Saturday, September 22, 2012

What is our motivation?

Hello everyone.  I pray all are well.  This post stems from a concern about the state of the heart of many church goers and professing "Christians" today and what their true motivation toward obedience is.  Is it selfless obedience to the word and Giver of life, desiring only relationship with Him?  Or,  is it selfish obedience birthed out of a desire for the gifts and benefits that the word says could come from obedience?

The theme that encompasses Psalm 119  is one of a a love and value for God's word as the source of everything good in the life of a follower of God. The quintessntial vs that everyone quotes here is Psalm 119:11, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."    Joshua 1:8 states that we are to meditate on God's word day and night in order to obey it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.  Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is known as the Shema in Jewish biblical history.  It says, "Here O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commands that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates".

Over the last 18 years I have seen many shifts in focus, teaching, moves of the spirit, and absorption of the contents of the service by the congregation.  Many of the things I have seen have been themes in churches across the country.  Some are, unfortunately, still very strong themes in some churches.  I believe that at times the different contents of the service have been out of balance.

So what do I mean by contents.  Primarily, themes of teaching on giving in relation to prosperity or teaching on the gifts of the spirit and operating in those being a major focal point of much of the teaching and how the service functioned.  Gratefully among many in these movements, including my own church, the topics have shifted back towards the word, the Gospel, and evangelism.  Not that they have gone away completely but that the balance has returned on some level.  However, there are still those ministries whose primary message is man-centered.  Teaching still centers on the benefits of Christianity vs the cause of Christianity, Jesus.

Even, places where the teaching is all together relatively balanced and the word is becoming more and more the focus, there are still those in the body who question the spiritual life of the church because the "gifts of the spirit"  are not operating in the same way.  So there must be something wrong, right?  Not so much. You see, when the gifts of the spirit appeared to be operating more, people were just as lost as they are today because the gifts don't save anyone.  The same is true of prosperity.  Some look at how successful a Christians life is or how strong their faith is based on how prosperous they are.  When the fact of the matter is 1) Prosperity will not save you, nor is it evidence of Salvation, 2) You can't take it with you when you die, 3) Compared to much of the world, many of  the poorest Americans are rich.

One thing holds true, a preacher can teach as much solid, balanced, scripture based material as he is able.  But if a member of the Congregation has the wrong motivation then they will miss anything that doesn't line up with what they already believe.  Whether their motivation  is scripturally accurate or not.  There is enough unbalanced, or just plain bad teaching out there that anyone can find someone to tell them what they want to hear.  This begs the question, "What is our motivation"?  Well, it's Jesus of course, many would say.  Is it really?  The real question is, "What Jesus are you worshipping"?  The Jesus of the bible or a Jesus that you have formed to fit the image of who you want him to be?  If we are not careful we will find ourselves worshipping and being motivated by a Jesus that looks a lot more like us than he does the Jesus of the bible.  So who does the bible say that Jesus is?

John 1:1 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God".  John 1:14 says, "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father full of grace and truth".   So, according to these two scriptures Jesus is the Word.

In John 14:6 Jesus says, "I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to Father but by me".
In Revelation 22:13 Jesus says, "I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End".
Philippians 2:5-11 says this, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant , being mad in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death---even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father".

So what's your point Josh?  My point is this.  The bible makes it clear that the Word, not only consists of the letters on the page of the bible but also represents Jesus Christ himself.  The bible makes it clear that Jesus, The Word made flesh, humbled himself to become a servant of God to mankind.  And, that even as he was exalted through his obedience and love toward the Father, his ultimate purpose was that God the Father would be glorified.

Since as Christians, we have Christ on the inside of us through the Holy Spirit, then our primary purpose in existing is to bring Glory to the Father.  Our motivation should be no less than seeing Christ Jesus exalted in our lives by means of us taking the good news of his love and what he did for us to the world.  Just as Jesus did, we must share with the world of their need for Christ, because of sin, so that they will be able to fully appreciate the Gospel.  Nothing else matters.  Nothing else holds any eternal value except the eternal salvation of souls and the Glory of our Heavenly Father expressed in our daily gratitude for sending his Son to take the punishment that we deserve.

Praise be to God, who in all his attributes (Holiness, Justice, Wrath, Love, Mercy, & Grace) loved us enough to give us a pardon for our sin.  Let us not cheapen the sacrifice that was made and the price that was paid that we might have eternal life by making any blessing in this life more valuable than the surpassing greatness of knowing God himself.  Any positive byproduct of your Christianity is worthless if it does not drive you back toward God and his purpose for you which is to make his glory known among the nations.

I happened to be listening to a podcast message by Dr. David Platt, author of Radical and Pastor of  The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham AL, from February 2006.  I have been working on this post for three days but today I happened to hear this sermon by him.  He titled the message "The Ultimate Disconnect" and discussed the disconnect between the blessings of God and the purpose of God.  The purpose of the blessing being to accomplish the purpose of God which is to glorify His name.  If God's blessings don't motivate us towards that purpose then we have missed the point.  It was like listening to the thought behind this blog post on podcast.  I say this not to boast about me or the post but to point out that now almost 7 years later it is still important to God that we understand the connection between his blessings toward us and the purpose for those blessings.  

May your daily prayer be that your heart is drawn closer to him by his goodness and that your life's purpose begins to revolve more and more around God's purpose, the spread of the Gospel to a lost and dying world.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

Love in Christ,

Joshua Newton


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