Love, Obey, Worship

Gary Henry

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him” (John 4:23).

THERE ARE THREE KEY CONCEPTS THAT SUMMARIZE OUR PRIVILEGES AND OUR RESPONSIBILITIES WITH RESPECT TO GOD: WE ARE TO LOVE HIM, OBEY HIM, AND WORSHIP HIM. Each of these is a powerful concept. But we must be careful about their power. Given our tendency to focus on some important things to the exclusion of other things that are equally important, we need to be warned against cutting any of these three off from the others. It is only when we pay healthy attention to all three that they move us toward the relationship with God that we desire.

LOVE. Here is the heart of the matter, as Jesus defined it (Matthew 22:34-40). It would be hard to overstate the importance of having love as our motive in dealing with God and with others. In language that is almost astonishing, the apostle Paul wrote, “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). Such is the radical necessity of love.

OBEY. As important as love is, all the love that a person might have for God would be of little use without obedience. John encouraged his fellow Christians, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). And Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). If our love does not show up in obedience, it can hardly be called love. We must always comply with our conscience and obey however much or little we may know of His will.

WORSHIP. Both love and obedience must come together in our worship of God. He is seeking those who will worship Him, as Jesus said, in “spirit” and in “truth” (John 4:23). We must offer our reverence to God from the heart, with genuine love, and we must also honor Him by obedient actions that are consistent with His truth. But when real love and real obedience come together in real worship, we get a taste of what real life would be for a creature made in God’s image.

“To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God” (William Temple).