Joh 14:21 Whoever has my commandments 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."… Joh 14:23 Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Joh 14:24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.
One of the oldest complaints against Christianity is its so called restrictions. “God doesn’t want me to have fun” or “Religion is all about what we can’t do”, etc. They are saying that obeying God stops them from having fun and doing what they enjoy. What they are actually saying is that they don’t love God and so reveal that they are still lost in their sins. (I might add that if any professing Christian sees obeying God as a burdensome thing they are still lost in their sins)
It is deliberate that Jesus in our text above, as well as in John’s first epistle, connects obedience with love and proves what I just said. True love is self-sacrifice for its object’s sake. This was perfectly revealed in God giving of himself for our salvation by dying on the cross. But my point is not just that to love someone means we will sacrifice but that it is our joy to do so.
When we love someone we give up our independence and unilateral decisions and similar relationships with all others so that we can give ourselves wholly to one person and have a uniquely intimate relationship with him or her. Now many don’t get married for this very reason; because they are too in love with themselves to ever experience true love and the fulfillment one can have in giving of themselves to another. But for those who know what true love is, we know that we are not forced to submit to each other, it is our delight.
What wife would accept and be happy with a husband’s love when he tells her that he really wants to be with other women and resents being tied down to only her? Clearly he doesn’t see her as very lovely to say the least. But we know that when you “fall in love” you are glad to spend your time and energy on the object of your love. No one has to force you to talk with her and spend time and money on her because you love doing it. Her loveliness is a delight to you and you can’t get enough of it. Can we not say then that to refer to your wife as your ball and chain is just a way of saying that you don’t love her?
This helps us see why Jesus can say what he said in the above verses. On one hand Jesus demands that we obey him. He is our God and Savior after all. But it is equally clear that if we love him we will do what lovers do and seek to please the one we love. 1Jn 3:9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. Once God has given us his nature in conversion we don’t go on living a life that displeases him; that would make no sense. This is what chapters three and four in 1 John are all about.
Those who have come to know God through the forgiveness of their sins and the impartation of a new nature love God and so seek to please him. And they do so not just because they are required to do so but because it is their delight to do so. The commands of Christ are not restrictions on what you want to do but opportunities to love the One you love. To see the commands of the Bible as restrictions on your life only means you see your life as yours and you are your own god. A Christian knows that his life is not his own but his Savior has redeemed it and now with thanksgiving and joy he can’t do enough to please the One who is the delight of his soul!
This is why love changes everything. John says in 1Jn 2:7 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. 1Jn 2:8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. God has always demanded that we joyfully obey him in all things and find fulfillment in knowing him and in him alone; that is the old or original commandment. But under the New Covenant we have been given the heart to love him and now we can from the heart serve him. Those who find serving Jesus as a burden only reveal they are still lost in their sin.