Sometimes, Jesus' statements are misinterpreted as ‘commandments’ when, in truth, they are simply declarations of facts. Changing a statement of fact into a commandment automatically turns the focus back to ourselves to perform that ‘commandment,’ thereby infusing self-effort into what was meant to simply lead us to understand how something naturally works.
One such statement often used to impose obedience is John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
In looking at the context of this verse, we see something more than just instructions to exercise more effort to obey because we love Christ. Christ flips this statement and restates it a few times.
“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.” (John 14:21)
“If a man love me, he will keep my words.” (v. 23)
“He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings.” (v. 24)
Clearly, carrying out Christ’s words hinges on LOVE.
In the very next chapter, Christ emphasizes how we can only bear fruit of the vine (Christ) if/when we are abiding (living) in Christ and Christ is abiding in us. “For without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).
This brings to mind another statement Christ made in Luke 6:45, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”
A person can’t help but produce out of what is within his heart. Our will, choices, and actions naturally flow out of the state of our heart. We are motivated by what we love, therefore, our will, choices, and actions are evidence of what we love. We tell the whole world what we truly love by what we focus on, where we spend our time and money, and by what we do. Actions are just a by-product of our love. To address one’s behavior or actions is to try to cure a symptom, but not the disease.
“If a man love me, he WILL keep my words. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings” (John 14:23-24). A statement of fact.
So, now the focus shifts from self-effort as proof of our love for Christ to the question of what we love. What do I truly love? What does the evidence say? Do I love Christ over all else? If I do, that will be evident. Do I love Him above self, or do I love self more? Does evidence (my will & actions) show that I am more interested in and motivated by my own comfort, wants, and needs than I am interested in and motivated by learning Christ and living in union with Him? Am I truly hungry, yearning to know Christ and my Father more than anything else in this earthly life? Does the evidence show that?
If the evidence points in the wrong direction, how do we change what we love? Can we make ourselves truly love what we don’t love? No.
Like in all other conversations of behavior modification and self-help, ultimately we must acknowledge that we are helpless. Just like when we realized our need for a savior and asked Christ to save us from sin, once again, we come to the realization that we are without the power to change ourselves, to make ourselves produce what we should. That is our humanity. That is the man in Romans 7, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (vv. 18-19). We will never produce the “righteous man” in the Scriptures by our efforts because the “righteous man” is Christ in us.
Once again, we look to God. It was His miracle which saved us and gave us eternal life, and it is His miracle which changes hearts. We can only ask Him for this miracle, listen to His Spirit teach us, submit to His work within us, and wait with patience.
“God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)
It is a long process, but we will notice little by little how we start caring more about others, how our interests begin to change. The world’s ideas are no longer entertaining. The earthly stuff starts losing its grip on us as we find ourselves in pursuit of hearing God, living daily in His Spirit, and watching Christ live out through us.
The heart has changed! We have fallen in love with Christ, and now we walk in Him as HE fulfills His commandments. “If a man love me, he will keep my words” (John 14:23).
“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:13)
God “make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Heb. 13:21)
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