Obeying Christ’s commandments out of fear of hell or hope of reward in heaven and not for love of him?
Acts 8:5-8 I Pet 3:15-18 Jn 14:15-21
Dear Friends! The gospel we heard today has two themes. One is keeping the commandments which Jesus gave us. The other is on the coming of the Holy Spirit. Today let us look at the first theme, keeping the commandment of God and we will talk about the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday.
Faith and obedience are bound up in the same bundle. One who obeys God believes him; one who believes God obeys him. Obedience to God for a Christian believer is, of course, obedience to the commandments of Christ. But in order to obey Christ, we first need the conversion of our hearts or a change from our previous life-style to “the new life in Christ”. This is the message we hear from the second reading today. “Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear…” (I Pet 3:15)This is so because the seat of faith is not in the brain but in the heart. Once our hearts are converted to Christ by means of our faith, we are ready to obey the commandments of Christ; and we will obey for love of him, not for any other reason. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15).
Once an angel was walking down the street, with a torch in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. “What are you going to do with the torch and that bucket of water?” someone asked. The angel said, “With the torch I’m going to burn down the mansions of heaven; and with the bucket of water, I’m going to put out the fires of hell. Then we’re going to see who really loves God.” Many people seem to obey Christ’s commandments out of fear of hell or hope of reward in heaven and not for love of him.
If we love Jesus we will strive to give ourselves totally to him. Sometimes we hear people make statements like, “Jesus understands that I am human. He will forgive me.” Jesus is forgiving, we do not doubt Jesus’ mercy. But if we love Jesus more than anything we will put Jesus before whatever it is that is tempting us and try to root that sin out of our lives completely. Loving Jesus therefore is not just something emotional; loving Jesus means changing our lives, reforming our lives, working on our personalities and characters, overcoming sinful habits, stretching ourselves to love as Jesus loved. Loving Jesus means thinking about ourselves and others as Jesus thinks.
What happens when we obey God out of love? Verse Jn 14:21 tells us, “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” Notice in this passage, who is the one Jesus shows himself or reveals himself to? The one who loves and obeys him. God wants you and me to experience him in our life. Jesus wants to reveal himself. He wants us to personally experience his spiritual presence, his power. If you are wondering why you aren’t experiencing God in a personal way, perhaps you need to ask yourself, am I obeying what God has already revealed for me to do. Perhaps God is not sharing more with us because we haven’t obeyed what God has already revealed to us. Our obedience determines what God will be able to do through us.
Another question you might ask: Does God love us any less if we are disobedient? The Bible is clear that God loves us unconditionally no matter what we do. As a parent do you love your children any less because they disobeyed? Sure, you can be disappointed, upset, perhaps even angry with them, but you still love them. Because of our disobedience God can be disappointed, upset, perhaps angry with us, but his love for us is unfailing.
If we obey Christ’s commandments, then, and then only, he will send us his Holy Spirit. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always…”
Dear friends! As we go home today let us ask ourselves these questions: Do I love God with whole my heart and soul? Or do I follow his commands because of fear of hell or reward of eternal life? If we do love and obey his commandments certainly he will reveal himself to us and give us also a Helper the Advocate and gives directions in our life.