What makes a Christian a Christian? Does following Christ restrict life to a burdensome set of rules? Why do followers of Jesus attempt to live lives based on out of date rules of the Bible? Do they do this out of fear of being crushed by a vengeful God? Do they just want to escape hell for heaven?
If one wants to follow God there are two basic motivations for an honest person. The first motivation and the way that most people understand following God is through the Law. The Law is best represented by the Ten Commandments and the Old Testament covenants. It goes like this, and should be familiar to most everyone the world over, if you keep a set of rules then hopefully your good actions will outweigh your bad actions before God. This is religion at the core. Do this or bad stuff will happen. Do this or lightning bolts will fall from the sky. The second motivation for following God that is less understood is the role of faith and what Jesus accomplished on the Cross. This second motivation is real and is God’s actual intention. Christ and what He accomplished, not Religion, is the only motivation that is acceptable to God.
The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever! 2 Corinthians 3:7-11 NLT
God called Moses to the mountain where Moses received the laws of God. It was at this time that God’s glory was reflected from the face of Moses even after he had left the presence of God (Exodus 34:29-35). Paul tells us that the new way of faith with a life giving Holy Spirit makes the old way of keeping the law obsolete. This new way of fulfilling the law is accomplished through the work of Jesus and the overpowering love He has poured out on His followers. While the commands of Jesus are founded on the Law of the old way the motivation for obedience cannot be the same as the old way of attempting to follow the rules.
For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:9-10 ESV
The natural state of humans is not love, but suspicion, selfishness, and sarcasm (don’t believe me go spend some time on twitter). So where does this love that leads to keep the Ten Commandments come from? That love comes from faith in Jesus by way of the Holy Spirit working in His followers.
Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith… For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” Galatians 3:5; 10-11 ESV
The motivation of a follower of Christ, a Christian, can be summed up in the depth of this following statement by Jesus to His disciples.
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15 ESV
I am compelled to follow, listen, and obey Jesus because of love. Fear of hell or condemnation may have been a concern at some point in my life. But I am a Christian because of the overflow of Love that comes from Christ to me. I am overwhelmed by that love. That love comes from the faith I have received from Him. By faith I trust Him and acknowledge His authority as my Creator. Because He loves me I love Him and I pray that my motivation in everything is to obey Him because of love.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1 John 5:3 ESV
*Revised and Edited. First published on Human Effort Sept 2013.