From the Word
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.
John 14:15–17, RSV
Keep his Word or commandment — that is what the soul must do who loves Christ, who understands and appreciates what he gets from Christ. No one is a Christian unless he keeps Christ’s Word; and no one can keep it unless he first loves God. Where this love is not, all amounts to nothing, do as we will. If one were to take all the swords in the world in his hands, he would not bring a single heretic to the faith. The people may appear to accept the Word, but in their hearts there is no faith. Hence, he who wishes to be a true bishop arranges all his administrations to the end that he may win souls and develop a delight in God’s Word and a love for it.
How does one acquire love? The human heart is so false that it cannot love unless it first sees the benefit of loving. No man can bring this love into the heart. Therefore God gave us his Son, graciously poured out his greatest treasures and sunk and drowned all our sins and filth in the great ocean of his love, so that this great love and blessing must draw man to love and be ready to fulfil the divine commandments with a willing heart. In no other way can the heart love or have any love; it must be assured that it was first loved. Now man cannot do this; therefore Christ comes and takes the heart captive and says: Learn to know me. I am Christ, who placed myself in your misery to drown your sins in my righteousness. This knowledge softens your heart, so that you must turn to him.
This loyalty to Christ’s kingdom is now considered a simple thing by the presumptuous and inexperienced spirits who deem themselves so holy and so strong in the faith as to be able easily to do what they hear, and who think that the Word of God is something that is obeyed as soon as it is heard. But experience teaches how difficult it is to keep this Word, for the holy cross has been laid upon it. The Church upon earth must strive and contend with weakness, poverty, misery, fear, death, shame and disgrace, and our flesh and old nature prefer that which is easy and agreeable. But the Christian will love Christ, his Word and his kingdom more than all things of the earth.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 220–21.