Imagine you are driving in your vehicle and you approach a school zone. You spot a police officer on duty nearby and slow down the speed, as you should while driving within a school zone. You respect the officer’s power to fine you if you drive above the speed limit, and you most certainly do not appreciate a fine.
Now imagine the next day you drive into the same school zone. This time there is no police officer in sight. You think to yourself, why not? Let’s just get through this area quickly.
You step on the pedal. Suddenly, a little girl appears within your peripheral vision and you slam on the brakes. A fraction of a second too late and tragedy could have occurred. You are shaken up.
The third day you drive into the school zone again. As with the previous day, there is no police officer in sight. Nonetheless, you slow down. Your heart has been affected by the near accident the day before.
Now, regardless of whether you suffer the consequence if you were caught speeding, you observe the law willingly, even happily.
The above little imaginary exercise is to illustrate that our Lord wants willing, cheerful adherents to His law. Fear of eternal punishment is a motivation for us to walk uprightly, and rightly so, but there is a better way.
Love is a better motivation than fear. The Lord Jesus says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). You cheerfully serve the ones you love, don’t you? It is a joyful thing to see smiles on your loved ones’ faces. We keep the Law of Christ (Gal 6:2) because we love and appreciate what He has done for us on the cross.
The apostle John writes, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1Jn 5:2-3).
Any married person knows that if his/her spouse does something as an automaton, without the heart, it really quite defeats the purpose. Likewise, acceptable service to God is from the heart. Paul writes to the Ephesians:
“Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Eph 6:6).
Our worship and service to the Lord cannot be separated from our sincerity and heartfelt gratitude. Service and worship are not dour, joyless affairs. Our Lord says that our worship of God must be in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
We usually get the truth part down to a pat, but the spirit part is sometimes lacking. What does He mean by the spirit? Joshua, by inspiration, exhorts the same attitude in worship and service. “Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth” (Jos 24:14).
Service and worship is a joy, not a burden. The psalmist says, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD” (Psa 122:1).
Doing the Lord’s will, i.e. obedience, is not something that is coerced. Obedience is an act of the will. God did not create us to be robots—without thoughts, emotions and a measure of free will. He wants His people to obey from the heart. Such is the kind of obedience which truly pleases Him.
“But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (Rom 6:17).