Christians obey God out of love, not fear, Pastor Rick Warren says.
Warren, who heads the popular Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, explains in his daily devotional published Thursday that while many non-Christians might wrongfully assume that believers obey God out of fear, Christians are actually happy to obey God because of His love for them.
"Why do we obey God? Nonbelievers get this wrong all the time. They say, 'I don't want to be a Christian because I don't want to obey God. You believers obey Him out of guilt or fear or obligation, and I don't want that for my life," Warren writes.
"Why do we really obey God? Because He loves us! He wants the best for us. He loves you like nobody else will ever love you. The Bible says the only reason there's love in the world is because God is love. We don't obey God out of fear or guilt or obligation. We obey God out of love because He loved us and saved us," the megachurch pastor adds.
Warren goes on to say that once believers find Jesus and form a close relationship with Him, following His Word becomes easier. Having found a deeper meaning to their lives, Christians no longer seek cheap thrills, such as drugs or sex.
The megachurch pastor uses the example of being a Christian in high school, and explaining to a nonbeliever that he is no longer tempted by sinful habits because such things are "cheap, phony thrills that seem to give a temporary kick to life but then they kick back. They might look like freedom, but they don't last, and they lead to despair, not dignity — depression, not delight."
Warren concludes his message by citing John 15:9-11, which draws a connection between God's love and our obedience.
"I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. ... When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father's commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!" the verses read.
Dan Delzell, pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska, previously discussed God's wrath and love in an op-ed in The Christian Post, explaining that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same.
The connection between God's wrath against sin and evil and His love for sinners can be seen through His ultimate sacrifice on the cross, Delzell says.
"We are the ones who make the Bible complicated by refusing to see the common thread throughout all of Scripture. There doesn't seem to be a connection between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament ... unless you understand the cross. This is where God's wrath for sin and love for sinners was satisfied," the pastor writes.
"Punishment was needed in order to pay for the offenses committed by sinners. Who could bear that punishment? An eternity of suffering on our part could never fully pay for our sins against God. We would always remain debtors to the One who made us," Delzell continues, adding that God showed His love to us through his death on the cross, which saved us as sinners.
"The cross proves it. What you now do with Christ's sacrifice for your sins is up to you, as you listen to the Holy Spirit ... or to those misguided voices in our world who are busy storing up God's wrath for themselves, rather than getting to know the Father through the Son," the pastor concludes.