When I was a new Christian, I learned that I owed the Lord obedience in every sphere of life. Yet I was a bit muddled as to why I obeyed. If asked to explain, I answered three ways, which we can call the way of wisdom, the way of trust, and the way of gratitude.
The way of wisdom says it is only reasonable to obey God’s law. He created all things, so he knows how they work. Therefore, we expect his commands to be effective, to bring us good. As Moses said, God gave Israel his commands “for your own good” (Deut. 10:13).
The way of trust says God loves us and would never mislead us. We should behave as he directs and trust him to make it work. If we do what is right for him, he will do right for us.
The way of gratitude judges that it is fitting for us to obey God without reserve because God first gave himself without reserve to us when he redeemed us. Because he has done so much for us, we should be willing to do much for him.
These perspectives contain profound truth. They are certainly superior to the way of merit, where people obey God in order to earn or retain his favor. And they surpass the way of servile or craven fear, where people obey God to avert punishment (there is, of course, a proper fear of God, the awe of our great Father and King). It is always good to obey God’s law, yet he cannot be pleased with anyone who obeys him strictly to merit rewards or avoid penalties. Such obedience can be selfish, even manipulative.