...and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind (Ephesians 4:23).

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30 May 2010

Why Do You Obey God?

Have you ever stopped to consider the driving motivation behind any particular action you perform? “Why do you watch movies?” “Why do you read books?” “Why do you clean your house?” “Why do you go to school/work?” “Why do you go to church?” I believe that all of these questions can be answered by considering these three motivators: acting out of fear, acting in an attempt to conform to a standard, and acting out of love. Using these three ideas, I will show how they apply to obedience to God. So, “why do you obey God?”

I am sure everyone can think of many instances where they have acted out of fear; perhaps you were outside, saw a snake, and then ran. Regardless of whether the snake was dangerous, you decided that you would not risk anything. What you feared was a potential outcome, that is, the snake being poisonous and biting you. If you stayed near to the snake and then because of your proximity to the snake you were bit, you would have suffered a consequence by staying too close it. Consequence is the keyword to understanding fear; what will happen if I do (or do not) perform this action? Consequence is simply the outcome of a performed action.

With that idea being understood, why would someone obey God out of fear? Because they fear the consequence of disobeying God. This consequence is hell (2 Thessalonians 1:5-9). However, should we be willing to act of our fear to avoid hell? Absolutely yes! Jesus Himself told us that we should be scared of God because He has the power to destroy our soul (Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:5). We should be willing to do whatever it takes to avoid that outcome! But is this a strong way to obey God? It will be only be as strong as the belief that eternal punishment is real.

What about conforming to a standard? Any college student who is writing an essay realizes that they must conform to a standard in order to achieve a high grade. This standard might be MLA, APA, or perhaps it is a unique one created by the student’s professor. Some examples of conforming to a standard will also expose a fear; in this example, the student might write their paper by the MLA standard because they fear that if they do not, then they will not receive a good grade.

If we are trying to obey God, how would we know what to do? It should seem logical that if we are trying to obey God, then we would obey the things that He has told us to do. Thus, the word of God is our standard (2 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 1:20, 21). How do we conform to this standard? It should be obvious that we would conform to it by obeying it (1 John 2:3). Furthermore, we must obey His commandments if are to enter eternal life (Matthew 19:17) and we can only do it Jesus’ way! John 14:6 reads,

“Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.”

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to do something you love? Often, you can and will do things that you love to do without even thinking about it. If you love to go watch movies, you do not typically stop to think of the consequences of going, such as money, time, or the worth of viewing them (see Philippians 4:8). Nor does there exist a “movie watching” standard that you are trying to conform to. No, if you want to go to the movies and you love movies, you just go to the theater.

With regards to obeying God, doing so out of love is the most basic commandment that God has issued, and is also the most important thing that God wants! Matthew 22:37-38 says,

“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.”

Jesus Himself said that the most important thing we can do to obey God is to love Him! How do we show that we love Him? We keep all of His commandments! John wrote in 1 John 5:2-3,

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. His commandments are not grievous.”

The idea here is like that of the movie example: if we love God, then we will want to do whatever He asks, and we will not even think about it. What John is saying is that the more we love God, the easier it will be to obey him!

Perhaps you have never thought about how important it is that we love God. It may be that you are trying to obey God simply because of fear of hell or because you believe that the Bible is the standard for you to live by. It is not wrong to obey for those reasons, but if your love for God is not increasing, then obedience will always be more difficult for you than it should be. Even if you do not feel as though you love God, remember that by keeping His commandments you are in fact showing that you do love God (John 14:21). Besides keeping God’s commandments, there are at least two easy ways to increase your love for God. First, show love to the brethren (I John 4:20). If we are unable even to love fellow believers, then it will be impossible for us to love God. Finally, pray. We need to love God, and if we ask God to help us love Him more, He will hear our prayer and help us (Mark 11:24; James 5:16).

Glenn Meyer
September 2006

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