Devotion and Duty
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Duty proceeds from obligation and devotion from desire. They are separately defined but connected. Both duty and devotion are considered to be virtues. I suggest that their connection is critical for those who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I believe that the relationship between the two is God’s design for His people. Jesus didn’t come to save His people and place them in another form of bondage. He came to set His people free. God sets His people free from the bondage of sin to be free to live for Him, Romans 6:11. I believe that the connection between duty and devotion is made clear by the Bible’s description of one who belongs to God. The psalmist wrote, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you,” Psalm 73:25. And the Apostle Paul wrote these words to the Philippian Church, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” Philippians 3:8.
God’s command to those who are His to hear, understand and obey Him cannot be ignored. God requires obedience, which is our duty, but mere obedience is not enough. Therefore, God changes the heart of a sinner to make him a saint. He gives the sinner a desire for Him.
Growth in the Christian Life is manifested by moving from the duty to obey God to a profound desire for Him which motivates our obedience.
Jesus was asked to define the “great commandment in the Law,” Matthew 22:37. He referred to Deuteronomy 6:5. The command is to “love” God! In His command, we come face to face with the connection between duty and devotion. We are obligated to love God. However, Love is a choice. Before the Christian’s obligation can be met, there must be a desire to carry out that duty.
The Bible says that men are not born with a desire to love God. On the contrary, the Bible teaches that the natural man is an enemy of God. God must change a sinner and give him a desire to love Him.
The words that God caused the human authors to use for love are critical for understanding. The New Testament word in Matthew 22:37 has at its heart the idea of sacrifice. It is referred to as sacrificial love. In Deuteronomy 6:5, the word for love conveys the meaning of total devotion. God’ command written by Moses called God’s people to a total devotion, to submit to Him and to demonstrate their devotion by a holy life.
Duty is not enough to satisfy God’s command. There must be a desire to fulfill this duty. God gives that desire. Jesus said that one must be born again in order to see the Kingdom of God, John 3:3. As regeneration precedes faith; so too desire precedes duty. God changes the heart and gives the desire to obey Him. This desire motivates the believer to obedience as an act of devotion to God.
All Man’s actions are dictated by desire. The same is true for Christians. The difference between Christians and non-Christians is God’s grace in changing our desires when He makes us new creations. We as Christians have a desire to love God with our whole heart, soul, and strength because He gave it to us. When we don’t desire God, the Holy Spirit convicts us to confess our sins to Him. God promised believers, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”, 1John 1:9. God is always faithful to His promise to forgive because of the atonement of Christ.
To summarize, Jesus said knowing the truth sets one free, John 8:32. Knowing Jesus is freedom. God has set His people free from the bondage of sin through Jesus Christ. We have been freed from sin and given a desire for God.
Many Christians are in bondage by legalism or moralism. Remember God’s commands are to be obeyed. Also remember that legalism and moralism are tools of manipulation. Therefore, obedience taught as a duty alone is bondage. But the obedience that proceeds from the desire God gives is freedom. Growing in the knowledge and love of Christ moves one from duty to devotion. The greatest evidence that God has given the desire for Him is the priority one places upon worship of Him.