How often have you sat in a quiet corner, or looked yourself in the mirror and asked yourself; “Why did I do that?” It’s a question we all pose to ourselves. Usually at a point in time following some wrong we’ve committed; times when our conscience presses conviction upon our hearts. All too often we bypass the answer to why, and simply resolve to not commit that wrong again. But that very process is what causes us as Christians to get caught up in the dos and don’ts of a Biblically founded life; thereby circumventing the true nature of a Christian life.
Benjamin Franklin was not immune to this way of thinking. Striving for a life pleasing to his Creator, he wrote in his autobiography of making a chart to keep track of the sins in his life. Each day he would log things like cursing, or lying and he would then know what area to work on. Frustration soon set in as Franklin realized that as he focused on improving one area, another would begin to slip. It is a frustration we can all relate to. Franklin’s chart may have failed in enabling him to live a more perfect life, but it proved God did not design man with the ability to cope with the clutter of a dos and don’ts way of life. And it is that clutter which conceals how truly basic the principles of what motivates man really are; the principles of today’s lesson.
Love hate fear guilt pride. If you were to sit down and pinpoint the core motivation for every action taken in your life, you would be hard pressed to find one that did not fall into one or more of these categories. You marry for love. Hate your love handles. Fear for your life. Have a guilty conscience. And take pride in your appearance. The English language is full of such phrases emphasizing these five basic motivators. In every action of every day, to one degree or another, you will find them. But what do we really understand about these five simple words? What do we know about their application in a Christian life?
Let’s start with the two most popular, and arguably most abused motivators; love and hate. You can not begin to understand their function, or placement in a Christian life without first understanding one distinct characteristic of both. Love and hate are not emotions, they are actions. We find examples of this in: Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred STIRS up strife, but love COVERS all transgressions” Amos 5:15 “Hate evil, love good…” Proverbs 13:24 “He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He GAVE His only Son…” Throughout Scripture it is the same. Love and hate are actions.
As for their placement in a Christian life, hate is the easiest to understand. Hate evil. It is the only application of hate Scripture gives us. But what does that mean? If hate is an action, what action are we to take? Proverbs 10:12 put it best; “Hatred stirs up strife…” Hating evil is not simply running from it. It is standing against it, pushing it back, even attacking it. And here’s the key; doing all this in our own lives. You must know your battlefield. Know the places God wants you to attack. Know the places He wants you to stand firm. And the only way you will know is to get honest with yourself, and your spouse, your brothers and sisters in Christ. You have to recognize the evil in your life. You have to be accountable to those around you who also hate evil. Only then will you have a clear sight of what you are standing against. Only then will you have the strength to stand. God has called the body of Christ to be transparent, and this is why; to stir up strife for the enemy. “Hate evil, love good…”
What about love? Love is of course the cornerstone of Christian faith, and yet it is the most misunderstood, misused, and consequently mistrusted concept within Scripture. But look at what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 “Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails….” Nowhere does Paul write love feels good. In fact, from his description, love sounds very hard; it sounds like work. What we read takes the secular notion of falling in love, and throws it right out the window. What we read states that love doesn’t just happen, but that you choose to love. You choose to be patient and kind. You choose to set yourself aside and to believe, hope, and endure.
Love is what fills the gaps between the times of feeling good. Love is what keeps you up all night with a sick child. Love is what has you work out conflicts with your spouse. Love is what keeps you on the phone with a friend in crisis, and love is what gives you the strength to forgive the unforgivable. If you take nothing else to heart from this message, take these two things; love is an action, and love is a choice. If you do not understand and accept these two truths of love, you will forever be in conflict with the love God has waiting for you.
Love and hate; two actions of the Christian life. Hate is designated only for evil, and love is to temper hate and to fill all other areas of our walk with Christ.
Of the five motivations of man, fear is perhaps the most powerful, and for many the trickiest to fully understand. We can read in the old testament of God commanding His people to fear Him and keep his commandments. Even the whole of Ecclesiastes is summed up in this single phrase in chapter12 verse 13; “The conclusion when all has been heard is; fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” Yet fear is often a motivation for very ungodly actions. Fear of being alone can lead to immoral relationships. Fear of financial hardship causes us to take jobs we know God doesn’t want us to work. Fear can undermine our God lead parenting, and keep us from ministering to those in need.
So fear can be both beneficial, and extremely detrimental in a Christian life. But God in His infinite wisdom has made good fear and bad fear very easy to identify. There is only one type of good fear, and that is the fear of God Himself. You know you truly fear God when all other fears of this world pail in comparison. For many it is a first step in establishing a relationship with Christ, but it is just a step. God does not intend us to serve Him simply out of fear. Like any loving parent, He wants that fear to be replaced by love. Turn to 1 John 4:18; “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears, is not perfected in love.”
