When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave. So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,” they said, “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.” Luke 7:2-5 NLT
This story illustrates the difference between the gospel and legalism. Legalism tells us the officer has given so much that he deserves special treatment from Jesus. Meanwhile the gospel teaches us that Jesus helps those who need His help, regardless of who they are.
So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. Luke 7:6 NLT
While the Jewish elders thought the officer had earned special favors, the officer himself understood the gospel. The officer had no sense of entitlement because of his works. You may read on how Jesus heals his servant, but my point is that the officer was not giving for the sake of a reward or special treatment, but out of love.
If you love me, obey my commandments.John 14:15
Notice Jesus does not say, “If you don’t want to go to hell, keep my commandments!” or “If you want to go to heaven, keep my commandments.” He says, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”
Keeping God’s commandments to get a reward does not make you a good person. Many people disobey God’s commands to get rewards. They cheat on their income tax reports to get a larger refund. They lie about achievements they have never attained to get praise from man. People who obey God for the sake of a reward will also just as easily disobey God if they could achieve a greater reward. Being motivated by the hope of a reward does not make you a good person fitted for the unselfish society of heaven.
Keeping God’s commandments out of fear of punishment does not make you a good person either. Remember in Daniel 3 the three Hebrew children were threatened with punishment if they did obey God! While they told the king that God would protect them, they also made it clear that was not the point.
He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”Daniel 3:17-18 NLT
The Hebrew children were obeying God out of love, no matter what. They were not motivated by hope of reward or fear of punishment. In the same way,
We love Him because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19 NKJV
Love to God is the very foundation of religion. To engage in His service merely from hope of reward or fear of punishment would avail nothing. -Ellen White, Patriarch and Prophets, Page 523.
It is not the fear of punishment, or the hope of everlasting reward, that leads the disciples of Christ to follow Him. They behold the Saviour’s matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary’s cross, and the sight of Him attracts, it softens and subdues the soul. Love awakens in the heart of the beholders. They hear His voice, and they follow Him. -Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, Page 480.
Once, I was in a literature evangelist meeting with our conference president. We were discussing which book to promote. The Great Controversy or the Desire of Ages? Some people said the Great Controversy because it warns us about last-day events. I suggested the Desire of Ages because it helps us fall in love with Jesus, so that when last-day events occur, we will make the right choices for the right reasons – because we love Jesus. Unless we are in love with Jesus, knowledge about last-day events will avail nothing.
Here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Revelation 14:12 NKJV
All those who have faith in Jesus’ love keep His commandments.