Trading Rules for Love
1 John 5:1-3: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”
Perhaps as a believer on the Lord Jesus Christ you encounter statements like this in conversations with non-believers: “Being a Christian is nothing but a bunch of rules. I don’t want to live by their book of rules. It’s nothing but ‘dos and don’ts’!” There is a reason for this misconception of what God’s Word represents. When someone does not love God, they don’t know His heart and they don’t read His Word with understanding or connection. They have no history with the Father behind the boundaries.
John, who labeled himself as “the one whom Jesus loved” (John 13), spoke of this topic in his first letter to fellow Christ followers in chapter five of 1 John. He wrote to these saints who were enduring hardship and encountering false doctrinal teaching, reminding them that, in the face of all these trials, their love for Christ was to supersede everything. And indeed it would be their love for Christ that would grant them the strength, desire, and passion to keep His commandments.
1 “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.
The tell-tale evidence of a born-again Christian is their love for God and His commandments. John clearly states–to the believers of that day and to those of us these many years later–that accepting Jesus brings new birth from God Himself. We then are born again with new spiritual DNA. Our desires, tendencies, habits, and “spiritual genetic” makeup shift to reflect that of our Maker and Life Giver.
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.
Have you been born again? Then this love fest continues to include the Body of Christ–the Church and its members. The evidence? Loving God and keeping His commandments. This beautiful transformation of new birth in Christ transforms the spirit of man so that he is now able to keep the commandments and rest within the boundaries that the Father has set for safety and growth. For everyone outside of this love for God and His Son, such commandments are a major chore and totally unreasonable.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
Loving God and growing in that love eases the burden of keeping His commandments. Why? Because I know and trust my Heavenly Father is working all things together for my good according to His purpose (Romans 8)! Therefore, I am continually leaning in to love Him more and more so I can trust Him and obey Him with greater ease and less bristle from my flesh.
“So does this mean that when I accept Christ and am born again that I will always desire to keep His commandments?”
Wouldn’t that be amazing? Truthfully, there are times when it’s a struggle. Why? Because the flesh is dominating the spirit. Each of us have a spirit, but it is wrapped in flesh. The spirit that is surrendered to Christ and loves Him passionately craves His boundaries, knowing that such boundaries bring safety, peace, and favor. The flesh wants what it wants, right? So the spirit must draw continually closer to its source–its Creator–for strength to conquer the flesh. The closer we are to the Father, the easier it becomes to obey Him.
Even in common human relationships this concept is played out. When a man and woman form a relationship as a couple and love begins to grow between them, the boundaries of the relationship begin forming and then increasing. As the love and connection increases, so does their understanding of faithfulness to one another. When they enter in to marriage, they exchange vows, declaring, “I’m for you, you’re for me. No one else comes before you in my life.” When life situations come to tear at that covenant they made with God, the couple then determines to honor the vows. It’s easier for an outsider to say “dump him….you don’t deserve that” but to the wife who loves the husband, she is determined to honor her vow to remain true to him and show him that love with her faithfulness.
Are you struggling to keep His commandments? Are they feeling burdensome and constricting? It’s time to spend more time with God, reading His Word, listening to His voice, and loving Him more. When we love Him, we keep His commandments. I love how Jesus even expressed His own dependence upon the Father out of His love for Him.
John 15:9-13: 9 “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
In essence Jesus was telling His disciples, “I obey the Father out of My love for Him! Surely you can obey these commandments out of your love for Me. You’re my FRIENDS!”
Let us determine today, once again, to follow Christ’s example and love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, that we may shine brightly for all to see the love of God in us.
Rules? Nah. It’s nothing but my love for my Father!
Determined to please Him,