Love is an Action

Last year my study focus was the Holy Spirit, and the more I dove into that study, the more these two words kept cropping up: love and holiness. I believe that’s because both of these are intricately bound and interwoven in the fabric of obedience:

[box]May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father . . . (1 Thessalonians 3:12–13)[/box]

How do you think they relate to one another?

I think Jesus made it pretty clear for us.

Jesus gave us the prescription for demonstrating our love for God when He told us:

[box]“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).[/box]

Holiness will never happen without obedience. Obedience is birthed from a pure love for God.

It’s easy to place “holiness” in the category of moral purity, but holiness encompasses much more than that. Holiness is living a life of obedience to God and that can involve everything from my eating habits to abolishing worry as my default position.

Holiness starts with loving God.

Love for God is directly linked with obedience to Him. I’ve found that obedience, although difficult at times, comes far more easily when I focus on His character.

When I focus on God’s enormous love and gracious mercy toward me, it compels me to respond in obedience.

This is how Paul described it:

[box]“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).[/box]

Focusing on God’s love for me cultivates my response of love toward Him. He pours love into my life and love for Him flows back to Him.

Romans 5:5 describes the work of the Holy Spirit in relation to love:

[box]“. . . and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”[/box]

Quoting from J. I. Packer’s excellent work, Keeping in Step with the Spirit:

“Love is not essentially a feeling of affection, but a way of behaving . . . Love does something; it gives; that is how it establishes its identity . . .

As Jesus was law incarnate, so he was love incarnate, and following his way of self-giving is holiness in its purest and most perfect expression. Love to God . . . and love to neighbor . . . (is) the very heartbeat of holiness.”

“Love to God” is fleshed out through obedience to God. Laying down your selfish inclinations, self-centered way of thinking, slothful tendencies, and picking up the mission God has for you in this moment.

Love toward others is fleshed out also through obedience to God, obeying the mission He has for you to carry out in service to them for His glory (as illustrated in Jesus’ story of the Samaritan in Luke 10).

Right now, my obedience to God is being put to the test when I’m tempted to worry. Can any of you relate? I think it’s a common temptation and often a life-long battle, so for the rest of the week, we’ll be looking at how to obey God by battling worry.

So, what does obedience look like in your life today?


  • Jenny Lynn Hall

    Kimberly, this is so true. It took me so many years to understand that loving God should be the motive for obedience. It has also been my personal experience that my love for Him increases as I come to know more of Who He is. Thank you for another excellent blog piece.

  • tony

    It’s not legalism if your in love. Nobody has to tell me to open the car door for my wife,I do it cause I love her. As we grow in love towards God and man , we will learn to fill their love tanks and speak their love language. (Yes GOD has a love language[deeper worship is one of them]) Obedience is a natural follow up to fulfilling the One being loved interests. If you love your job, you do the best to fulfill your obligations even going above and beyond at times. While others who despise their jobs usually do the bare minimum if that. (Yet as Christians who “love” GOD, we work as unto the Lord even if we’re not so happy with our company).
    P.S. Yet be careful, because the Pharisees had a level of obedience that would put many Christians to shame yet they did not have agape love, the love that Jesus was referring to. Many of us are good “obeyers” yet not much at willing to have the greater love which is to lay ones life down for his friends. Jesus did it and in turn the disciples GREW in love and returned it by laying their lives down for Him. Basically saying “back at ya Jesus, You did it for us and its an honor to reciprocate. Ditto.

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Thank you for your encouragement, Jenny. It helps to know that God is using these posts in some small way. Yes, absolutely–my love for Him increases as I know more of Who He is, so true!

    Good to hear from you, friend ~

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Hello Tony ~

    Thanks for taking the time to leave your thoughts. You got me thinking . . . I’m wondering if I would actually classify the Pharisees actions as “obedience”? I know they certainly took pride in fulfilling the “law.” But much of what they were doing was man-made additions to God’s law. They would say they were being “obedient.” It is probably only semantics, but your statement was thought provoking, because I’m now mulling over whether outward conformity can even be considered true obedience. If obedience begins with a right heart attitude–the Pharisees definitely failed on that count.

    Just mulling it over, thanks for the comment!