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Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

Why Are We Blind To Biblical Motivations? Here’s One Reason

Blue Tinted Glasses from Microsoft Publisher ClipartIt’s Puzzling

Jesus calls us to love our enemies.  We need to grow in loving our enemies.

But ask yourself — do you know the motivation Jesus gives to help us love our enemies?

Most of us don’t.  And yet it’s right there in Luke 6:35 —

Love your enemies … and your reward will be great.

Another example: Paul calls us to work heartily for the Lord.  We need to grow in working heartily for the Lord.

But do you know the motivation Paul gives to help us work heartily for the Lord?

Most of us don’t.  And yet it’s right there in Colossians 3:23-24 —

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord … knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.

What’s Going On?

We know the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit and the very words of God.

Therefore we know it’s important to learn, understand, and follow what God says in His Word.

So why, when we read Luke 6:35, do we see only the command (“love your enemies”), but not the motivation God gives to help us obey the command (“and your reward will be great”)?

Why, when we read Colossians 3:23-24, do we see only the command (“work heartily, as for the Lord”), but not the motivation God gives to help us obey the command (“knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward”)?

And it’s not just these two passages.  There are many passages in God’s Word where we see only the commands but not the motivations given to help us obey the commands.

Why Is This A Problem?

This is a problem because when it comes to obedience we need all the help we can get.

It’s not like we perfectly love our enemies, and always work heartily for the Lord.  We don’t.

So in His Word God gives us motivations to help us.

But if we don’t see these motivations, we won’t use these motivations.  And if we don’t use these motivations, we will obey less than we could have.  And if we obey less than we could have —

  • Will Jesus’ glory shine as brightly in the world?  No.
  • Will as much good come to lost people around us?  No.
  • Will the Church be as strong?  No.
  • Will our souls will as satisfied?  No.

So — we need to see these motivations.

Why Don’t We See Them?

When I was growing up I had some blue-tinted glasses.  They came with a book whose words were written in different colors.

The blue-tinted glasses kept me from seeing the words written in blue.  So with the blue-tinted classes, I would read the story one way (not seeing the blue words).  And without the blue-tinted glasses, I would read the story another way (seeing the blue words).

Something like that is going on with biblical motivation.

Tinted Glasses

We’ve heard that the heart of biblical motivation is gratitude for all that God has done for us in Christ.

And it’s true: in Christ, God has already done everything for us, and that in response our hearts should leap and dance with joyful gratitude.

But is gratitude the heart of biblical motivation?  I don’t think so.

Try reading through the New Testament, noting all the places where we are given reasons and motivations to obey.  When I did that, years ago, I could not find any passage which motivated obedience with gratitude.

Instead, what I found was passage after passage motivating us with reward — of more of Christ.  This is not the only motivation; but it’s the main point of most of the motivations.  For example, look at Mat 6:3-4; Mat 6:17-18; Mat 13:44; Mark 8:35; Luke 6:38; Luke 14:13-14; John 14:21; John 14:23; Acts 20:35; Romans 8:13; 1Cor 9:23-25; Eph 6:7-8; Phil 3:8-11; Heb 11:24-26; and Heb 12:14.

This does not mean our obedience earns reward from God.  It does not.  We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone.  Jesus’ death has secured our future reward, and God mercifully promises to give our undeserving obedience even more of this reward.  And so we obey — because we have Jesus as our reward, and because we want more.

So the heart of biblical motivation is not gratitude (as important as that is); it’s reward — more of Christ.

What Happens When We Read

Let’s say we believe biblical motivation is all about gratitude.  So think of what happens when we read Luke 6:35, where Jesus motivates us with reward —

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great…

If we think biblical motivation is all about gratitude, but find Jesus motivating us with reward, Jesus’ words won’t fit our thinking.  His words won’t fit our grid; they won’t mesh with our understanding.

And too often the result is that we don’t really see His words, they don’t impact us, and we just gloss over them.

There may be other reasons we don’t see the promises of reward.  But this is one of the most common.

Our tinted glasses keep us from seeing the promises of reward.

So What Can We Do?

Take off the glasses.

Study God’s Word for yourself to see what motivations you find.

As you read, notice the commands, and notice how often commands are motivated by the reward of more of Christ.

Don’t think there’s something wrong with being motivated by reward.  God calls us to be motivated by reward, the reward is more of Christ, and the reward is all of grace, not earned or deserved.

Pray over the promises of reward, the promises of more of Christ, until you see and feel that having Christ is worth everything.

And then — obey.  Love your enemies.  Do your work heartily.  Obey every command — for the reward of more of Christ.

Thoughts?  Comments?

I’d love to hear them.  Leave a reply below — thanks.

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(Picture is from Microsoft Publisher Clipart.)

Category: Motivation for Obedience

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3 Responses

  1. Megan L. Anderson says:

    Thank you for writing this post. As a very young Christian I sometimes felt guilty for wanting reward for obedience. It seemed selfish. This post does a great job of pointing out that the reward is Christ himself, and desiring him more is exactly what he wants!

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Megan,

      I am so glad you found this helpful. What you experienced in reading it was exactly the purpose I had in writing it.

      Thank you for letting me know.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  2. Lorraine Kashdan says:

    Thank goodness, it’s sort of a relief!

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