Tuesday, August 14, 2007

For God or For Me?

What should be the Christian's motivation to obey God--fear of hell, desire for rewards, a "happy" life, financial security, avoidance of trials and suffering, increased blessings, anticipating seeing loved ones who have passed on?????? How 'bout a love for God? Sound too simple? To some it does, and that is exactly what I've been pondering for several weeks now.

This is something that has become more and more settled in my own mind during 25+ years as a professing believer. However, like many things that we Xians have "settled" in our minds, God has a way of reintroducing a matter to cause us to wrestle with it again. What I find amazingly wonderful and comforting is how God causes such thoughts and efforts to benefit us as we seek to serve and minister His truths to others!

To begin with, please go read Why Do You Do What You Do For God? over at "A Complete Thought". Now, focus on this portion of the quote, "It is because God has saved us by grace entirely apart from any merit in ourselves that we love and want to please Him." Keep that in your mind for a moment while we consider this:

"Regardless of your age when you trusted Christ, the Cross divides your whole life into two periods: you as an unbeliever and you as a believer...

...what one word describes the Bible message you most needed to hear as an unbeliever? I suggest that word is the gospel. It is the gospel that is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). We need to hear that Jesus died for sinners and that if we come to Him in faith, we will receive the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of eternal life...

We need to continue to hear the gospel every day of our Christian lives...

It is only gratitude and love to God that comes from knowing that He no longer counts our sins against us (Romans 4:8) that provides the proper motive for responding to the claims of discipleship...

The gospel is meaningful for us only to the extent that we realize and acknowledge that we are still sinful. Although we are new creatures in Christ, we still sin every day in thought, word, and deed, and perhaps even more importantly, in motives. To benefit from the gospel every day, then, we must acknowledge that we are still sinners. "

Clearly, it is the gospel--and only the gospel--that grants us joy or provides any "benefits". With me so far? Good! Because the gospel is often seen synergistically, "I did something to contribute to my salvation" (i.e. I prayed a prayer, I walked an aisle, etc.) as opposed to monergistically--many Christians live their lives believing their salvation and sanctification is dependent upon them in some way. Consider this:

"Without a continual reminder of the good news of the gospel, we can easily fall into one of two errors. The first is to focus on our external performance and become proud like the Pharisees. We may then begin to look down our spiritual noses at others who are not as disciplined, obedient, and committed as we are and in a very subtle way begin to feel spiritually superior to them.

The second error is the exact opposite of the first. It is the feeling of guilt. We have been exposed to the disciplines of the Christian life, to obedience, and to service, and in our hearts we have responded to those challenges. We haven't, however, been as successful as others around us appear to be. Or we find ourselves dealing with some of the sins of the heart such as anger, resentment, covetousness, and a judgmental attitude...impure thoughts or impatience, or a lack of faith and trust in God. Because we have put the gospel on the shelf as far as our own lives are concerned, we struggle with a sense of failure and guilt. We believe God is displeased with us, and we certainly wouldn't expect His blessing on our lives. After all, we don't deserve His favor. "

A Biblical view of the gospel relieves us of unnecessary uncertainty and frees us from a works oriented faith. How do we bring our thinking in line with Scripture on this? Read on:

"Because we are focusing on our performance, we forget the meaning of grace: God's unmerited favor to those who deserve only His wrath. Pharisee-type believers unconsciously think they have earned God's blessing through their behavior. Guilt-laden believers are quite sure they have forfeited God's blessing through their lack of discipline or their disobedience. Both have forgotten the meaning of grace because they have moved away from the gospel and have slipped into a performance relationship with God...

...God never intended that we relate to Him directly. Our own performance is never good enough to be acceptable to Him. The only way we can relate to God is through the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. It is only the blood of Jesus that will cleanse us from a guilty conscience and give us the confidence to enter into the presence of God (Hebrews 10:19-21).

The gospel, applied to our hearts every day, frees us to be brutally honest with ourselves and with God. The assurance of His total forgiveness of our sins through the blood of Christ means we don't have to play defensive games anymore..."

God does not merely accomplish salvation in His children and leave them to live it out, our obedience is nothing less than our expression of love and gratitude for the matchless grace He has showered upon us! This is particularly humbling when, through a clear understanding of the gospel, we see that we were hopelessly dead in our sins--enemies of God--when He sent His son to die in our place. What more could possibly motivate us to express our love to God?

As you evaluate your relationship with God, take courage or caution--according to your spiritual condition--in these words:

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. (2 Peter 1:5-9)

If you've been reading here for very long you KNOW that I rely heavily on the works of Godly men and women. In this case I owe thanks to Jerry Bridges and his book, "The Discipline of Grace--God's Role and Our Role in the Pursuit of Holiness".


Ann Addison said...

Excellent post! Well done! When I look back at my Christian walk, I am constantly amazed at my short-sightedness along the way... and the continual learning. In fact, learning and studying God’s Word at times were idols for me… because I loved the process more than the Person. But, God’s grace continually pulled me onward… to Him. And, I am grateful.

Have you seen the latest Jerry Bridges/ Don’t Waste Your Life video. I just posted it to my StumbleUpon blog… http://annaddison.stumbleupon.com/public/

Blessings, Ann

Connie said...

ann: I completely understand what you mean by "loved the process more than the Person", it IS a danger, isn't it? I know very few people who consider and/or admit that, thanks for bring it up!

Thanks for the link, I look forward to watching!