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“If You Love Me . . . ”

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A famous professing Christian evangelist frequently implores people to turn to God by encouraging them to pray this way: “God, I’m a sinner and I’m sorry for my sins. I ask You to forgive me. I believe in your Son, Jesus Christ, and invite Him into my life.”

Part of that statement is fine since people need to admit they are sinners, ask God for forgiveness and acknowledge Christ as their Savior. But there is a critical missing ingredient in this declaration. What is it? Jesus gave the answer when He declared, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Those seven words are certainly unambiguous! Even so, Jesus’ statement is not what millions of traditional Christians believe or practice. Rather, they have been taught that the Christian life can be lived without any obligation to obey God’s laws—His Ten Commandments. Although these people are sincere, they have been schooled in a false idea—that God’s grace sets them free from having to do anything other than believe in Jesus as Savior. Obeying the commandments is viewed as a way to gain salvation by “works.”

“Created in Christ Jesus for good works”

To support this erroneous concept, professing Christian ministers and theologians often point to Ephesians 2:8-9 which states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Indeed, no one can be saved by works since it is only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s shed blood that a person can be purified from sin. However, conventional Christian theologians often disregard the very next verse which plainly says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (verse 10).

Holy Scripture explains that grace does not abolish, cancel or repudiate God’s law! The author of Ecclesiastes wrote, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Moreover, Christ said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10). When a young man asked Jesus what he needed to do to obtain eternal life, He told him, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). He then listed several of the Ten Commandments to make it clear what He was referencing (see verses 18-19). True disciples of Christ are therefore obligated to follow His model of obedience to the commandments (1 John 2:6). When Jesus lives within us following repentance, baptism and having received the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands, we are to fully and faithfully emulate His example of diligent obedience to His Heavenly Father (Romans 2:4).

Sadly however, mainstream Christian ministers have led people to believe that God’s laws have been annulled. But this teaching is preposterous when we examine what Jesus actually stated about God’s commandments. Did He come to eradicate God’s laws—to get rid of them? Absolutely not! Rather, He said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17-18, emphasis added throughout). The word “fulfill” doesn’t mean “destroy” as some theologians would have people believe. When an individual fulfills a commitment, he or she certainly doesn’t abandon that obligation but satisfies it completely!

“For all Your commandments are righteousness”

So, it is undeniably clear that Jesus loved God’s laws and kept them meticulously. In this regard, what were the very first words Jesus Christ voiced as He began His public ministry? He said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). But, repent of what? Sin! The Bible defines sin as breaking the commandments. “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). The apostle Paul said in Romans 7:7 that he “would not have known sin except through the law.”

Furthermore, what did Paul tell the brethren in Rome about sin? “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:12-13). In order to become “instruments of righteousness” Christ’s true followers must obey God’s laws because as Psalm 119:172 declares, “For all Your commandments are righteousness.” What else did Paul convey about God’s law? In Romans 7:12 he wrote, “the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.” Plus, in verse 22 he said, “For I delight in the law of God.” When considering such glowing statements of esteem and admiration, how can anyone believe God’s commandments have been made null and void or should be disregarded? It’s illogical and scripturally fallacious.

The fact is, God’s laws are fully authoritative and operational and have been established for the supreme benefit of all humanity. Breaking the commandments brings disastrous results. Paul understood this—realizing he was engaged in a daily struggle to keep the commandments even after having repented of sin. He stated in Romans 7:14, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.” Are professing Christians being taught that upon repentance they must continue striving to overcome sin? Sadly, they are not! The fact is, repentant, converted Christians can and do sin and therefore must persevere in opposing their own carnal nature as well as the downward pull of sinful society and the devil’s powerful, venomous influence (see 2 Corinthians 12:20; Ephesians 4:25-32; 6:11-18).

The apostle John wrote about this ongoing battle against sin by telling baptized, converted Christians, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). Indeed, when we sin after having been baptized, we must go before God’s “throne of grace” in earnest prayer to acknowledge our disobedience and ask God for His forgiveness (Hebrews 4:16).

“If you love Me, keep My commandments”

Finally, millions of people who profess to be Christian say they know and love Jesus. But then they fail to obey the commandments that He not only fully observed but told them to keep! Does that make any sense? Christ’s message to them is this, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). It is vitally important that you and I take to heart the inspired, scriptural words of Jesus and His apostles. Their testimonies ought to motivate us to seriously examine our beliefs and traditions.

Considering this, what can you do to ensure you are not being led amiss spiritually? Studying the Bible diligently and obeying its instructions carefully is central to this goal (Psalm 119:172; Luke 4:4; Hebrews 4:12). This certainly includes accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, repenting of sin and continually seeking God’s righteousness (Galatians 2:20; Matthew 6:33). And importantly, it also means living your life in the identical manner Christ did—by faithfully observing His Father’s commandments (John 15:10). Again, remember Jesus’ clear statement, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15)!