So I’m doing a just a one week Message called “The Motive”
And let me just tell you quickly my process for deciding on what to preach about. For me, that decision comes from 1 of 3 places. And of course it’s always bathed in prayer.
Place #1 I just feel like God has told me what I ought to preach about. - Some preachers, it’s only this. They just ask God to tell them what to talk about. That absolutely happens for me but not always.
Place #2 A felt need. This is where as I’m spending time with the people of the church, I get a sense that something ought to be addressed or could be helpful, or instructive, or encouraging.
Place #3 I invite you into what God is doing in me. Where I share with you my heart, and my journey, and I believe that God is able to translate that into your particular life and your particular situation.
And of course it’s often a combination of those 3 things. #1 #2 #3
And the reason that I tell you that is that this message really came out of God working in me as a pastor.
I believe that Pastors ought to be very humble people. Not that they always are, but that they should be. And if you would consider for just a minute with me WHY, I think you’ll be able to see.
So a pastor is someone that God has set apart for the purpose of Shepherding people. Leading people in the ways God. And so God’s work in me, doesn’t just affect me, it affects you. My ability to hear from God and be led by God doesn’t just affect me, it affects you. My ability to rightly discern and understand scripture doesn’t just affect me, it affects you too.
It says in scripture that if you strike the shepherd, the sheep will scatter. So my life as a pastor affects more than just me. And so I work very hard to remain in a position where I’m receptive to God because of the calling on my life.
And something that God has been dealing with me on is Motive. Not just what I do, but WHY I do what I do. So look at me up here. I’m up here preaching this sermon at this church, but the question is WHY. WHY am I up here? Is it to please God? Is it to help you? Or is it to impress you or maybe “build my ministry” and ultimately serve myself.
Where it’s about looking a certain way and being perceived a certain way. To where even actions that seem on the surface very noble, if you get right down to it, are fueled by impure motives.
People are much more concerned about their image than they are about their character. But I really believe this:
God is concerned with the WHAT but he’s just as concerned with the WHY.
God cares about what you do with your life. That you’re doing good things and not evil things. But he’s just as concerned with WHY you do what you do.
One thing I never realized before I had kids, is that when your child is misbehaving, it’s really embarrassing.
I remember one time I was with Grace at target, it was just me and her, and she was riding in the child part of the shopping cart, and we passed a mom with another toddler in her cart and Grace said loudly “She’s ugly.” - And in that moment, I’m thinking, now Grace, those are things we’re supposed to THINK and not SAY. But I just waved at the mom and said ‘Sorry’. And a little bit later I was thinking about how you might correct something like that in a child, and how easy it is to just focus on the behavior of a child instead of the motivation of a child.
So what I’ve been working on with my daughter Grace is to work on the motives behind the actions. That she needs to learn to love people and have compassion for people and not just “You need to think that stuff and not say it.”
So I’m in this season where for the next couple months, I just want to take a second and say “WHY am I doing this?”
And I’ve been surprised how often the answer to that is “Because of what other people will think."
This is God instructing Isaiah
“Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins. (Isaiah 58:1)
God is telling Isaiah - “Declare to my people their rebellion and sin.” - Boy we don’t like that much these days do we?
Did you know that God doesn’t JUST want to affirm you? He does want to affirm you, but he also wants to instruct, and correct you. And part of that is telling you when you’re doing something wrong. He does that because he wants to help us. Part of the work of the Holy Spirit is to convict us when we sin. And I used to think “Oh man, another thing I’m doing wrong.” But now when I feel God convicting me or something, I say “Thank you God that you love me enough to not leave me in a mess and let me think there’s nothing wrong with my life.”
It’s important that we WANT to get better. Just because you’ve highlighted something in your bible doesn’t mean you’re doing it. I’ve turned some of my bibles into coloring books but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m implementing the stuff I’ve read.
Now look at verse two, and I want to point of a few words that might seem unimportant, but they’re not.
For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. (Isaiah 58:2)
These people were doing a lot of religious stuff. They were praying, they were fasting as we’ll see here in a minute, and if you were to look at them it would SEEM as if they’re hungry for God.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ (Isaiah 58:3a)
See what’s happening here. The people are saying “Uhhh hello God? Can you not SEE all this great religious stuff we’re doing? Do you even notice how religiously pious we’re being here? Hello!?!”
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. (Isaiah 58:3b)
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. (Isaiah 58:4)
Ok so God is saying “You’re skipping some meals. Good for you. You SEEM very spiritual. But you’re still fighting. You’re still quarreling. And you’re expecting me to hear you?”
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? (Isaiah 58:5)
God is saying “Hey you motive is all wrong. You’ve made this day all about you. You’re acting holy but you’re just being selfish.”
