As I have pondered my own transition from performance to pleasing, I see my three compelling reasons for seeking to obey my Heavenly Father are:
Love Logic Gratitude
Lavish Love: The first time I heard this passage read in church my heart jumped, and I was flooded with warmth:
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)
Oh my, how great indeed is this love the Father has … lavished on me … you!
And Jesus perfectly captures the symbiotic relationship of commands, love, and obedience on his last night with his best friends:
If you love me, you will obey my commands. (John 14:23)
Commands, yes. Obedience, yes. But all in and through love for my Savior. When I am compelled by his love for me, obedience replaces performance.
Logic: This one may seem counter-spiritual at first, but I seek to obey because, well, why wouldn’t I? Do I think I know the best way to do things? Could I be such a moron as to want to set my own rules of behavior? I, and hopefully you, have learned the answer to these questions.
Peter sums this up perfectly when, after a particularly difficult teaching, Jesus asks the disciples if they want to leave him:
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69)
Peter, like me, and hopefully you, has tried running his life his way. We have gone elsewhere looking for the words of eternal life, and they are nowhere else to be found.
Gratitude: Luke tells the story about the overwhelming gratitude of a woman who “lived a sinful life,” falling at Jesus’ feet and washing his feet with her tears. When Jesus’ host, Simon, turns his nose up at such base behavior, Jesus calls him out on it:
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.
Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:44-47)
Simon could have run theological circles around this woman. But he did not have what she had: love, exploding with gratitude.
If you want to live with joy power over sheer willpower—which surely you know by now doesn’t work anyway—challenge yourself to examine why you do the things you do, the way you do them. Are you compelled to obey out of fear and performance, or out of love, logic, and gratitude?
One is a burden; the other a blessing.