It’s football season, and everywhere I go I hear people either bragging or complaining about their favorite teams.
If you’ve ever played football or another team sport, you know how important it is to have a good coach. The right kind of coach knows how to motivate his players to get the most out of them.
I’ve seen coaches who use fear as their primary motivator. They tell their players what they expect from them, and if they don’t perform as expected, they curse at them and threaten them with running the bleachers or worse punishments.
I’ve also seen coaches who gain the respect and even love of their players. They expect the exact same performance from their teams, but they don’t use profanity or threats to get what they want.
Both coaches ask for the same thing from their players. But those who play for the tyrant typically work just hard enough to meet his minimum standards. On the other hand, the athletes under the respected coach play their hearts out because of their love for him. They give much more than he asks.
Now, let’s apply this truth to Christianity. I’ve known a lot of Christians who were trying hard to work their way to heaven. They searched the Scriptures to make sure they knew every command and got upset when God didn’t spell things out clearly enough to suite them on a given subject. These people work to be saved.
I’ve also known disciples who understand the concept of obtaining righteousness through faith as Paul explains in Romans. They love God and realize how much they owe him because of the salvation he has given them. And just like the athletes who give everything they have for a coach they love, these Christians are compelled by their love for God to give him their all. These people work because they are saved.
This may be hard to believe, but Jesus’ goal is not to change your behavior. What he really wants to do is to change your heart!
If Jesus just wanted to change your behavior, you would be able to open the Bible and find hundreds of lists of detailed rules to keep. God’s revelation to us would just be a bunch of demands, commands, and threats of eternal punishment.
But that’s not what he wants. He doesn’t want obedience motivated by fear; he wants obedience motivated by love. And once he has your heart, he knows that your obedience will follow.
As Jesus said, “If you love me, you will do what I command” (John 14:15).