How do you move from being a "try harder" girl—constantly frustrated over my most recent sin failure—to a woman who loves Jesus so much that His ways become my ways?
Jesus replied, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them." (John 14:23)
The Wrong Emphasis
I think I got it wrong for years. I emphasized the wrong thing to my kids and to myself:
"If you love Jesus, you will OBEY Him."
I figured I could prove my love to Jesus by obeying Him. I told my kids the same. Yet, I think my focus was way off. As I have read my Bible over the years, it's clear that Jesus points to love and to relationship over following rules again and again. I don't think He is telling us to stop obeying Him. Instead, I believe He is telling us: when we really love Him, when our motivation is sheer love for Him—when we do because He has already done what's necessary for our salvation—following Him becomes less "try harder" and more of a natural choice.
The Emphasis of Love
Here is the way I should have been emphasizing it:
"If we LOVE Him, we will obey Him."
But how do I love Jesus enough to live like this?
How do I love Him more today than I did yesterday?
How do I move from being a "try harder" girl—constantly frustrated over my most recent sin failure—to a woman who loves Jesus so much that His ways become my ways?
For starters, I need to realize it is Jesus who wants this more than I do and who provides the power to change. It's no coincidence that you are reading these words. Jesus loves you so very much, and He wants your whole heart. He wants to be your everything.
Does that not blow you away? The King of the Universe, whose plans for you are exceedingly, abundantly good (Eph. 3:20), who sees all your tomorrows and loves you perfectly, wants to give you more of Himself because He is where the peace-filled life exists.
The question is: what will you do with His invitation?
Are you too busy, distracted, or up-to-your-elbows in sin?
Aren't you tired of cycle after cycle of try-harder-mess-up-feel-guilty defeat?
There is something better. Are you ready for it? Real freedom, guiltless joy, authentic hope, and lasting self-control?
You won't find that something better in a redoubled effort to follow moral rules, but in a purposeful pursuit of a daily in-love relationship with Jesus Christ.
So, what does this look like?
It means that I deliberately focus on the love of Jesus, shown to us in the gospel, every day, throughout the day. I need to think about Jesus and all He has done for me and how much it cost Him. As I seek to understand His great love for me by focusing on Him, I am drawn by the Holy Spirit to respond to that love with more love for Him . . . and the obedience will follow.
Knowing Jesus Personally
But friend, it is hard to deeply love someone you don't know much about. It is impossible to trust someone you only hear others tell you about. We need to know Jesus personally and experience Him personally. I heard those terms for years and didn't have a clue what "personally" meant, until one day I simply asked Jesus to reveal Himself to me. I asked Him to help me love Him more tomorrow than I do today. He answered those prayers and is still answering them today.
He created me and you for relationship—real relationship.
Are you aware of His presence in your daily life? Ask Him to help you to be. Ask Him to allow you to see His handiwork throughout the day. And open up His Word. Oh, I know, I used to think it was boring and hard to understand too, until I asked Him to help me crave it "more than chocolate" and to help me understand what it means. Now, I find His Word to be alive as He speaks to me daily—comforting, directing, teaching, assuring me of His love.
It's in this growing, in-love relationship with Jesus that you will find strength, not only to obey Him, but to trust Him at all times, especially when things don't go your way. If you want to know Him like this, you only have to ask. He will show Himself to you through His Word.
- He is the One who will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5)
- Who will stand with you in the fire (Isa. 43:2)
- Who will calm the storm (Ps. 107)
- Who will make you laugh (Ps. 126:2–3)
- Who will dry your tears (Rev. 21:4)
- Who will guide your steps (Ps. 37:3–4)
- Who will be your strength (Isa. 41:10)
- Whose Name is faithful and true (Rev. 19:11)
This same Jesus left a throne in heaven to die for you while the Bible says you were His enemy (Rom. 5:10). Can you imagine what that cost both the Father and the Son? How much love did that take? Oh no, Jesus didn't die so we would follow the rules and be caught up in some Sunday-only, dry religion. He died for us because He loves us and wants our whole-hearted love in return. Obedience, that will follow. The more I love Him, the more I want to obey Him.
Have you found this true in your life? Have you been going through the motions without love for Jesus?
Written by Kim Jaggers