Jun 28, 2012
Why use only one cylinder?
Imagine you had a 4-cylinder car, like the VW bug I drove many years ago.
What would happen if you tried to drive with only one cylinder firing?
It would be tough.
You’d lack power.
You’d do a lot of pushing.
God calls us to obey Him — to love, forgive, speak the truth, pray, be sexually pure, care for the poor, and so forth.
But He also gives us reasons — four kinds of reasons — like four powerful cylinders — to motivate our obedience.
But what I’ve found is that many Christians try to obey without using these reasons — or maybe only using one or two of them.
The result? It’s tough. They lack power. They do a lot of pushing.
So — here’s the four kinds of reasons God gives us to fully empower our obedience.
First — because of all Christ has done for me in the past.
Ephesians 4:32 illustrates this kind of reason —
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
In this verse — what empowers forgiveness? Something Christ has done for me in the past — forgiving all my sins.
How does that work?
Let’s say someone stole $10,000 from you. That’s hard to forgive.
But think of all Christ has done in forgiving you —
- paying for all your sins
- giving you a new nature
- adopting you into His family
- giving Himself to you as all-satisfying Treasure
When you think of all you have in Christ it will be like remembering you have $10 billion in the bank.
That will so fill and satisfy you that you will be able to forgive a $10,000 loss.
And what empowered that obedience? Remembering all that Christ has done in the past.
Second — because of all Christ has secured for me in the future.
Heb 10:34 is a powerful example —
“For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.
Believers had been thrown in prison for their faith.
In those days prisoners would only eat if someone brought food from the outside .
But believers knew that if they brought food to those in prison, their faith would become known — and they would be arrested, or at least have their property plundered.
So — what did they do? They took food to their fellow-believers. And when their property was plundered — they accepted this joyfully.
Why? Because they knew they “had a better possession and an abiding one.”
This is a different kind of reason. It’s not what Christ has done for them in the past.
What empowered their obedience was what Christ has secured for them in the future.
Third — because of what God promises us if we obey.
Philippians 4:9 is an example of this kind of motivation —
“Practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
If Paul’s readers practice the things he’s written — the God of peace will be with them.
Of course, there is a sense in which God is always with His people.
But Paul promises that if they obey they will experience even more of God’s peace-giving presence.
What Paul wants to empower their obedience is the promise of God will do for them if they obey.
Fourth — because of what God warns could happen if we don’t obey.
You can see this in Matthew 7:15 —
“For if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Jesus knows that sometimes sin blinds us so badly that we need to be (spiritually) whacked upside the head with a warning — so we wake up to the danger we face.
That’s what He does here. If you don’t forgive others, you won’t be forgiven.
Not because we earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving others.
No. God’s forgiveness comes only through trusting Jesus Christ.
But — if I am genuinely trusting Christ — my heart will be so humbled and filled that I will overflow in forgiveness for others.
So if I’m not forgiving — Jesus warns that we might not truly be trusting Him. And if we persist in this unbelief — that would show we are not saved — which is why we would not be forgiven.
So this is another kind of motivation — Jesus warns us about what could happen if we don’t obey.
Firing on all four cylinders
Have you struggled with obedience?
If so — how have you motivated yourself?
Have you used any of these cylinders? Or only one or two?
In His Word — God has given us four cylinders.
What has motivated your obedience?
I’d love to hear your thoughts — leave a comment below. Thanks!
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And here’s some related posts you might find helpful —
Should We Be Motivated By Rewards From God?
Can A Believer Lose Salvation?
How to Obey God -- Self-Pushing or Spirit-Empowering?
How Jesus changed my heart about a Christmas party
(Picture on everystockphoto by wonderlane.)