Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me . . . .” “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word . . . .” “He who does not love Me does not keep My words . . . .” (John 14:15, 21, 23, 24).
Considering the above statements of Christ, it would be not presumptuous to conclude that, to love Christ is to obey Him and to obey Christ is to love Him!
It’s helpful to be aware of the fact that our obedience to God is not to be out of obligation, but desire (Phil 2:13). We need not to feel we owe Him for our salvation and therefore, somehow repay Him. As we should realize, repayment is not possible, nor is it required. It’s a certainty that those who are saved would give their all for Christ’s atonement and therefore, all our works would suffice, but this would render salvation as a merit instead of a gift. This is why the responsibility of our salvation, in obtaining and retaining it, is on the finished works of Christ. Our works do not present a medium of obtaining but is evidence of something already obtained.
The greatest accomplishment anyone can perform in this life is to “love Christ” for He Himself has stated, “You shall love the LORD your God . . . .” “This is the first and great commandment” (Mat 22:37, 38). This brings us to the most important question, “What is the prime requisite to loving God?” The answer is in Christ’s second commandment, namely, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (v 39). Since obeying Christ is loving Him, neighborly love summarily comprehends loving Christ, for the command He wants us to obey is neighborly-love: “This is My commandment, that you love one another . . . .” (John 15:12). Other supportive Scripture is “If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:20, 21).
The love we are to love with is beyond our natural (Grkhileo, phileo-don't know how delete the face) love. It is within the Lord’s divine (Grk:agape) love we are to live. Divine love is not us trying to measure up to the life of Christ but allowing Him to be our life, by our “yielding to God” (Rom 6:13). It is not our attempting to live like Christ but that He does the living, in and by, us. Our lives are overlaid by His and so, all the good works (fruit) are from Christ and are performed by Him—using us. We are bearers of the fruit (works), not producers, for the vine (Christ) produces the fruit and the branches (we) bear it. “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear (not produce) much fruit” (John 15:8). Yield, not wield!
Christ asked Peter three times if he loved Him. The first two times were in the Greek usage for “agape”, which can be only transferred, not produced, because it originates from Divinity. The third time Christ asked Peter if he loved Him was in the Greek “phileo” usage. In this passage (John 21:15-17) I believe the Lord was making a distinction between His divine-love and man’s natural-love so that He can teach us to live by His love, for Christ’s command to “love your neighbor” is in the Greek usage “agape”.
As it is known, neighborly-love (agape) is the “royal law” (Jam 2:8) and as shown above, the significance concerning works, lies within the distinction of “who is doing the works?” It’s not, we do the works—by God, but God does the works—by us! We are the vessel (Act 9:15), not the contents!
I found this explanation to be most accurate and conducive for spiritual growth in “the image of Christ”: “Our Father is going to teach us, mainly through personal failure, that the life we live is the life of our Lord Jesus alone. The Christian life is not our living a life like Christ, or our trying to be Christ-like, nor is it Christ giving us the power to live a life like His; but it is Christ Himself living His own life through us; 'no longer I, but Christ.’”
“He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6). To “walk just as He walked” does not facilitate the means of coming to Christ but is evidence of one who is in Christ, because it can only be performed by Him (John 3:2).
Much of what the believer chooses is directed by the Holy Spirit, “so that you cannot do the things that you would” (Gal 5:17). The desire for God’s will to be done by our lives does not originate from us, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for [His] good pleasure” (Phil 2:13). <><