April 22, 2020 Dear Friends, Thank you for your partnership in prayer for our prodigals and for revival. Prayer is at the source of every true revival. God works when men and women get down on their knees and pray “Lord, revive my heart! My church! My city!” But the order is important; we need to start with our own hearts. One aspect of my heart that needs constant adjustment is my motives. Judging one’s own motives is a continual and difficult task. With our sinful nature still present and the new life of Christ fighting against it, deciphering why we do what we do can be a challenge. From my experience, there is really only one way to keep our motives right, and that is by focusing on Jesus Christ. He alone is both the source and reason for our life! Cultivating a close relationship with Him, enjoying His presence, and filling our hearts with His greatness and majesty will help keep our motives pure; it comes from Christ in us rather than from ourselves. Oftentimes, sinful and false motives propel our behavior. They may get us places, but not the places we really want to go; they nudge us further and further from Christ. Sometimes we do things out of a desire for personal acknowledgment. We love to be noticed and given the thumbs up. We bask in the attention of the so-called “important people” and their words, “That was really good! You did well!” Much of my younger Christian life was directed towards receiving this confirmation—and though it led me to serve God and to do good deeds, my motives issued from my sinful nature, not the Spirit. There is nothing wrong with getting encouragement from others, indeed sometimes we need it to keep going on, but when it supersedes Christ's place and becomes the reason why we do things, it becomes sinful, an idol. Paul advised the first-century Christian slaves, “Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord” (Col.3:22). Other times we do things out of a sense of spiritual superiority. This was the basis of Paul’s whole life before he met Jesus on the Damascus road. Read about it in Philippians three. In essence, he thought he was better than everyone else because he was from Benjamin’s tribe, he did the circumcision thing right, he was a top-notch Pharisee, and on and on. In the end, it amounted to a pile of rubbish. He found that true service is founded in one’s identity in Christ rather than in anything else. The more subtle motive that keeps cropping up is doing things out of duty. We believe in something important and seek to be true to that cause and we dutifully try to get it right. We may let out a sigh and inwardly groan, but we get the task done one way or another. We are fulfilling our obligation and very often we are just going through the motions. At the end of the day, God’s work gets done but our hearts aren’t really in it. This is religion, not relationship! Christ wants our hearts first. Paul recognized this when he said, “The love of Christ controls us” (2 Cor. 5:14). We have been eternally and vitally united to Christ in an indissoluble relationship. Therefore all that we do, say, think, and are, reflects the health of that relationship and your desire to go deeper in it. Take marriage for example. I’ll speak to the men: Why do you pick up your clothes and not leave them on the floor? Is it out of duty or desire? Why do you purchase roses (or whatever flowers/chocolates/gifts your wife likes) on a special occasion? Is it out of duty or desire? Why do you sit and listen to her heart speak? Is it out of duty or desire? Why do you forsake all other women and cherish her? Is it out of duty or desire? I think you get the point! You can live in that relationship and do all the proper, right things yet not be truly in love with that person. Things get done but the relationship suffers. Christ does not want our works, He wants our hearts. And if He has our hearts, then every work we do through the Spirit, every breath we breathe, can be for his glory. In conclusion, God wants your love to be founded in His love. He wants you to live out of His identity. The apostle John put it so well, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1Jn.4:7). Our love for Him is rooted in His love for us. Think about it this way: What comes to your mind when you consider your relationship with God? Is it how much He did for you, or how much you do for Him? Is it the blessings He has brought to you or the blessings you bring to Him? Is it the greatness of His love for you, or is it your love for Him? True motives will not be occupied with what I am doing for Him, but what He has done and who He is. Thanks again for praying, Love in Christ, Bryan and Rachel
Duty or Delight?
Getty image courtesy of Ross Rodgers.