“Obeying the Great Commandment” is the seventh chapter in the book The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges, which we’re discussing every Thursday in the “Reading Classics Together” challenge at Challies‘ place.
The Great Commandment Bridges refers to is from Matthew 22:36-40:
“Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
However, love is not just a nice warm feeling. Bridges shares several passage that show that love for God with result in obedience to him, among them these from John 14:
15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
24a He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings.
For many of us, obedience means fitting in with whatever Christian culture we’re in rather than a whole-hearted purposeful pursuit of learning and doing God’s will. Or we obey with mixed motives — fear of punishment, gift, withholding of blessings, negative consequences, desire to “look good” before others, the feeling that we’ll earn God’s blessing by our deeds, etc. “Without the motive of love, my apparent obedience may be essentially self-serving” (p. 122).
“Fervency of worship on Sunday morning or in our private devotions is vain without an accompanying fervency in obedience to God. On the other hand, precise and exact obedience to the law of God is in vain if it is not prompted by love for Him” (pp. 122-23).
“A person who struggles with some persistent sin but does so out of love for God is more pleasing to Him than the person who has no such struggle but is proud of his or her self-control” (pp. 123-24).
But how do we develop that love for God? “We love him, because he first loved us” (I John 4:19). Our love is a response to His, so meditating on His love for us is the greatest way to increase our love for Him. “To love God, I must believe that He is for me, not against me (Romans 8:1), and that He accepts me as a son or a daughter, not a slave (Galatians 4:7) (p. 125).
Guilt and a sense of condemnation keep us from love, so we need continually cleansed consciences, cleansed by confessing our sin to Him and trusting in His forgiveness, in order to keep that right relationship with Him. His love for us in the gospel is the greatest factor in creating and maintaining our love for Him.
This was perhaps the easiest chapter to understand so far, but it convicted at several points, mainly in having a laid-back rather than a whole-hearted pursuit of obedience and the many wrong motives for obedience.