Thursday, January 23, 2014

Blast From the Past: Motive

This was first published on November 17, 2009.

The other day, I heard someone say that the motivation for the Christian life is not in gaining what we do not have, but in living up to what we do have. I immediately thought, "That seems kind of legalistic." The emphasis is on what we can do, what we need to do. Knowing the background of the speaker, I am sure that many of the things we must do to "live up to" what we have in Christ include things like going to church every time the doors are open, avoiding things like tobacco and alcohol, and keeping ourselves "separated" from those outside. If the "Christian life" consists of sins to avoid and certain practices to embrace, then it makes sense that we are to be motivated by a desire to live up to a certain standard.

My fundamental disagreement is with the implied definition of the "Christian life." I believe that life in Christ is not a set of "standards" that we must keep. It is not a set of "truths" that we must give assent to. There are certain things that we believe, and certain things we will or won't do, if we are followers of Jesus, but the motivation behind that is not an attempt to live up to anything. I believe that the motivation for the Christian life is found in God's grace through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit teaches us and takes what we learn and changes us. Our knowledge becomes somethng more than just something rattling around in our brain. It is something we experience, something that becomes who we are as the Father's love and grace fill us.

As we spend time with Jesus, and the Spirit works in us, we will be changed so that the things the Father wants us to do will become more and more natural for us. We're not perfect, and there is a certain amount of responsibility on our part to put ourselves in the place where God can work, but doing what God desires and becoming more like Jesus is something that God must do. It is not a case of trying to live up to what we have in Christ. If that is our motivation, then we will fail, because it is impossible for us to lift ourselves up in that way.

If you are in Christ, rest in God's grace for you. Trust that everything you have in Christ is everything you need, and that the Father loves you and sees you as he sees Jesus. It is already accomplished. Let the Spirit guide you and teach you, and change you in the way the Father wants you to change. It's all about God's grace, not our own puny efforts.


Mike Erich the Mad Theologian said...

It is so easy to see the Christian life as what we need to do rather than what Christ is working in us. Thank you for the good word.

Fred Shope said...

You're welcome. And thank you.

38 Years and Counting

On this date thirty eight years ago, Jan and I were married. We have been through a lot in that time, most of it good, some it challenging, ...