Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Craving of Our Hearts

What did Jesus mean when he said, "If you love me you will keep my commandments." ?(John 14:15). Having grown up under the harsh regime of legalism, for decades I've assumed these words were given in the form of a directive, as when a parent tells a young child, "You will do as you're told." We all know the likely outcome of that one: any kid worth their salt will rebel simply because they're being told they can't do something. I've witnessed some parents (and perhaps when my sons were little I was guilty of this myself at times) baiting their children, tempting them to do the very thing they've been prohibited from doing. We've all either experienced this ourselves (during childhood, or when we became parents) or we've watched it being played out in tiresome fashion. The parent forbids a certain activity in no uncertain terms, for instance, and immediately the child tests and pushes the boundary lines. 

"If you touch that you'll go straight to bed," the parent proclaims, and adds, "I mean it! Don't you dare. Don't you dare touch that when I just told you not to!"

Perhaps the child wasn't all that interested in the forbidden item or act until such proclamations were made. Now, because they have been pushed and pushed they feel a compulsion to do the very thing forbidden of them.

Does this rebellious spirit ever completely die out? Who of us, even as adults, are completely dead to the temptation to do what we're told not to do, or conversely, to not do what we're told we must do? Was Jesus simply stating a fact when He said we'd keep His commandments if we love Him (cause and effect), or was He sternly demanding that we do so?

As I ponder His words I realize I don't want to obey Him because it is a requirement with dire consequences should I decide not to comply. There is something cold about obedience for obedience's sake, something left out of the equation: the person of Christ, and what He means to us. Is it possible He was stating a fact and not giving a directive? Of course obedience in the Christian life is not an option, but I'd like to think of it as the natural outgrowth of knowing and loving Christ rather than a settling in to cold duty. If a tree is good (or evil) we shall know it by the fruit it produces. It's safe to say that if we consistently produce rotten fruit, we're not connected to the Vine. In the past, as I stumbled along stridently trying to do the right thing, I was trying to produce good fruit in my life by self-will. I didn't understand the concept of being connected to the Vine, for I'd had years and years of Thou-Shalt-Nots being emphasized much more than a relationship with the One calling me into intimacy.

I believe that we truly will keep His commandments if we love Christ, but  love is what compels us to obey willingly, from the heart, as opposed to surface compliance which at its very core may consist of a spirit of rebelliousness which we dare not admit to ourselves, let alone reveal to others.

Today and every day may we all focus on a deeper intimacy with Christ (which will ultimately result in consistent obedience), because this is the craving of our hearts.


  1. Deb, as you well know we are on very close parallel journeys from very similar backgrounds. That is why such posts like this resonate so much with my heart. I would like to take issue with one item that is a source of excitement for me in my growing understanding of the truth about God. You said that obedience is not optional for a Christian. But the amazing thing about God is that obedience really is optional. That's what love insists on for love to even exist. Of course I know what you meant, but freedom in Christ is based on obedience motivated from the heart but always free to turn away from Him, unlike the legalistic obedience we both grew up with. Thanks so much for sharing your heart.

  2. Floyd,

    I do know what you're getting at. Obedience to Christ would have to be an option in order for it to be true and spontaneous.

    The other day the verses of that old hymn "Trust and Obey" kept going through my mind. For the first time I really paid attention to the words, "trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."

    I'm sure whoever penned these words meant well, but because of my legalistic background they rub me the wrong way. They would seem to imply that unless I am always 100 percent obedient I can't enjoy happiness in Christ. And for that to happen wouldn't I pretty much have to be perfect?

    Thanks for sharing your perspective on this subject. It's always helpful to get an idea of how others see things.

  3. Floyd,

    I find I'm still pondering the comment you left, and now I have a question for which I'd like your perspective.

    If obedience is optional for a Christian then what are we to make of such verses as, "Be ye perfect, for I am perfect"? I know that legalism has cut such a deep groove in my mind that it's difficult for me to not see things with my old black and white thinking.

    The thought of obedience being optional is exciting, I think because only if it is so does the individual have the room he/she needs to reach out to Christ from a heart bursting with love. Oh, legalism is so fussy and stuffy, and there isn't time or room within its narrow piety for spontaneous expressions of joyous love. I think of Mary washing Jesus' feet with her tears, and I want that. I want that total devotion, that not caring what others think and knowing that the act itself is pure because it comes from an overflowing of love.


Comments, anyone? I'd love to hear your point of view.