I don’t know about you but I’m pretty sure we have the same problem with other people. I got behind a truck yesterday and everyone else was going around both of us. I figured he had someone in front of him going too slow, so I pulled around. No one was there. He was just piddling along on the highway. I looked at him when I passed to see if he looked as ignorant as he was acting. And went on my way.
My problem with the guy? He wasn’t driving according to my rules. You don’t go 45 in a 55. Now that isn’t the highway rule, but it’s mine. I got upset because I figured he should have known that.
That led me to wonder about rules in general. Behind every rule is a reason: in the good sense it’s to benefit, in the bad sense to punish. Some rules are to fix problems, some are to prevent problems that might happen, some are just to make people do what you want them to do.
What makes the rule work is the motivation behind obeying. Do I obey because I don’t want to get in trouble, or do I obey because I believe the rule is in my best interest to obey? What happens when whatever motives me to obey is disturbed? What do I do? Often ignore the rule.
We can’t live without rules. If all rules were suspended, chaos would run rampant. Like in Minneapolis. I, too, am upset and angry that George Floyd lost his life at what seems to be the inappropriate perhaps even criminal actions of a police officer, but to think that gives someone permission to riot and loot, is equally upsetting. You gotta live within the rules. You can’t fix the first wrong with a second wrong.
Early on God chose Abraham through which He’d bless the world. Abraham was only a nation in potential when God first spoke to him. But God had incredible plans to create a nation from one man and one woman.
Now how to you take a man and turn him into a nation? You tell him what you plan to do through him and for him, teach him to trust You, then ask him to do what you tell him to do. Obedience was based on the power of a personal relationship.
Much later, when Moses led that nation out of Egypt, God had the same issues as with Abraham. How to you take a nation and turn them into Children of God? The same way as with Abraham but with more details. Here’s the relationship and here are the rules upon which the relationship is based. Obey the rules and we’ll get along. Disobey and we have a problem. Those rules were for everyone and every situation, so it was essential to get everybody on the same page.
But they needed more motivation:
Deut 10:12-15 Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD'S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, even you above all peoples, as it is this day.
The reason God set the rules was because He loved His people and knew what was best for them. He wanted them to be motivated to obey because they loved Him.
But the people thought just the opposite. They felt it was obey or else. That God was ruling them by fear. That all God wanted was the final result. But God insisted, obedience proves you love Me. It’s the foundation of the relationship. By obeying, you declare I am your God and you are My people.
When you take love out of the equasion, you have actions with no meaning. God wasn’t interested in the motions of obedience but the motivation behind the obedience.
When Saul tried to side step God’s instructions about the rules and just perform a sacrifice with no relational connection with the God, he lost the kingdom. Why so harsh? God had to make a point that obedience isn’t the mere accomplishing of a task but an expression of love and no one is exempt, not even the King from doing it the way God wants. Samuel explained:
1Sam 15:22-23 "Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.
Obeying the rules for the sake of the rules without wanting to please God is rebellion against God. Why? He didn’t do what God wanted the way God wanted it done. He was, in fact, trying to manipulate God rather than obey God. God didn’t give the rules as an exercise of religious duty but as a test of loyalty, honor and love. If you love Me, you will obey the way I want you to obey.
Deut 6:4-5 Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
That was the foundation of the relationship. That’s the motivation behind our obedience to what God wants us to do. Love is the only pure motivator. If you will love Me with all you heart, you will obey me with all your might. That’s when God is pleased.
You notice one of the differences between OT Jews and NT Christians is the list of rules. Instead of a list of obligations that regulate our lives, God gives us a desire to respond to Him for whatever He expects from us. Where the list brought obligation to obey, now His Spirit would bring conviction.
But in both is the same motivation, the same reason for obedience: love. That’s consistent in both the OT and NT. Love and obedience are two sides of the same coin. Because I love God I will obey Him. I obey Him because I love Him.
How did God accomplish this?
Eze 36:23-27 I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. [profaned is to dismiss the value of the name. By your lack of respecting who I am and failing to love me with all your heart, mind and strength, you have devalued Me not only in your life but in the world.] I will vindicate myself so that…the nations will know that I am the LORD," declares the Lord GOD, "when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
God knew to be able to love we needed a soft heart, a heart of flesh. A heart of stone is a heart that has grown cold and indifferent. What He originally wrote on tablets of stone, God was now writing on the heart. Now this was a promise for Israel but fulfilled in the Church on Pentecost.
Here’s what I want from you. Here’s what’s best for you.
Jer 31:33 "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
2Cor 3:3 being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
What speaks to the heart? Love. Watch how He did that:
Rom 5:8 God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Eph 2:4-7 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
We don’t need a list of rules, we need a soft heart upon which God can write His desires for us. When we understand how much God loves us, our heart will soften. That’s Paul’s strategy in his writings. If we know what God has done for us, we will obey what He wants from us.
God loved us enough to create a plan for us to have a relationship with Him, invited us to accept it, applied the cleansing that made our lives acceptable to Him, then filled us with the Spirit to make us able to live it. By these acts, God makes us new creatures able to live for Him and please Him in all we do.
Paul understood the life that brought God pleasure. He wrote to help people embrace that life.
We are to want what God wants for us. Paul felt it his job to tell us what that is and how it is achieved so we can please God. Remember, obedience pleased God, but only obedience motivated by love.
So, what does Paul do? By showing us a clearer picture of who Jesus is and what He’s done he stirs the embers of our love so it can change our lives.
2Cor 5:14-15 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
Controls us – pulls us in. What is the result? Living for Him. Because of what Jesus has done I now want to live for Him.
For the next few weeks, we’ll see how he does that in the letter to the Colossians.
What’s unique about Colossae is Paul never went there. The church there was started by someone from Ephesus taking what Paul taught in Ephesus to Colossae. He found out about them through Epaphras and credits Epaphras as having taught them.
What also is unique is the assumption Paul makes in writing this letter – that everyone who reads it is a Child of God, defined as those Col 1:13-14 rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He doesn’t tell them how to become rescued, transferred or forgiven. He is assuming they already know those foundational truths. Why is that important? Since He is writing to Christians, what he writes to them applies to us as well.
What is our objective in being Christians? What do we hope to get out of it? Getting to heaven – guaranteed. What else? Living a good life – provided for. What else? Want a blessed life – part of the package. What else? Please God – great, here’s how you do that. Accept the fact that you are a child of God. Love Him with all your heart and let that love motivate how you live – not some half-world have-spirit way, but fully in obedience to what God wants. When you do, you will please God.
- The ultimate goal of any believer should be pleasing God.
- The motivation behind that goal must be love.
- Whenever we try to obey without love, thinking that will please God, we have become manipulators.
- God has too much stored up for our blessing, for us to waste time trying to manipulate Him for favor.
- All He expects is for us to love Him with all our hearts and obey Him with the desire to please Him.
- Let what we know make the difference in how we live. We don’t need more information, we just need to apply what information we already have.