Christ’s love, demonstrated through His life, His teachings, and His sacrifice for our transgressions, redesigned the type of relationship we can have with Him. “…perfect love casts out fear…” His perfect love removed our punishment, and ushered in a whole new way of life for His people. A life of love; God’s love. Look again at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Knowing that love is a choice, and that perfect love casts out all fear, you can see that Paul is not simply defining Godly, Christian love, but is in fact giving us a road map to living a fear free life. The type of life we choose, when we choose to love as God has commanded.
So far, God’s word has shown us how three of the five motivations of man fit into a Christian life. Love is our cornerstone. It is the platform from which every action in a life pleasing to God is launched from. Hate has a single application, and that is to stir up strife for the enemy. Both are a permanent part of a Christian life this side of eternity. Fear also is part of a Christian life, but only a Godly fear, and only for a time. It is temporary, and is replaced with perfect love. The last two motivators of man, guilt and pride, have absolutely no place in a Christian life, and serve as stumbling blocks or barriers in our relationship with Christ.
Guilt is probably equal a force in a persons life as fear. But where fear launches us to commit often irrational actions, guilt shackles us. It holds us back; restrains us from taking action, from believing, from hoping, from enduring. Look again at 1 Corinthians. Love is our cornerstone, and guilt is what keeps us from it. One of the most widespread cancers facing the church today, and in many ways society as a whole, is guilt. In the church guilt makes its way into lives under the disguise of conviction. Only through understanding the difference between the two, are we able to fend of this weapon of the enemy.
Where guilt binds us, conviction motivates and empowers us. Let me say that again; where guilt binds us, conviction motivates and empowers us. This is how you know if you are under the effects of guilt or conviction. But guilt can be relentless. It can come at us again and again, causing struggle and pain in the same areas of our life. How do we free ourselves? We free ourselves by understanding that guilt is transformed into conviction when it is placed before a heart truly accepting God’s perfect love. By reminding ourselves that nothing is hidden from God; nothing surprises God; He knows all; and He has afforded us His love, His forgiveness, His mercy, and His grace, since the dawn of time. We bind guilt by faith; by trusting the Creator of all things has given us the right to stand redeemed, forgiven, washed clean, and debt free. We bind guilt by knowing we DO NOT have the right to tell God that His Sons blood was not enough.
Finally, there is the fifth motivation of man, and that is pride. James uses strong language to describe how God feels about pride. Look at James 4:5-10 “… He jealously desires the Spirit He has made to dwell in us. But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts you double minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
Pride was the original sin, and God has left no room for it in a Christian life. Pride causes us to lay claim to the very works of God. Pride causes us to cast judgment, and to push away those in need. Pride makes it way into our hearts and places us in opposition with God. “… God is opposed to the proud…” But how many of us would acknowledge, in this very moment, that we are struggling with pride? Not many I’m sure. But take a closer look at what pride is.
Pride is anything you do for yourself, that takes precedence or priority over what God has commanded, or called you to do. Here it is again: Pride is ANYTHING you do for yourself, that takes precedence or priority over what God has commanded, or called you to do. How many times are we called to give of our time to the church, or to council a brother or sister, but we don’t? How many times is our tithing the first area of budget cuts when finances get tight? Look at your schedules. Look at your budgets. If you want to identify the areas of your life infected with pride, look at the areas you will not compromise in the giving of your time, and your money.
But pride can be sneakier than that. Do you take pride in your children? Do you take pride in your relationship with Christ? Look at the measures James calls us to take in order to vanquish pride from our lives. “Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy to gloom.”
The fact of the matter is that we are capable of nothing outside the grace and love of God. We can’t even take our next breath on our own merit. James is not saying that God wants us to be miserable, but that it is better to be miserable than to fall into the trap of thinking that you have been able to accomplish anything on your own. Everything we have, all that we are, is a direct result of God’s power and authority. It has been given to us, in love, despite ourselves; despite what we make of it. Arm yourself against the nature of this world; pride. Set your mind on the principles of grace and mercy.
Love, hate, fear, guilt, and pride are the five basic motivations of man. Love hate and fear, have a specific place in the Christian life, though fear is to be replaced by love. Guilt and pride have no place in a Christian life, and should be cut out like a cancer: Guilt through the acceptance of Christ’s complete redemption, and pride through the acceptance of God’s total authority. Through the understanding, and application of these fundamental principles, we can cultivate a heart that is truly pleasing to God.