How does knowing that we are loved by God actually motivate greater and more joyful obedience? It's an important question. And, I think, the dynamic is many times not well understood.
The most common answer that I have heard is that knowing that we are loved should make us want to please God more and, therefore, be more obedient. This answer is right, but it needs to go further. We need to ask, what kind of obedience is pleasing to God? One might think of Hebrews 11:6, "Without faith it is impossible to please God." So the obedience that is pleasing to God must be obedience that arises from faith. The next question follows: faith in what or in whom? In Galatians Paul says, "The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me." John Piper states that for Paul "His whole life was nothing but a daily experience of working out what it meant to be loved by the Son of God—what it meant moment by moment to bank on being loved by Jesus."
There is our answer. That is obedience. It is moment by moment banking on being loved by Jesus. God's commands to us show us what it means to rest in His love and acceptance day by day.
Think about this. Why do I need to lie to someone? Usually I lie or deceive someone so that they will think well of me or, at least, better of me. But I am loved and accepted by Jesus. The only who matters already thinks well of me. I don’t need to fear the disapproval of someone else.
Why get anxious when the economy goes South—Jesus loves you. He is for and with you. If your earthly father who loves you provides for you, then how much more will your heavenly Father provide all that you need?
Why do I condemn and criticize others? At the bottom of my condemning spirit is, more often than not, a need to tear others down so that I will feel better about myself. Why do I need to do this if I know that Jesus loves me and accepts me?
Why do you need to continue to harbor bitterness and unforgiveness—Jesus loves you. He gave himself that you might know the sweetness of being forgiven. Why do you need to hold on to that bitterness? What does it give to you that Jesus does not?
And the list can go on and on. As I said in the last post, it is knowing that we are loved and accepted in Jesus that truly frees us for joyful and even radical obedience. Abide in Christ's love each day and see if obedience does not begin to flow more and more from your life.