Check Your Motives
Its not merely whats on the outside that counts, but what is on the inside that leads to what we do on the outside. Proper motivation is important to God, and improper motivation may well be idolatry as we worship self, religious performance, or the approval of others. Some people go through the right religious motions, but there is no joy or life present. Others do the right things to impress others or to make themselves look good. What God wants is a heart that has repented from the sin of chasing our own glory and performing dead works. He wants us to be controlled by His love and motivated by His glory and name.
Ephesians 6:5-8 says,
Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.
This passage gives us Gods criteria for right motives. First, we are to respect those who are authorities in our lives as if we are respecting God because God has put them there. We dont worship them as God, of course, and we certainly dont do what they say if they tell us to disobey God. But the point is that we honor authority because God has ordained it. Secondly, we remember that when we honor earthly authorities, we are really doing an act of worship to God, honoring Christ by our obedience. Thus, all we do is to be for the glory of God and for His names sake. In all of our earthly service, we are to serve God in it and by it. Thirdly, we are not to be merely good talkers, putting on an act in front of the boss, but we are to be genuinely obedient and submissive. We are not to try to get others to like us by joining the bandwagon of slacking, laziness, procrastination, and disrespect, but we are to live as those who are slaves of God. The fourth characteristic is the most difficult and most important. We are to act from the heart and with good will. This means that we must have pure motives. This is only possible if Christ is ruling our hearts, giving us the desires of the Lord. This means true surrender, sacrifice, and taking up our crosses daily. It is one thing to clock in and clock out, putting in our time, and it is another thing altogether to rejoice always and never complain, seeking Gods glory all the while. This is to be the goal, and it is something we must regularly evaluate ourselves upon. The good news is that, if we act with good motives, we will receive a reward. We may get ridiculed by our co-workers or called a brownnoser by our classmates, but at the end of our stay on earth we can expect a reward from God.
Thus, we are not to seek the approval, applause, and recognition of men. If it happens, fine, as long as we direct the glory to God. But we should not count on it. Ultimately, the only rewards that last forever are from God, so those are what we should pursue. And we will only receive those rewards if we learn to obey with sincere motives and willing hearts. Thus, the best and most God-honoring response to His commands is to do things outwardly that reflect what we are believing and thinking inwardly. This is what it means to serve God from the heart. When we get to the point that we want to do what God says and we dont want to do what the world says, we can expect eternal rewards for our obedience. Paul says of his call to preach the gospel in 1 Corinthians 9:17, For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. Paul understood that just doing the right things because we have to or because we are supposed to without a willing, humble, and contrite heart is not sufficient to gain a reward, though it is better than not doing it at all. God sees through self-righteous motives and unwilling hearts. Gods desire is that we enjoy His glory by joyous and eager obedience so that we, like Paul when he preached willingly, get a reward from the Lord. God seeks those who willingly, eagerly, and readily seek His glory in all that they do and say.
If we find ourselves in a place where we have lost our joy and are going through the motions against our will, we must not stop doing right and good. Even if we find ourselves battling self-righteousness, we must keep serving the Lord. We still have a stewardship that we are responsible for. We arent to go and sit on the sidelines of the fight of faith until our motives change. We need to keep striving for righteousness and the advancement of the kingdom of God, praying all the while for the Lord to change our hearts. As we do this, God will show us how and where we need to repent if we humble ourselves before Him and ask Him to lead us into truth. He will show us where we are seeking our own glory rather than His, but let us not stop pressing on toward the prize and the upward call in Christ.
May God make us willing servants, not servants who say we will obey and then dont. Perhaps we have said we would pray for someone, and then we didnt. Maybe we have committed to reading our Bible regularly, and then we dont. Perhaps we have been prompted by the Holy Spirit to share our faith with our neighbor, and then we fail to do so. This is category one, the worst place to be. As James 4:17 says, Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. Disobedience and a stubborn heart is the worst case scenario. Neither, however, should we be those who do the right religious things without the God-honoring heart motivation. This is category two. It is better than the first category in that the right things get done, but the proper motivation is lacking. This is not where God wants us to be, for it robs us of eternal rewards and makes us miserable and/or self-righteous people to be around. If we find ourselves in this second category, we likely share our faith, read our Bibles, and pray for others, but we do it all without love for others or the Lord, doing things with a cold and unwilling heart or with a heart that is absorbed with its own applause. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says that what we do amounts to nothing if we have not love. Christ has enabled us to have our wills controlled by His love, but if our flesh gets in the way, our motivations will go astray. There are no rewards for dutiful but unwilling service to God. Colossians 3:23-24 says, Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. The goal is to come to a place where we do our service for His glory and with all of our hearts so that we can be assured of our rewards, the honor of His name, and the advancement of the kingdom. This is the final category of the three different types of people. This is who Christ wants us to be, those whose motivations are pure, not self-seeking, and desiring to serve God in all that we do. Only a heart ruled by Christ and fully surrendered to His will can truly delight in the Lord and serve Him whole-heartedly.
When it comes to living the Christian life, it is not acceptable to say that our hearts are not in it. May God enable us to serve because we want to, may we serve faithfully, may we serve Him in all things, may we earn many heavenly rewards, and may we want God to get the glory, always, only, and forever. Whats motivating you?
By Brent Barnett
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