Can We Truly Love God?

By Sarah Morrison 
Staff Writer for The Daily Grace Co. 

The further I sink into the arms of Christ, the more I come to see my faults and failures. Rather than self-deprecation, I think it’s a sort of humility. The type of humility that understands my limitations and place, a humility that sees myself for what I truly am—a sinner in need of grace. When we run a plumb line across the rubric of Jesus Christ, we’re only left to see how many sharp turns and slants our own posture takes. But that’s only one side of my identity. In Christ, I am a new creation, and because of His blood, I’ve been imparted with His own righteousness. When God looks at me, He’s doesn’t see me in a way dictated by my past, He sees the righteousness of His own Son.  

Nevertheless, I’m daily reminded of my deficiencies. I relate to the Apostle Paul when he does not do what he wants, but does the very thing he hates (Romans 7:15). Sin is always crouching at my door. All too often, I let him in.  

When reading John 14, I’m reminded of the impossibilities of living righteously apart from God. In verse 23, Jesus tells His disciples that, “if anyone loves [Him], he will keep [His] Word. . . whoever does not love [Him] does not keep [His] Words.” Jesus’ disciples were those who knew Israel’s history well. They knew that Adam and Eve succumbed to the temptation of rebellion. They knew what each prophet had proclaimed to the wicked people of God as they continually forsook the covenant made between them and God. They knew how impossible it was to live in obedience to the Father, keeping the law that He had given them through Moses. They knew. They tried to live according to God’s commands, but none escaped having to walk to the temple and offer sacrifices, a stench of death to us but an aroma of repentance to the Lord. 

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Can you imagine hearing Jesus’ words in this context? Hearing the God-man for whom you’ve given up your life and livelihood say that the expression of love for Him is keeping the commands of God? Can you feel the pit that comes in their stomach when they realize their devotion to God is judged on a promise they’re incapable of keeping? Can you feel the despair of the disciples knowing this task is impossible, incredulous? To look at the man who is kind, compassionate, perfect, and lovely and wanting to express the purest form of love to Him yet being unable to do so. Unable to do so because you, no matter how hard you try, can’t keep the commands of the law perfectly. You can’t do it. 

When we think of humility, we often shake hands with the concept of degradation. But humility is grappling with our limitations in tension. Humility is seeing ourselves for what we really are—less than God. We are not less than human, none of us are less than another, but each of us is less than God. Each of us has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Each of us hears the siren call of sin each moment of each day.  We each have the propensity to forsake the goodness to which God calls us,  instead chasing the carrot on a string that sin dangles before us. 

But Jesus doesn’t leave his disciples (or us) languishing. Christ fills in the gaping hole that sin leaves within in us. Rather than rubbing a wound sorer, Christ binds up the gash of our condition. In verse 26 He continues, “but the Helper, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” There is hope to live as Jesus intends us to. And that hope is entirely reliant on God Himself. We cannot live righteously, but the Holy Spirit can enable us to love God by keeping and remembering His Word.  

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The partner to this humility is worship of God. The flip-side of understanding our limitations is exalting the Lord because He is the measure of holiness. Left to ourselves, we are lawless, rebellious, and incapable of living righteously. But with our great Helper and divine Guide received through salvation, we are capable of bearing the fruit of God. No longer are we owned by sin when we are in Christ. No more do we pay the penalty of our gross indiscretions. This is something worthy of the utmost praise.   

Because of the Holy Spirit, we can keep the commands of Christ and express our affection to Him wholeheartedly. Later in verse 27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Our hearts need not be troubled because Christ has paid our sin’s penalty, and now is our advocate. Our minds need not be afraid because the Holy Spirit counsels us and makes our participation in holiness possible. That is a peace that the world cannot give. That is a peace that courses through our veins like a river. That is a peace that sustains us, humbles us, and leads us to worship a worthy God.  

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