The Revelation That Freed Me From Legalism
As a youth pastor in the 1980s, I was preparing to speak at our weekly service when I sensed that the Lord desired to speak to me. I quieted myself and heard in my heart, “Read John 14:15.”
I had no idea what John 14:15 said, so I quickly turned to it. I read Jesus’s words: “If you love Me, keep My commandments…” (NKJV)
I continued reading the section of scripture, nine more verses in total, all of which related back to verse fifteen. The theme of this section is keeping Jesus’s words. What I understood from these scriptures was simply, “By keeping My commandments, you prove you love Me.”
After I read the last verse, the Lord spoke to my heart: “You didn’t get it. Read it again.”
I read all ten verses again. Once more the message seemed to be, “By keeping My commandments, you prove you love Me.” And again I heard God’s voice: “You didn’t get it. Read it again.”
After this transpired seven or eight times, my frustration mounted. I decided to slow down and read the verses at a snail’s pace. After fifteen minutes or so, I finally finished rereading the ten verses. Immediately I heard the Spirit say, “You didn’t get it. Read it again.”
Exasperated, I cried out, “Lord, please forgive my ignorance! I must be stupid! Open my eyes to see what You’re saying!”
Then I read verse 15 again: “If you love Me, *keep My commandments.” I noticed an asterisk by the word keep. I went to the reference note in my Bible’s margin and read that the more accurate translation is “you will keep.”
Substituting this phrase in place of the single word keep, the verse now read, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” When I read it this way, an explosion went off inside me. I saw it now.
I heard God say, “John, I wasn’t saying that if you keep My commandments, you’ll prove that you love Me. I already know whether you love Me or not! I was saying that if you fall head over heels in love with Me, you will be motivated to keep My commandments!”
When I got engaged to my wife, I fell head over heels in love with her. She was constantly on my mind. I’d do whatever I could just to spend time with her. If she needed something, no matter the inconvenience, I would get it for her if at all possible. If she had called me in the middle of the night and said, “Honey, I want an ice cream cone,” I would have said, “What flavor? I’ll be there in five minutes!” Her wish became my delightful command (and I strive to maintain that same passionate love to this day!).
This is what Jesus was saying. When we live with an intense love for Him, we find our delight in fulfilling His desires. This isn’t about legalism. It’s about relationship. Because we belong to Jesus, His Word is not restrictive or burdensome. It’s our consuming passion, which He empowers us to fulfill by His grace!
If you struggle to want to honor God’s commands, I encourage you, stir your love for Him. Spend time with Him in the Word, in prayer, and in worship. Turn your thoughts toward Him, not just in church or during your morning devotions but throughout your day. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your heart afresh with the love of God each day (see Romans 5:5). As 1 Corinthians 13:8 tells us, love never fails!
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