During my recent ministry trip to India, I shared with a group of leaders from John 14:15 where Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” I was talking about the key to keeping God’s commandments and overcoming temptations.
For many years, I had tried my best to keep God’s commandments as proof of my love for Him. That was how I always interpreted this verse. However, I soon realised that it was tough to maintain this walk.
There were times where I felt victorious over temptations, but there were also times where I felt utterly defeated and let God down. It was both frustrating and discouraging to live life like a ‘yoyo Christian’ – one moment you’re up and the next, you’re down. I was striving to keep God’s commandments with my own strength.
Then one day, the Holy Spirit showed me what John 14:15 really meant. He said, “Don’t focus on keeping the commandments, focus on loving God.” This revelation changed my whole perspective! When you love somebody, you do all you can to protect the relationship and not hurt that person.
When you love God more and more each day, obeying and keeping His commandments becomes second nature to you. You’ll ‘want to’, not ‘have to’, and it’s not burdensome. That’s when your love for Him becomes stronger than the desire to give in to temptation. I love how the Passion translation puts it so beautifully – “Loving God empowers you to obey His commandments.”
As I was sharing this, one leader asked me a sincere question, “How do you love God?” I was startled because his question seemed so fundamental that we normally assume every Christian knows how to love God. Yet, on further reflection, it’s an important question that we don’t ask ourselves frequently enough because we often think we love God but our decisions and actions prove otherwise.
This is especially obvious when we reply a relationship question with a religious answer. We give ‘textbook’ answers because we’ve not experienced it or made much progress in our walk with God – we’ve replaced worship with works.
We need to know that God doesn’t love you more or ‘lesser’ based on your performance, what you’ve done or not. We all know this in our heads, but very few know this in their hearts. We still see people struggling and striving to find acceptance and approval from men rather than living for the applause of heaven. We live in a world that’s so utilitarian, fast-paced, and task-driven. Nothing you can do to make Him love you more! You’re already loved by God (1 John 4:9-10). Would you take a moment now, wherever you are, and let this truth sink into your heart?
The Pharisees thought they knew how to love God by keeping His law, but they ended up being religious and controlling. The irony was that, when Jesus appeared in their midst, they couldn’t recognise Him because they were so preoccupied with keeping the law that they failed to understand the ‘heart of the law’, which is to know (have a relationship with) God. They ended up worshipping the law instead of the Lawgiver.
How do you love God? I believe the key is found in 1 John 4:19, “We love Him because He first loved us.” Our ability to love comes from God. Let me paraphrase it this way – to the degree we allow God to love us, that same measure we’re able to love God and others. Love comes from God because God IS love (1 John 4:8). We ought to be serving God and others from the overflow of His love in us, else we’d be striving – that’s why many burn out in the end. We serve out of Who God is, not who we are. Similarly, we’ll fall short when we try to love others based on our own strength and ability.
I want to honour the late Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke by sharing one of his quotes which impacted me greatly. Every time I read it, I can imagine him saying in his strong German accent, “To know the Love of all loves is the secret of all secrets.” It’s to know – and keep knowing – the ever-increasing love of God. Once you know that, you’ll possess the answer to the meaning of life.
As Rev. Reinhard would say, “A loveless Gospel is a contradiction – a sea without water, sun without light, honey without sweetness, and bread without substance. The Gospel is nothing other than love. It’s not that the Church hasn’t been trained in evangelism; it’s not a lack of instruction or information. The fact is – if you don’t love people through the eyes of Christ, the world will never be changed. Jesus gave Himself at the Cross FOR us, so that He could give Himself TO us.”
As you wrap up 2019 and prepare to enter into 2020, let our loving Heavenly Father take you to another level of His immeasurable love. The only way to love others unconditionally is when we know we’re loved by God the same. That’s why we were born – to be loved and to love. If God is love, and we’re His children, then we should be the personification of His love wherever we go.
May we be the carriers of His love to those around us, bringing hope to every person we meet. And, as we leave our mark behind, we can sign off each moment with, “From God, with Love.”
Have a purposeful and powerful 2020!