Because of the way I was raised, I have a really warped image of who the God of the Bible is. I have oftentimes viewed Him as an angry Father, constantly displeased with me because I do not measure up. (I find it a bit inconsistent that I don’t think He feels that way about everyone else!? “I love the whole world – except you. You need work first.”)
In my head, I know that He loves me because He died for me and I realize that we are blessed to live in the Age of Grace – but that does not translate to emotional/heart knowledge because of my own family dynamics. In my head, I know that my earthly father loves me – but that relationship does not feel loving and my heart is often left feeling rejected by my earthly father. As a child, I always strived to be perfect so that he would love and accept me. As an adult, I realize I am far from perfect. All of my failures pile up, leaving me feeling as though I have no worth and am unlovable.
This has definitely translated to my view of my relationship with God.
To add to this confusion, the family member who had the biggest spiritual influence on my life is very controlling and passive aggressive. Her view of God is warped in the same way that mine is – she actually believes that if she’s not in church on Sunday morning or if she commits some sin and then dies, she will go to hell. She sees God as constantly waiting to bring judgement on her. She puts a lot of emphasis on outward appearances and rules. She uses guilt trips to manipulate you into doing what she wants. She is in bondage, as I have spent so many years in bondage. So when reading the following verse, I have always kind of heard her voice in my head…
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15
If I really love God, I will stive to keep his commandments so that I can SHOW my love for Him, right? He’s like my relative – “if you REALLY love me, you’ll do this…”
Last night, Scott and I were listening to an online bible study on Revelation that we’ve been working through for the past month or so, when an idea was presented that honestly blew my mind. You may have had this right all along, but bear with me because I have not had it right at all.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. John 14:15-17
In context, Jesus is telling his disciples about the coming of the Holy Spirit! There is only one way a person can keep the commandments – through the power of the Holy Spirit! My view of this verse has been completely backwards. I’ve emphasized “works” – keeping the commandments in order to show my love for Jesus. In actuality, loving Jesus will CAUSE me to keep his commandments! My focus has been on the rules when all this time, He’s been saying “Love me.” If we love Him, the Holy Spirit will work in our lives and produce the fruit of the Spirit. We don’t have to work to try to obtain those things. They will be a natural overflow of our love for Him!
When Jesus was asked “What is the greatest commandment?”, what was his response?
Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31
Again, I’ve always just seen these verses as “Well, that’s because the first of the 10 commandments have to do with loving God and the rest have to do with loving your neighbor…” I’ve viewed it as a quick summary of the whole list.
But I was missing the “love”.
Love Jesus and you WILL keep his commandments. Not because He’s trying to make you feel guilty. Not because He’s asking you to try harder until you get it right. Not because He’s waiting on you to be just be a bit more “godly” so that you can be accepted.
You were accepted when He died on the cross and took on all your guilt, failures, and ungodliness. Love Him! And as you allow the Holy Spirit to change your heart, you become more like Him.
Lord, help me to love you more. Help me to get my eyes off of what I think I need to be doing and focus on all that You are. Mold me and shape me into who You want me to be.