“This Is What the Love of God Means”
“This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.”—1 JOHN 5:3.
1, 2. What motivates you to love Jehovah God?
DO YOU love God? If you have come into a dedicated relationship with Jehovah God, your answer surely is an emphatic yes—and rightly so! It is only natural for us to love Jehovah. Our love for God is really in response to his love for us. The Bible puts it this way: “We love, because he [Jehovah] first loved us.”—1 John 4:19.
2 Jehovah has taken the initiative to express his love for us. He provides us with a beautiful earthly home. He cares for our physical and material needs. (Matthew 5:43-48) More important, he looks after our spiritual needs. He gives us his Word, the Bible. In addition, he invites us to pray to him with the assurance that he will hear us and will give us his holy spirit to help us. (Psalm 65:2; Luke 11:13) Above all, he sent his most precious Son to be our Ransomer so that we might be delivered from sin and death. What great love Jehovah has shown to us!—Read John 3:16; Romans 5:8.
3. (a) To remain in God’s love, what is required on our part? (b) What important question do we need to consider, and where is the answer found?
3 Jehovah wants us to benefit from his love forever. Whether we will or not, however, is really up to us. God’s Word admonishes us: “Keep yourselves in God’s love . . . with everlasting life in view.” (Jude 21) The phrase “keep yourselves” suggests that to remain in God’s love, action on our part is required. We need to respond to his love in concrete ways. An important question for us to consider, then, is this, ‘How can I demonstrate my love for God?’ The answer is found in the inspired words of the apostle John: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) We do well to examine carefully the meaning of these words, for we want to show our God just how much we love him.
“THIS IS WHAT THE LOVE OF GOD MEANS”
4, 5. (a) To what does the expression “the love of God” refer? (b) Describe how love for Jehovah began to grow in your heart.
4 “The love of God”—what did the apostle John have in mind when he penned those words? This expression refers, not to God’s love for us, but to our love for him. Can you recall when love for Jehovah began to grow in your heart?
5 Reflect, for a moment, on when you first learned the truth about Jehovah and his purposes and you began to exercise faith. You came to understand that although you were born a sinner alienated from God, Jehovah through Christ opened the way for you to attain the perfection that Adam lost and to inherit everlasting life. (Matthew 20:28; Romans 5:12, 18) You began to appreciate the magnitude of the sacrifice Jehovah made in sending his most precious Son to die for you. Your heart was moved, and you began to feel a love for the God who has shown such great love for you.—Read 1 John 4:9, 10.
6. How is genuine love expressed, and what did love for God move you to do?
6 That feeling, however, was but the beginning of genuine love for Jehovah. Love is not just a feeling; nor is it a matter of mere words. True love for God involves more than simply saying, “I love Jehovah.” Like faith, genuine love is defined and characterized by the actions it prompts. (James 2:26) Specifically, love expresses itself in deeds pleasing to the one who is loved. Hence, when love for Jehovah took root in your heart, you were moved to want to live in a way that pleases your heavenly Father. Are you a baptized Witness? If so, this deep affection and devotion caused you to make the most important decision of your life. You dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will, and you symbolized your dedication by getting baptized. (Read Romans 14:7, 8.) Fulfilling this solemn promise to Jehovah involves what the apostle John next mentions.
“WE OBSERVE HIS COMMANDMENTS”
7. What are some of God’s commandments, and what does observing these involve?
7 John explains what the love of God means: “We observe his commandments.” What are God’s commandments? Jehovah gives us a number of specific commands through his Word, the Bible. For example, he forbids such practices as drunkenness, sexual immorality, idolatry, stealing, and lying. (1 Corinthians 5:11; 6:18; 10:14; Ephesians 4:28; Colossians 3:9) Observing God’s commandments involves living in harmony with the Bible’s clear moral standards.
8, 9. How can we know what is pleasing to Jehovah even in situations where there is no direct Bible law? Give an example.
8 To please Jehovah, however, we need to do more than just obey his direct commands. Jehovah does not hem us in with laws governing every aspect of our daily life. Hence, in the course of each day, we may encounter many situations for which there are no specific Bible commands. In such cases, how can we know what will be pleasing to Jehovah? The Bible contains clear indications of God’s way of thinking. As we study the Bible, we learn what Jehovah loves and what he hates. (Read Psalm 97:10; Proverbs 6:16-19) We come to discern attitudes and actions that he values. The more we learn about Jehovah’s personality and ways, the more we will be able to let his thinking mold our decisions and influence our actions. Thus, even in situations where there is no specific Bible law, we can often perceive “what the will of Jehovah is.”—Ephesians 5:17.
9 For example, the Bible contains no direct command telling us not to watch movies or TV programs that feature gross violence or sexual immorality. But do we really need a specific law against watching such things? We know how Jehovah views these matters. His Word plainly tells us: “[Jehovah] hates anyone who loves violence.” (Psalm 11:5) It also says: “God will judge sexually immoral people.” (Hebrews 13:4) By reflecting on those inspired words, we can clearly perceive what the will of Jehovah is. We therefore choose not to be entertained by watching graphic portrayals of the sort of practices that our God hates. We know that it pleases Jehovah when we avoid the moral filth that this world tries to pass off as harmless entertainment.a
10, 11. Why do we choose a course of obedience to Jehovah, and what sort of obedience do we give him?
