What is love that is pleasing first to God? It has something to do with obedience in the context of truth. We have considered ‘Love’ (Part 3 of this series) and ‘Truth’ (Part 4 of this series), so this time let’s focus on ‘Obedience’.
Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them (1 John 3:21-24)
A love that is pleasing to God is a love that obediently follows his commands.
And with obedience comes the blessing of knowing that God is happy with us. It is not that we are earning his love, it is that we are living out what it means to be loved and love in return.
I remember talking to a parent who recounted a comment that her son had made to her after he had done something wrong. He said to her ‘I don’t like you very much when I am doing the wrong thing’! Smart kid.
John says that if you are loving the way that God wants you too, then you should have every reason for confidence, knowing he will be pleased. There is only a problem if you are not doing what pleases God. Love that is pleasing is when you are being obedient to his commands, particularly his command to first believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ and second love one another.
I hope that sounds familiar, because it is what Jesus said when asked about the most important commandment ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all you soul and all your mind’ … and the second is like it ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-39; Mark 12:30-31 c.f. Luke 10:27)
If we ignore what is commanded of us, then what we are doing is putting our own wants before what God wants of us. That is simply showing us to be selfish, like Cain.
Without obedience, it is impossible to demonstrate true love. Christian love is a love for others that is both pleasing and acceptable to God before it is to the world.
In 1885 a Presbyterian minister in Edinburgh named Reverend Robert Law suggested three helpful tests from 1 John for anyone wanting to determine if they were Christian: a Theological Test, a Social Test, and a Moral Test.
The Theological Test was to ask yourself:
Do I believe that Jesus is the Son of God – if not, you are not a Christian (3:19, 23).
The Social Test was to ask yourself:
Do I love others, because God is love and it is clear that a loveless person does not know God (3:11; 4:7-8)
And the Moral Test was to ask yourself:
Do I practice righteousness and the keeping of God’s commands – because if not, your claim to be Christian should be challenged (3:22-24).
Each ‘test’ is helpful – one focuses on truth, one on love, and one on obedience. And without all three, your claim to be Christian could be questioned.
For more in this Series:
Uncomfortable Love (Part 1 of 6)
Perfect Love (Part 2 of 6)
Love (Part 3 of 6)
Truth (Part 4 of 6)
Obedience (this one)
Loving in Relationships (Part 6 of 6)