Christian Life ...

Christian Life ...
Christian life is meant to be a life of bearing much fruit. What does that look like? How do we get there? This blog will record thoughts and meditations about living a life striving to be a fruitful branch.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

This is Love For God: To Keep His Commands

"In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands." 1 John 5:3
"We love because God first loved us" - 1 John 4:19. When God created, he created us with the care of an artist. He created us in his own image. The way in which we love each other is evidence that we were made in the image of God, who is perfect love. Much of the book of 1 John is about God's love and human love.  

It is true that we are saved by faith in Christ Jesus. That our works cannot save us. The sin that lives inside human flesh is a barrier that God cannot cross unless there has been payment.  "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord" -Romans 6:23. The definition of two words in this verse are essential to understanding the Gospel message that it testifies to.  The noun "wage" refers to something that is earned. People earn hourly wages at jobs. To say that the wages of sin is death, is to say that by sinning, we earn death. Because of our own sinful nature, we must die. However the noun "gift" refers to something that is the opposite of earned, something that is given without any condition. A gift is given in love and this gift that God gives is given in the greatest kind of loving mercy imaginable. 

If we have accepted this gift, we have accepted the amazing love and mercy of the LORD God. We have been given, at the very moment we claim faith in Christ, the very resurrected life, that Christ won at the cross. It is ours, this very moment, to claim, to live, to value and to cherish. Eternal life is not only for after this world. It can begin when we turn our eyes to Christ in faith.  

"We love because God first loved us" - 1 John 4:19. To turn our eyes in faith to Jesus, is to accept God's loving mercy. By this faith we are promised the merciful gift of eternal life. This is to acknowledge Jesus as the savior of our souls. Through the repentance from sins, the acknowledgement of Jesus as savior and the faith in the resurrection, it is possible to receive the Holy Spirit. It is the presence of the spirit within us that makes it possible for us to be in relationship with God. "Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent" - John 17:3.  

If we, as humans, love in the image of God's perfect love, and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, enter into relationship with this God of perfect love, it is our duty to give our lives to love God back. 

"In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands." 1 John 5:3

Now it is not by our works that we are saved, as faith in Christ and Christ alone saves us. But if we claim to love God, claim to accept him as our savior, and claim to accept the guidance of the Holy Spirit, yet fail to understand the importance of God's commandments, will we not fail to be a fruitful branch? Romans 7:7-25:

These words from the Apostle Paul, round out the purpose of the law for Christians. The law makes sin known, and because sin separates us from God, the law is good to reveal it. The law reveals "What a wretched man I am!" (vs 24) and reveals the need for a savior.  

Earlier this spring at Gustavus Adolphus College, Pastor Greg Stone of the Jesus Assembly of God Fellowship spoke on the importance of the law. I remember the one time I attended a Sunday morning service at the "Jesus" church, I walked away wondering why a church that believed in salvation by faith would put the Ten Commandments up in large print on the wall. Pastor Greg explained this to me this spring.  He said, and I paraphrase, that for Christians the Ten Commandments are not only the written laws of God given to the Israelites, but they are the very testimony of Christ. Now, to me, thinking about the Ten Commandments as the testimony of Christ makes sense. Christ, the spotless lamb, did not sin. He lived a holy and pure life. As Christians, Christ Followers, it makes sense to hold his testimony at high esteem. 

If love for God is to keep his commands, we must strive, in the Holy Spirit of God that he has given us to be our guide, to uphold his commands, which are the testimony Jesus, the holy and spotless lamb of God, who is our savior and Lord. 

If the wages of sin is death and the gift of God is eternal life, then the very nature of our existence on this earth is death. As Paul wrote "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." -Romans 7:15. 

Therefore the very gift of God is life. The nourishment of the vine that allows its branches to bear fruit. 

In John 4, Christ speaks to the Samaritan woman at the well about living water. Jesus is the well that will not run dry. He is the ever flowing fountain of nourishment. As his gift is eternal life, he is the fountain of youth. When we sin, when we fail to follow God's commands, we are drinking from wells that will run dry, wells that will not bring life but will bring death. By turning our eyes to Jesus, by accepting his gift, by recognizing the essentiality of the nutrients he provides, we are able to enter into relationship with God the father who created the universe. 

To keep his commands is to show our love for God, and puts us in the place to receive the flow of Christ's nourishing living water that allows us to be a fruitful branch.

1 comment:

  1. Understanding the relationship between the law and sin and grace is such a complicated thing for me to wrap my head around!

    I have been memorizing Galatians recently, and some of these verses (along with some of the Romans verses you referenced in this blog entry) seem so harsh and counter intuitive at first glance:

    - "For apart from the law, sin was dead. Once I was alive apart from the law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death." (Romans 7:8-10)

    - "But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin..." (Galatians 3:22a)

    Reading those verses blows my mind. How can the law, that is of God and is good, ("the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.") "lock up everything under the control of sin." It seems so contradictory.

    While reading your post, I was thinking about this idea that we didn't know what sin was until the law came about. It made me think, if there was no law, would there be sin? That Romans verse said, "once I was alive apart from the law." Were we better off before the law came into the picture? I mean, apparently the law provided sin with a means to take over our lives and bring about death.

    But then, I guess when I look through the Bible - death is often suggested, or even commanded for followers of Jesus.
    - "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.." (Galatians 2:20a)
    - "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me." (Luke 9:23)
    - "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice" (Romans 12:1a)

    Life with Christ seems to depend on dying first. So maybe it isn't all bad that the law brought us to death. After all.....even if we weren't aware sin existed before the law, do I really want to live in a world in which there is no law of God? That seems like disaster striking.

    The other thing I have been meditating on as I memorize Galatians, is this concept of slavery to the law. That concept comes to me a little easier than the whole 'death through the law' concept. It makes sense to me because I get what it is like to try to make my way on my own. I like to be in control, and so I like to convince myself that if I follow a certain set of rules, I can fix things. That leads me to be enslaved to a set of self-made rules, and then a lot of guilt when I don't follow through on those rules.

    And that is where your 1 John verse resonates so well.

    "In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands." 1 John 5:3

    If my purpose for following the law is self-serving (so that I can maintain control of my own destiny and boast about by own power), then of course it will lead me down the road of slavery/death.

    But if my obedience of the law stems from a love for the Creator of that good law, that experience is so different. It is full of life and forward thinking and encouragement and free from guilt and shame and self-service.

    Not to mention, love motivates me SO much more that guilt mixed with my own discipline. So keeping God's commands becomes a lot easier.