10 What is the primary reason that we observe God’s commandments? Why do we want to live each day in harmony with what we know to be God’s way of thinking? We do not choose such a course simply to escape punishment or to avoid the harmful consequences that come to those who ignore God’s will. (Galatians 6:7) Instead, we view obedience to Jehovah as a precious opportunity to show our love for him. Just as a child is eager to win his father’s smile of approval, so we want to win Jehovah’s approval. (Psalm 5:12) He is our Father, and we love him. Nothing brings us greater joy or deeper satisfaction than knowing that we are living in a way that “obtains Jehovah’s approval.”—Proverbs 12:2.
11 Our obedience, then, is not given begrudgingly; nor is it selective or conditional.b We do not pick and choose, obeying only when it is convenient or when doing so presents little or no challenge. On the contrary, we are “obedient from the heart.” (Romans 6:17) We feel as did the Bible psalmist who wrote: “I am fond of your commandments, yes, I love them.” (Psalm 119:47) Yes, we love to obey Jehovah. We recognize that he deserves—and requires—nothing less than our complete and unconditional obedience. (Deuteronomy 12:32) We want Jehovah to say of us what his Word says of Noah. Regarding that faithful patriarch, who showed love for God by being obedient over many decades, the Bible says: “Noah did according to all that God had commanded him. He did just so.”—Genesis 6:22.
12. When does our obedience bring joy to Jehovah’s heart?
12 How does Jehovah feel about our willing obedience? His Word says that we thereby make his “heart rejoice.” (Proverbs 27:11) Does our obedience really bring joy to the heart of the Sovereign Lord of the universe? Indeed, it does—and for good reason! Jehovah created us as free moral agents. This means that we have freedom of choice; we can choose to obey God, or we can choose to disobey him. (Deuteronomy 30:15, 16, 19, 20) When we willingly choose to obey Jehovah and when the motivating force behind that decision is a heart full of love for God, we bring great pleasure and joy to our heavenly Father. (Proverbs 11:20) We are also choosing the best way of life.
“HIS COMMANDMENTS ARE NOT BURDENSOME”
13, 14. Why can it be said that God’s “commandments are not burdensome,” and how might this be illustrated?
13 The apostle John tells us something very reassuring about Jehovah’s requirements: “His commandments are not burdensome.” The Greek word translated “burdensome” at 1 John 5:3 literally means “heavy.”c Another Bible translation here reads: “His commandments do not weigh us down.” (New English Translation) Jehovah’s requirements are not unreasonable or oppressive. His laws are not beyond the ability of imperfect humans to obey.
14 We might illustrate it this way. A close friend asks you to help him move to another residence. There are many boxes to be transported. Some of them are light enough for one person to carry comfortably, but others are heavy and require two people to lift them. Your friend selects the boxes he wants you to move. Would he ask you to pick up boxes that he knows are too heavy for you? No. He would not want you to hurt yourself by trying to carry them alone. Similarly, our loving and kind God does not ask us to observe commandments that are too difficult to fulfill. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14) He would never ask us to carry such a heavy burden. Jehovah understands our limitations, for “he well knows how we are formed, remembering that we are dust.”—Psalm 103:14.
15. Why can we be confident that Jehovah’s commandments are for our greatest good?
15 Jehovah’s commandments are far from being burdensome; they are for our greatest good. (Read Isaiah 48:17.) Moses could thus tell Israel of old: “Jehovah commanded us to carry out all these regulations and to fear Jehovah our God for our lasting good, so that we could keep alive, as we are today.” (Deuteronomy 6:24) We too can be confident that in giving us his laws, Jehovah has our best interests at heart—our long-term, everlasting welfare. Really, how could it be otherwise? Jehovah is a God of infinite wisdom. (Romans 11:33) He therefore knows what is best for us. Jehovah is also the personification of love. (1 John 4:8) Love, his very essence, influences everything he says and does. It is the basis for all the commandments that he places upon his servants.
16. Despite the influences of this debased world and the tendencies of the imperfect flesh, why can we pursue an obedient course?
16 This is not to say that obedience to God is an easy course to follow. We must fight against the influences of this debased world, which “is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) We must also contend with the imperfect flesh, which inclines us toward violating God’s laws. (Romans 7:21-25) But our love for God can win out. Jehovah blesses those who want to prove their love for him by their obedience. He gives his holy spirit “to those obeying him as ruler.” (Acts 5:32) That spirit produces beautiful fruitage in us—precious qualities that can aid us in pursuing an obedient course.—Galatians 5:22, 23.
17, 18. (a) What will we examine in this publication, and as we do, what should we keep in mind? (b) What will be discussed in the next chapter?
17 In this publication, we will examine Jehovah’s principles and moral standards and many other indications of his will. As we do, we need to keep a number of important things in mind. Let us remember that Jehovah does not force us to obey his laws and principles; he wants willing obedience that stems from our heart. Let us not forget that Jehovah is asking us to live in a way that will bring rich blessings now and lead to everlasting life in the future. And let us see our wholehearted obedience for what it is—a precious opportunity to show Jehovah just how much we love him.
18 To help us discern right from wrong, Jehovah has lovingly endowed us with the faculty of conscience. Yet, to be a reliable guide, our conscience needs to be trained, as the next chapter will discuss.
b Even the wicked spirits can begrudgingly obey. When Jesus ordered the demons to come out of some possessed people, the demons were forced to recognize his authority and obey, although unwillingly.—Mark 1:27; 5:7-13.
c At Matthew 23:4, this word is used to describe the “heavy loads,” the minute rules and man-made traditions that the scribes and Pharisees put upon the common people. The same word is rendered “oppressive” at Acts 20:29, 30 and refers to heavy-handed apostates who would “speak twisted things” and seek to mislead others.