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? (Isaiah 58:6)
God is saying “Well for such ‘spiritual’ people, I really thought you would be treating the poor better, for example."
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isaiah 58:7)
Just a quick aside here, I’m so grateful that God says “Hey while you’re busy taking care of the poor and the sick and the hurting, don’t forget about your own family."
I think it’s so sad that we see so many people in ministry. IN MINISTRY. Having all of these accolades, we baptized 400,000 people this weekend, and we have 139 services every weekend. And they’re so busy doing things for God that they lose their own family.
What they don’t consider is that when you family falls apart, you ministry usually does too. That why for us at this church, when it comes to our paid staff and all our volunteers, it’s family first always always.
Some of you know my granny went home to be with the Lord the week before last, and over these last couple years, my mom missed some church, or at least watched online, so that she could be there for her 90+ year old mother. And she asked me “Is it ok that I’m missing church to care for granny?” And I told her “It wouldn’t be ok for you not to.” Our first ministry in with our own family. God wants to use you in amazing ways, beginning in your own family."
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. (Isaiah 58:8)
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. (Isaiah 58:9a)
Wow. Isn’t that amazing? All those promises.
So God wants us to do the right things, but he wants us to do them for the right reason.
So what’s the pure motive of a follower of Christ.
Our Motive: To Love God, Obey God, and Serve Others.
And what’s are some impure motives for a follower of Christ:
It’s funny, I was praying about this this past weekend, and God shows me something that just cracked me up, but it is so true.
It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a pretty good one. The 7 deadly sins.
If you’re not familiar, this is not a list found in the Bible but it comes from the Desert Fathers which were these Christian monks in the 3rd century.
I wonder how many you can list them, but here they are:
Pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth,
If you let God come in and give you the right heart, you’ll do the right thing.
“Love and do what you will” (St. Augustine)
What does that mean? Well it means that if you truly have love in your heart, what you’ll WANT to do is the right thing. It doesn’t mean it won’t be hard, but when you have the right heart, pure action will just flow out of that right heart.
I’ve never had much of a poker face. You know that phrase? “Poker Face.” - I guess it comes from poker of course, where you if you get a good hand, you can just act excited because then everyone will know that you have a full house or whatever. I’ve never been good at that. When I’m upset, people can tell. And when I’m happy, people can tell.
So I think a poker face is something that’s I’m sure doable in poker, it’s very difficult to keep what’s inside of you from coming out for very long.
Like if you’re a bitter person on the inside, that’s going to leak out. And if you’re greedy person on the inside, it’s going to leak out.
And so that’s why for me, I’m wanting to focus on the condition of my heart, the motives that I have, because if I truly become flooded with the love of God, a commitment to obey God, and a truly genuine love for people, that’s going to leak out of me.
What do I mean? We all see this happen.
Someone starts something with pure motives. They believe God has gifted them with an ability and so they build a business, or they join a company, or they go into ministry. And it goes to their head. When they first started out they were thinking “Oh I just love what I do.” And then they become successful at it, they get used to a certain standard of living, and before you know it, they joy is gone, the humility is gone, wanting to serve and help people is gone, and now it’s all about the bottom line.
Interesting Example: Years ago there was an article in the Atlantic called ‘Seeing Around Corners’ that talks about how violent mobs start.
All around the world and even here in the US
Over the last 50 years we’ve had examples where large groups of people, 100’s and sometimes 1000’s of people, who are just normal mentally stable, law abiding people form into a group and become violent. Looting, and destroying property, and assaulting and sometimes killing people.
How do normal, mentally stable people turn into a violent mob? They didn’t all simultaneously lose their minds.
Well the research says that what happens is this:
When you’ve grown up your whole life thinking that certain things weren’t allowed– robbing, violence, killing. When people suddenly find themselves surrounded by hundreds or thousands of people who are doing the thing that you’ve never been able to do, many people find themselves wanting to do it.
Here’s how rampaging and pillaging starts: There are 10 percent of people you can call bad eggs who start it, and there are 10 percent of people you could call good eggs who just won’t do it even when the crowd is doing it, but the vast majority of people find when there is no consequence to doing bad behavior, stuff they always thought they would never be capable of doing, they do it anyway, and they’re shocked.
Movie: The Purge I think the move the purge is based on this idea. I’m not recommending the movie, but the idea is interesting: There’s 1 day where people can do whatever they want without consequence, and they find themselves wanting to do some really horrible stuff.
Now bear with me here, I think that’s what success does. Let me explain.
Example: Let’s say you’re a regular person, and you invent some new screwdriver or something and now all of a sudden, you’re a billionaire. Well if you’re like a lot of billionaires, the first thing to go is any semblance of humility.
At first, someone comes up to you and says “You’re brilliant.” And you say “No, no, no.” But really you're thinking "Yeah." And after hearing that for months you slowly start thinking “Darn right I’m brilliant!”
