“If you love me, you will keep my commandments”…John 14:15 (ESV)
I want to invite you to do a little thought exercise with me. Don’t let that word “exercise” scare you off; this one won’t even require you to get up from wherever you’re sitting right now. Here it is…
Take a mental stroll through an average week of your life. Think about the things that you do- when you wake up in the morning; as you head out the door (if you do) to work, school, or wherever; as you perform the tasks associated with your current set of responsibilities; as you spend time with various other people in your life; as you finish out your days and prepare to get some rest.
As you consider the unique circumstances of your life, and the choices that you make on a day in, day out basis, ask yourself this one simple question- Why do you do the things that you do? What motivates you to make the choices that you do with your time, money, energy, etc?
Chances are, if you’re anything like me (and on this point, I’m betting you are), everything you do falls into one of two categories- Things you’ve got to do, and things you get to do, or to phrase it another way, things you ought to do, and things you want to do. Here are a few examples from my life…
I’ve got to get up pretty early every morning.
I get to spend those early mornings with God and with my family.
I’ve got to sit down and pay our family’s bills every week.
I get to live in my home, drive my vehicles, and continue to put food on the table for my family.
I’ve got to work (and at times, wrestle) through several hours of study and writing at work every week.
I get to take the fruit of that labor and share God’s Word with our church family on Sundays.
I’ve got to get out in the brutal Louisiana heat and mow my grass repeatedly throughout the summer.
I get to look forward to the day when I can give the job to my two sons J.
Here’s what I’m aiming to communicate with this- Every got to in my life (and yours too), if it’s going to be sustainable over the long haul, has to be performed in the service of a greater get to. Obligation, on its own, is a lousy long term motivator. It is, instead, our affections which ultimately drive our choices. To put it more directly, what we love determines what we do.
Now let’s apply this principle in light of your relationship with God, provided you have one. God makes it pretty clear, in the text that heads this post and others like it, that our obedience to Him is the evidence of our love for Him. He gives us, in His Word, many commands- from the Old Testament’s Ten Commandments, to Jesus’ instructions in the Sermon on the Mount, to Paul’s practical exhortations in his many New Testament letters. It would be a fair and accurate statement to say that, as followers of Jesus Christ, there are many things you’ve got to do.
But here’s the rub- You and I are never going to obey Jesus with any long term sustainability because we ought to. You know this is true, because there are dozens of things in your life right now that you know you ought to do, but consistently don’t. Why not? Because there is no love- no get to, if you will- driving you to do them. The secret to consistent, growing obedience to Jesus isn’t obligation, but affection.
When you love someone, it causes you to do things that previously seemed unreasonable, and perhaps even impossible. It influences you to invest your time, money, and energy- even to the point of sacrifice- in things that weren’t previously even on your radar. It doesn’t necessarily make all of those things easy, but it does make them worthwhile. Got to’s become get to’s when love is behind them.
If you’re struggling with obedience to Jesus in some area of your life right now, don’t simply ask youself, What can I do to make myself obey more and better? Or, if we’re being completely honest, What can I do to get out of obeying, and not feel guilty about it? Instead, dig a little deeper into your heart and ask, Where and how have my affections become disordered? What or who do I really love most, and how is that influencing my choices?
There is no getting around this; Jesus said so Himself- “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That means the opposite is true too- If you don’t love Him (or if you love someone or something else more), you assuredly won’t keep them. So if this is true, what should you do in light of it? Here are a few suggestions…
- Consider what stirs your affections for Jesus Christ- and do those things consistently (Hint- There are certain things, such as spending time in God’s Word or with God’s people in His church, that are non-negotiable to this process).
- Consider what dampens your affections for Jesus Christ- and remove those things from your life (Hint- If there is any unconfessed, unrepentant sin in your life, it will steal your joy and “ice down” your heart toward Jesus).
- Pray that God would grow your affections for Him, and for the things that are close to His heart (most notably, people).
All of us have certain got to’s in our lives, certain things we simply ought to do. That’s inescapable, even in our relationship with God. But when love enters our hearts, those got to’s can become get to’s– and obedience can become a joy.