. He reminds the father of how he has served him for these many years. The service seemed hard when he was not receiving what he wanted, there was no love.

Jesus chose to be as Jacob. “The One who crested the sun languished under its scorching beams and struggled to keep warm when the cold penetrated his cloak at night. The One who multiplied loaves was hungry; he who sustained the universe by his word was tired. He perfectly completed the years of work his Father had given him to do, and his reward was given to others who joined in at the last moment. His inheritance was bestowed upon those who gleefully deserted him and spent their days in riotous living. The payment he earned was granted to proud self-righteous ones who disdained him. But he called it all his delight because he loved.”

“Is obedience a burden or delight? Is loving your neighbor, whoever that may be, a source of joy or a grinding drudgery? As you consider the answer to these questions, please resist the temptation to be mired down in you failure to love. Instead, turn your heart toward him and thank him for the love he has for you.”

Lenten devotion from Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Day 13.

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Lenten Love and Obedience

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15

When it comes to motivating, we use guilt far too much. Think of the way you tell the kids that they should clean their rooms because “don’t you love me and want to do what I say?” Even when we look at biblical obedience, it is far too easy to motivate with guilt rather than grace.

“It is true that the object of our love can always be detected in our behavior… If love for God isn’t present in our heart, then Godward obedience will be absent in our life.

But how do we grow our love without it becoming guilt-driven duty? And what does Jesus mean by these words that love will drive us to keep commands?

“Jesus is lovingly stating a fact, but he’s also making a precious promise: love will motivate behavior. He completely knows us, even the inmost thoughts of our hearts. He knows of our desire to obey and our shame and sadness because of our failures. But he also knows this: as our love for him grows, our obedience will grow, too.”

“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 is 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.”

So it is less about us and our love and more about Jesus and his love!

“Resting in the awareness of our perfect acceptance before him and in his intense desire to have us for his own will cause us to want to please him. It will make us love him, and love for him will always eventuate in godliness.”

Jesus doesn’t guilt you. “He isn’t trying to motivate you through guilt or pity. His love is fervent, eternal, uncompromising. Rest there, drink there, luxuriate in the warm sunshine of his smile; grow strong in his everlasting embrace. Confront your own sinfulness, yes, but only after you’ve remembered his love for you. Then love him and obey.”

Lenten devotion from Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Day 12.