And now because you made a billion dollars on a screwdriver, now you think you know more about therapy than your therapist. You know more about theology than the pastor. You know more than everybody.
And then before you know it, you don’t need anyone else’s opinion on anything. You’re brilliant. B/C of a screwdriver.
They trust their own opinion so much, that they become a fool. Proverbs tells us that anyone who is wise in their own eyes is a fool.
And it’s this gradual decent. Before you know it, you’re mean to the waitress. And you’re mean to the tech support guy who doesn’t speak very good English. You become arrogant. You become cruel.
You may have started with totally pure motives. You’re just passionate about making a better screwdriver. Now, you’re a poster child of the 7 deadly sins. You’re proud, you’re arrogant, you’re envious, you’re angry.
So just watch yourself. Success is good. But when you become successful, praise God, thank God for it, and also be aware that you’re heading into territory that, for lots of people, contaminates their motives.
Now look, there’s a balance to be struck here. Because you need to take care of yourself. You need to love yourself. Your emotional health needs to be considered and nurtured. I did a whole class called ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality’ - So I’m not saying “Never think about yourself!!!!” I’m not saying that.
But did you know that scripture also talks about DYING to yourself? And DENYING yourself?
So I’m not saying don’t take care of yourself. But if you’re always taking yourself out of helping and serving other people for the sake of caring for yourself, you’ve crossed a line.
Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6 that if we seek first HIS kingdom, that all of our needs will be taken care of as well.
Sometimes people will come up to me and explain that they’re not serving in church any more because they need to focus on themselves. And I’m like ‘Alright. That’s cool, good luck to you.’ But secretly I’m thinking “Focus on myself?” What kind of half-baked confused Christianity did you become a part of?
If I hear one more millennial say “I’m just focusing on myself in this season.” I might pass out.
Look if you need to go take care of yourself for awhile, then go take care of yourself for awhile, but do it so that you can come back happy, healthy, and ready to die to yourself some more.
No one on their death bed says “I just glad I focused only on myself.”
Souping up Pathfinder In my 20’s, I had a Nissan Pathfinder, which is an SUV. And I remember that I wanted to soup it up to go off-roading. So I bought these big mud tires, and replaced the shock absorbers, and this big grill guard thing, and these special lights that would light the trail better. And it was funny, because after all that work, it was so nice and I had worked so hard that I didn’t want to take it our and mess it up.
Well I think that’s a little bit like excessive self-care. That you work so hard to go to therapy, and you journal, and you work through your trauma in the past, and learn to meditate, just on and on and on, and for what? Just to sit and home? You never USE your new and improved self to accomplish anything great.
So soup yourself up, become super healthy, that’s awesome, but then get over here and do something with it.
1 Corinthians 13
This is of course known as the love chapter, but I want you to really hear what Paul is saying, because he’s talking about motives.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1)
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2)
He’s saying “Man, all your amazing spiritual gifts! They’re so great! You’re the world greatest preacher! You’re a prophet! But if you’re not motivated by loving and serving other people, your gifts are meaningless.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3)
So if I do these incredible acts of benevolence! I give away everything I have to the poor but if your motives are wrong, if you motives are for people to notice you and clap for you and say “Wow, what a guy.” - Then it doesn’t mean anything.
This is an honest question for you. - “Have you carved out any time in your week to unselfishly serve other people?”
You don’t get paid for it, you don’t get noticed for it, you just do it because you have a thankful heart to God.
“Well I don’t have time.” - Are you serious? You spend every waking moment serving yourself? You have a problem. And I don’t have time to get into it, but your problem is almost certainly ingratitude. Being ungrateful to God for everything he’s unselfishly given you.
So get plugged in. Give 2 whole hours a week to unselfishly serving other people. Doesn’t have to be here, it would be awesome if it was here, we could use your help, but it doesn’t have to be here. Just something, where your sole motivation is to unselfishly serve other people.
And then when you do it, every week, fill your heart with love. Do the work to fill your heart with love for God and love for other people. And serve God with a pure motive.
Closing Statement: God is concerned with the WHAT, but he’s just as concerned with the WHY. Why do you do the things you do? Is it to advance yourself? Is it to serve your ego? Is to serve your greed? Or are you motived by a genuine love for God, and desire to obey God, and a desire to love and serve others? Everything that’s not ultimately motivated by love will eventually come to nothing, so invite God into your motives, and ask him to cleanse the impurity of self-centeredness and replace it with a pure heart, a pure mind, and a pure motive.
Which brings us to Jesus. You wanna talk about someone who did the right thing and had the right motive? Because of his love for us, he came and lived a perfect life, he was without sin, and he suffered and died on the cross and on the third day God raised him from the dead and now offers to each of us eternal life, not just now, but in the life to come.