my thoughts from The Discipline of Grace,
Ch.7 “Obeying the Greatest Commandment”
by Jerry Bridges
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.”
If loving God is the greatest commandment, how do we do it?
One big way to show love to him is to do what he says. Scriptures point often to this (1 John 5:3).
How do we obey?
Bridges says most believers obey with a “cruise-control” approach. Conform your behavior to the acceptable standard used by other Christians around you, and comfortably blend in, doing no less, doing no more.
“Race-car” obedience, on the other hand, is for those desiring to win the race. Go all out. Make every effort to love him and pursue holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 2 Peter 1:5-7).
But does obedience = love?
Isn’t it possible to attempt to obey God (the police? an overbearing boss?) without actually loving him?
Yes. We can obey without love.
So while obedience may or may not be evidence of love, it is not love itself. Motives matter.
“Our motive for obedience is just as important, probably more so, to God than the level of our performance.
A person who struggles with some persistent sin but does so out of love for God is more pleasing to Him than the person who has no such struggle but is proud of his or her self-control.”
- JERRY BRIDGES
We can offer beautiful, outward performances of obedience from motives of pride, guilt, fear of consequences, and manipulation for reward.
How do we get the right motive?
It doesn’t begin with anything we do—it starts with God. Because he loves us first, we have reason to love him in return (1 John 4:19).
Our love to God can only be a response to His love for us.
If I do not believe God loves me, I cannot love Him.
To love God, I must believe that He is for me, not against me (Romans 8:31), and that He accepts me as a son or a daughter, not a slave (Galatians 4:7).
- JERRY BRIDGES
It’s a fact that God loves us. But not everyone believes it. Why not? Bridges says one reason is we think our guilt and condemnation from own sin make us too unlovable. (And honestly, we’re not that alluring.) Thus, God must look on us with disdain.
So if we think someone dislikes us, typically (in the natural man anyway) we don’t like them either. Right?
To break this cycle, we need to see ourselves as pure in God’s sight, to legitimately eliminate our guilty conscience. We can’t do that on our own (we’re still guilty of sin, despite our best efforts), but rather by being forgiven by Jesus and trading our sins for his righteousness.
Then we are freed up to see ourselves as clean, and free to accept God’s love.
To do otherwise is an affront to God.
The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to him is not to believe that he loves you.
- JOHN OWEN
So what makes us love God more?
Believing more and more that he loves us.
Walk back to the cross. Day after day. Look on his love.
The greater faith we have in his love, evidenced by the gospel and grace of Jesus Christ, the greater will be our capacity to love him.
Could it be because you struggle to believe he loves you?