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First Things @ First

In our continuing journey through 'Experiencing God' on Sunday mornings, I was reminded of an important principle in God's Word that has daily application for each of us. It comes from John's gospel account, chapter 14, verse 15. "If you love Me, keep My commandments."

Many read that verse and respond negatively to it, concluding 'I need to do more' to be accepted. Truth is, as a believer, you and I are accepted by God through His act of grace and our response of faith in the finished work of Christ Jesus. Keeping His commandments are not the requirement for acceptance. Keeping His commandments are the requirements for blessing from the Lord. His salvation is not based on our works but rather the work of Christ regarding the Word of God. Jesus is the only One who has kept His commands entirely.

What may we take from this verse? Having established a relationship with God through Christ, we then live in a way that desires to respond to His Word in a way that is beneficial for our lives as well as the lives of those around us. To consistently bear fruit of rebellion and disobedience reveals that the person most likely has never experienced the grace of God that leads to salvation through Christ. For a believer to practice behavior that is not consistent with the commands of God doesn't necessarily mean they don't love God, they just haven't yet arrived at the place of loving God as they should or as God would want them to love Him.

There is no one alive today that loves God perfectly. However, it is through understanding that God desires the absolute best for HIs children that we learn to love Him and trust His Word as we live. In the process, our love for God and His Word is deepened and the result is that my life bears more consistent evidence that I love God. Again, not because I say it, but rather because my life is seen demonstrating it.

If you are struggling with keeping His commands, (and all of us do at some point on some level) try looking at it as an area where my love for God needs developing and deepening.

When God the Father sees a child of His not keeping His Word, God's position is simple and straightforward. My child has not yet learned to love Me enough to do what I say. And through the necessary discipline that is directed at maturing His child, He always filters what is necessary through His grace, mercy, and long-suffering. And during the process, He re-directs our hearts into a deeper dependence of faith that helps you and me learn to better acknowledge Him and subsequently lean less on our own understanding.

John described it for us this way in his first epistle when he said, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith." 1 John 5:3-4

It's just not as difficult to follow something you're told or even someone you know when you love and trust them. It is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible to be consistent in following when you and I don't love on that level.

John heard Jesus say as a middle-aged man , "If you love Me, keep My commandments" Toward the end of his life journey on earth, John writes from a more mature perspective, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commands are not burdensome." Growing in grace helps us understand that! It is not hard to be holy when you love God! It's hard to be holy when you and I love something more!

IF living according to His commands is considered difficult or too demanding, it only reveals that we need to learn to love Him more. In so doing, He has promised to lighten the load and help us experience what it really means to live in victory!

The Word of God says in Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." When my desires become His delight, I will bear fruit that is consistent with His character. I will look more like Christ because I love keeping His commands. The world around us will be better for it.

Should Jesus ask you what He once asked Simon Peter, "Do you love Me?" What would you say in response? Would your response match your behavior before others?

Are you growing in your love for the Lord daily?

If so, you will be growing in your love for His Word and the wisdom His Word reveals.

If not, you will find yourself experiencing recurring cycles of failure and frustration that flow out of faith-less-ness.

There are many things in this world that are difficult and demanding. Why make it any harder when God's offer is to make it less burdensome and more victorious?

Cast your care upon the Lord and love Him with all your heart this week!

There's a blessing in store, especially for you.

Pstr K

Hebrews 10:35-36