What did Jesus mean when He said, 'If you love me, you will keep my commandments'?
Jesus says the phrase, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments," in John 14:15. This chapter recounts the Last Supper before Jesus' crucifixion. Before this, Jesus had predicted that one of His disciples would betray Him, at which point Judas left. Jesus' statement, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" falls in the midst of a teaching that Jesus was giving to the remaining disciples over their meal together. Keeping the commandments of Jesus is a sign of our love and belonging to Him. It's also a test, and as we continue to obey even in the face of difficulty, it builds our strength and our faith.
So, does God require obedience just for the sake of being in charge, or is there a deeper purpose? The apostle John frequently mentions the correlation between love and obedience as they relate to our relationship with God and others. First John 5:2–3 says: "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome." As children of God, we are to obey Him—just as children obey their earthy father—this paves the way for us to love God, love others, and to experience the love of God toward us. Jesus says: "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him" (John 14:21). The words Jesus speaks are the words of the Father (14:23–24).
Obedience to God's commandments is not just about love; it is also about freedom—our freedom! Jesus said to the Jews: "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. . . Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:31–36). Christ is the one who paid for our freedom and as we continue to surrender our lives to Him and obey His commands, naturally, we also continue to walk in His freedom.
We cannot simply say that we love God and will keep His commandments and expect to be able do so on our own. The good news is we don't have to. God has provided us with a Helper. When we look further down in John 14, we see that Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit: "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you" (verses 16–17). The Holy Spirit empowers us to keep God's commands, just as Jesus instructed. Through the indwelling presence of the Spirit, we are able to obey God, walk in true freedom, and love God and others.
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