Read Demand #5 yesterday and was really provoked by the following that Piper wrote:
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Sometimes people use these words to say: Loving Jesus is keeping his commandments. That’s not what it says. It says that keeping Jesus’ commandments comes from our love for him. It does not separate deeds from love, but it does distinguish them. First we love him. Then because of this—overflowing from this–-we do what he says. Love is not synonymous with commandment-keeping; it is the root of it. So the love that Jesus demands is something very deep and strong—like the closet family bonds of affection that we have, but greater than that and more than that.
I think I am the ‘sometimes people’ who say “Loving Jesus is keeping his commandments.” You mean it’s not? Well, Piper helpfully pointed out that the verse does not say that. Doing what God says, obeying God in His Word, comes from our love for God. I must confess that I so often equate loving Jesus to keeping His commands. If I do not think through this carefully, then all I am trying to be is a law-keeping pharisee. The author’s next sentence is helpful in remind me that love and deeds are not separate. (I can’t help but to think of the faith & deed issues in James chapter 2.) However it is of utmost importance to distinguish them. Perhaps thinking through an example would be helpful.
I’m thinking of my 8 month old son Yi Kai. Like every parent, I would like to have obedient children. That means, my children listen and follow what I tell them to do. But if that is all that I demand from my child, obedience, then all that I am raising in the child is a little pharisee. (This thought is from the book Shepherding a Child’s Heart I think, must go back to the book and reference it.) What I pray I will receive from my children is love, just as I love my children. And from this, we will ‘intelligently and willingly do what is best’ (Alan Catchpoole) for one another.
I must remember to keep distinguishing love and deeds. Failure will perhaps mean going on a serious and unnecessary guilt trip. Having been in full-time Christian ministry for 7 years, I have seen and personally experience how some workers struggle with this whole issue of love and deeds. It goes something like this.
Ministry is getting tough. I feel like giving up. But wait I can’t give up. Because, (here it is!) if I love Jesus, I will do what he says. And what he says is, ___________ . (Insert here whatever ministry task or responsibility that is making you feel like quitting in the first place.)
In distinguishing love and deeds, I must also remember that they are not separate. For Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” So I pray that God will be merciful to help me love Him. And to love Him so much that my deeds will overflow as a result.
Love, it’s a heart issue.