There’s this great song out there by Beautiful Eulogy called Motive 1,2. I’ve never been very good at analyzing things I hear or read, unless I sit down and write about it and talk to friends about it. So I did that with Motive 1,2. I asked a friend what he thought, and we got to the root message of the song, which goes something like this, “Why do you really do what you do? Why do you talk to the friends you do? Why do you hang out with the people you do? Is it because you genuinely care for them, or do you want to make yourself appear as more than you actually are?”
I’ve been thinking quite a lot about motivations recently, and why I do the things I do. Why did I choose electrical engineering as my major? What motivated me to choose that major from all the other possible ones? Perhaps even more importantly, why do I claim to be a Christian? What motivates me to do that? Why do I choose to obey God (lots of questions, I know, just bear with me…)? I want to explore these questions, as they relate to my life, and hopefully God will remind you of a truth you’ve once known but maybe have forgotten.
I grew up in a Christian environment; let me go ahead and get that out of the way. If there ever was a prime definition of “sheltered child,” my life would probably encapsulate that definition. I bring up my childhood environment to say that from very early on I knew what the “right” thing to do was.
Here’s the problem: although I knew what was true and right and good, I rarely did it for the right reasons, the right motivations. I was exponentially more scared about getting it wrong, than I was concerned about getting it right. I wanted to look like the good kid, for the very reason of being seen as the good kid. My motivations were driven by fear of failing and a desire to please those around me.
And that was my mindset as I grew up in my early years. That same mindset paved the way for how I’ve understood life since. It’s my “roadmap,” if you will, of how I process and interpret decisions and events, and it’s not a morally bad roadmap to have. It’s just a way I understand the world.
Everyone has a roadmap. The problem with roadmaps, though, is that we carry them with us into all spheres of our lives, even when that roadmap is telling us to interpret a situation or an action in a sense that it’s not supposed to be interpreted in. Does that make sense? I may grow up in a culture where kissing is strictly intimate and for romantic relationships. Well, if I go to France or Spain, and see people greeting each other with kisses, is it safe for me to assume that everyone is romantically involved with everyone in France or Spain? No! That would be absurd.
In the same way, my roadmap of doing things because I’m afraid of what happens if I do not do them correctly may be okay if I’m working as a police officer or a medical doctor, or even an engineer. But does that roadmap work everywhere?
I know one place it doesn’t work, and that’s in the Christian’s walk with God. We don’t work to please God; we work so that we may be pleased and satisfied by God, and I also don’t think we should obey his commands for fear of failing.
Let me explain why I think that. First off, there’s nothing we can do to make ourselves more pleasing in God’s eyes than we already are, as of this moment, right now as you’re reading this. You can literally do nothing right now to cause God to change his opinion of you, if indeed you are in Christ. When Christ died for us, his actions didn’t just remove our sins and stop there. Christ wipes away our sins and then transfers his own righteousness to us the moment we confess him as our Savior (Galatians 4:4-7).
Do you see the significance of the Great Exchange? What if Christ just came to remove our sins? We would stand forgiven before God but still have to live for righteousness and prove ourselves worthy of God’s sacrifice. But thanks be to our God who did not stop there! Every single time God looks down upon us, he sees Jesus. Even when we sin, he is delighted in us, because Christ’s righteousness is ours. Timothy Keller puts it this way, “We can approach God just as if we were beautiful, heroic, and faithful as Christ, because when we know Christ, or rather are known by Christ, it is his life we are living.”
So what does this do for the Christian motivation? Well, it’s pointless now to do things to try to make God be more pleased in you. It’s pointless to be afraid of failing, because God’s heart will never stop pursuing us. We are no longer slaves to fear (Romans 8:15). We don’t have to be a good Christian because we’re afraid of messing up! Do you know what relief can be found in letting that truth soak into your heart???
Instead of fearing failure, we should be so enthralled by the beauty and the wondrous measure of grace extended to us at the cross that we thirst for God so deeply such that nothing else will satisfy us except knowing him and making him known. And that should be our drive and motivation (Psalm 42:1,2).
In my own experience, I find it so much easier to do good deeds and fight against sin when I consider Christianity through the lens of God’s powerful satisfaction. When I realize that Christ offers life, and life to the fullest, sin loses its appeal. How could I lust and look at pornography, when the infinite God is offering infinite joy and satisfaction in place of silly earthly desires?
Previously, my motivation to not sin went something like this, “What will people think of me if they found out I did X,Y, and Z?” Or ” I better not do this because that would make me a bad Christian…” Now I more often think,”I have a choice between this sin, which gives temporary pleasure, or God, which will give me infinite pleasure.” Easy choice. (I say easy choice but it’s still difficult because I am not yet fully sanctified, and satan can make sinful pleasures look really good… look at Romans 7: 14-25 for proof)
So let’s examine our own lives and see how our roadmaps affect our decisions and motivations. Let’s strive to no longer be motivated by fear of getting it wrong, or even of getting it right. Let’s be a people who are motivated by getting Jesus and finding him as our satisfaction in this world. Let’s begin to ask the question, “Does this choice get me closer to Jesus? Does this relationship draw me closer to Jesus? Can I use this internship/job to bring me closer to Jesus?”
In the end, it’s choosing between Buck Hill or the Himalayas…
… or as C.S. Lewis put it, mud pies in your backyard or a vacation to the ocean. The world offers satisfying things, but God offers the only true satisfaction (John 4:13,14). Rather than being driven from choice to choice by fear, let’s find our motivation in the ultimate satisfaction gained through the pursuit of God in His Son Jesus Christ.