As I wrote Monday, it can be easy to substitute legalism for obedience, and in a series from two years ago, I suggested that legalism comes in the form of four traps: brinksmanship, rigorism, hopelessness, and hypocrisy.
You can read about those four traps in more depth by clicking on the links, but in short:
Brinksmanship sets rule-based boundaries so that we can see just how far we can approach the fire and not get “burned.” Through rigorism, we seek to earn our justification through adhering to those rules. Hopelessness comes when we realize we can’t do this on our own (and deny that God has the power to save us from this trap), and hypocrisy flows from us expecting others to do what we ourselves won’t.
None of these are obedience.
As we prepare to memorize John 14:21, the workbook suggests we start by reading John 14:15-21, but I’m going to suggest we read a bit further to verse 24.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” – Jesus (John 14:15, ESV)
Jesus doesn’t say, “love me by keeping my commandments,” or “keep my commandments and I will love you.” No, he says “if you love me,” then “you will keep my commandments.” Following Jesus is something that flows out of our love for him, a love which was initiated by him, not by us (1 Jn 4:19).
Yet our flesh still battles against our spirit (Rom 7) in the midst of this grace. So some of us will seek ways we can earn Jesus’ love through rigorism and call ourselves obedient servants. Others of us will walk up to the edge of the brink and declare ourselves obedient because we don’t fall (yet). Some of us will look inward rather than Christward, and will fall into despair by the insurmountable height of the bar set before us. And still others of us will point to the specks in our neighbors’ eyes while ignoring the logs in our own. And, if you’re like me, you may do all four of these things.
And to this, Jesus says “No! Stop looking at your own ability, your own definitions, your own inability, or even the abilities and inabilities of others. Look at me! I will provide you the grace to be obedient.” Read verses 16-20 a few times and consider the implications!
- Jesus is our advocate with the Father (16)
- The Holy Spirit is sent to help us (16-17)
- He is with us always (16)
- Though the world may deny the Spirit, he dwells within those who are in Christ (17)
- We are children of God, not orphans without a father (18) [this is a good time to recite 2 Cor 5:21!]
- Jesus will come to us and live in us (19) [and, while you’re at it, Gal 5:20!]
- These promises are trustworthy because the Father and the Son are one, and we who trust in him are one with him also (20)
- The reasonable and expected response to this “Amazing Grace” is obedience to Christ’s commands (21-23)
- The best indication of salvation is the fruit of obedience to Christ’s commands (21-24)
Think through these truths as you continue to store up God’s Scriptures in your heart, not out of compulsion, but out of love!
Obedience to Christ, John 14:21
“Whoever has my commands and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
As you work through this verse, consider the meditation questions in the workbook. Before you do so, however, read the section on “Meditation and Review” and how Scripture memory, prayerful meditation, and obedience work hand-in-hand.
What about you? Into which traps of legalism do you most commonly fall? What are Scriptural truths you can rely on to avoid or be freed from those traps? How can you be obedient rather than compliant this week? Who can help you along that path?
Please join in the discussion in the comments below, join us in prayer, and join us in the joy of taking in God’s Scripture!