Love and Not Obey?

“I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8).

GROWTH IN OUR KNOWLEDGE OF GOD MEANS MAKING PROGRESS TOWARD REAL DELIGHT IN DOING WHATEVER IS PLEASING TO GOD. Spiritual maturity must include this element of joyful conformity to God’s will. It is not enough to be able to identify what is good, or even to appreciate its value. If godly wisdom has given us a taste for the good, then we must do the good which we’ve come to appreciate. This is what constitutes devotion to God. The person whose love for God does not result in obedience is practicing a religion that amounts to idolatry. Thomas Cranmer wrote, “Love God with your whole heart. Do everything for his sake. And above all, obey God. For if we merely revere, love, and trust — but do not obey — God, we are making God into what we want; we are making him into a false god.” This is an important point, worth sober consideration by every seeker of God.

If we say to God, “We love you, but we’ll only obey you if your will meets our approval,” we’re not bowing before the God who objectively exists. Instead, we’re engaging in a subjective exercise: whittling God down, smoothing Him out, and making Him into something more agreeable to our preference. We’re adjusting God to our will, perhaps expecting Him to obey us rather than us obeying Him. To do this, of course, is to worship not God but a figment of our imagination. And in its lack of reverence, this kind of idolatry is not far behind that of the ancient worshiper who made a physical object to his liking and then bowed down before it (Isaiah 44:9–20). The idolatry of disobedience, whether ancient or modern, is a mistake we must be careful to avoid.

It cannot be said too often: religion is primarily about God, not about us. In an age when many feel free to conceive of God in any way that pleases them personally, we need frequent reminders that the objective reality of God cannot be bent to fit the shape of our philosophy. The important thing is not whether He pleases us, but whether we please Him, and reverence means adjusting ourselves to Him lovingly. Let us pray for the good sense to recognize what God’s will is, and let us not hesitate to act accordingly.

“True devotion is a constant, determined, prompt, and active will to do what we know is pleasing to God” (Francis de Sales).