Motives and Motivation: Why People Do What They Do: Part I
Introduction: The twenty-part series: Motives and Motivation: Why People Do What They Do – addresses motives and motivation from a biblical perspective. Motivation, an inner man/heart activity is often consider the territory of secular thought and so-called science. However it is the purview of the Holy Spirit. It is the Triune God’s domain. It is in that spirit that Motives and Motivation was written.
Motivation is a term used to explain behavior. One dictionary defines motivation as the reason and the willingness for acting or behaving in a particular way. Secular theories of motivation abound in an effort to explain why people do what they do. The theories attempt to describe reasons for a person’s behavior. The predominant feature of these theories is subjectivity – the desire to have good feelings or to avoid bad feelings and subsequent behavior.
Motivation is not only a theoretical construct. It is a practical one as well. The term may refer to a person’s direction in life and reasons for following that direction. Therefore, motivation cannot be separated from thoughts and desires. Often desires have morphed into wants and demands. I-got-to-have-it is highly descriptive of motivation.
Practically speaking, everyone is a motivational-ist. Beginning in the morning and continuing throughout the day, a person makes choices. He is motivated to make choices based on purpose and importance. Something as simple as getting out of bed in the morning is a purposeful activity. Choices and motives for various activities begin in the morning and continue throughout the day. As a result, habitual patterns of thinking, wanting, and acting are formed and practiced.
Motivation is also a theological concept. The Bible teaches that God is motivated. He motivates Himself – He is zealous for His honor and glory. He is the Motivator of His people and man was created a chooser and a motivated being. Therefore, motives and motivation are personal. From eternity past, God is motivated by and for His glory and the good of His people. God’s motives and motivation is inherent and innate in His Being. There are part of His God-ness.
In order to rightly understand motives and motivation we begin in heaven and move to the Garden of Eden. In eternity past, the Triune God designed His plan of creation, fall, judgment, redemption, and glorification. In Genesis 1-2, we learn that man is the image-bearer of God. Accordingly, man was created for a purpose by the God of purpose. Man, the image of God by design, is purpose-driven because God is purpose-driven. Post-fall, unsaved man is motivated away from God toward self. He always acts in opposition to God’s original purpose for man (Isaiah 55:8-9). The believer can and does act according to God’s purpose. He is growing in these areas as he puts on Christlikeness. By that I mean he thinks God’s thoughts, desires what God desires, and acts accordingly. When he does, God is honored, life is simplified, and reality is clarified.
Man is motivated and he is a motivator because he is God’s image. God’s ultimate goal and purpose for Himself and His people is to bring His people into His divine presence for the purpose of worship and fellowship. He will dwell with them as their God and they will dwell with Him as His people. Post-fall, the fulfillment of these purposes was impossible for Adam and Eve and all mankind. Trouble abounded for all (Romans 5:12-146 6:23). Adam and Eve, and all mankind with them, were “exiled” from the Garden (Genesis 3:21-24).
Man’s relationship with God radically changed after the fall. Motives and motivation changed. When Adam sinned, he was judged and all mankind was judged in him. As a result, mankind’s previous right relationship with God was severed. Mankind became sinful and guilty. Fallen man was still the image of God and a dependent creature. But his motivation followed his nature. Fallen man had a change in his nature and heart: a change in his motivational and belief center. Fallen man now possessed a godless, rebellious, and me-first mentality, orientation, and nature. Thoughts and desires followed for self, by self, and to self pattern. Pleasing-self was man’s modus operandi. Only salvation would bring godly change in man’s motivation.
For the reasons given above and in order to properly study motives and motivation, we focus on the Word of God. God – Creator, Controller, and Redeemer – knows Himself and His creatures perfectly and eternally. He designed them as His image bearer. It is most proper and logical to begin with God and His Word. Several facts are self-evident and essential but often denied.
- Intrinsic to His nature, the Triune God is motivated to glorify and exalt Himself through creation, redemption or re-creation, and providence. These activities are expressions of His God-ness and His pleasure. Glorifying Himself is best for Him and is best for His people.
- God relates to Himself in the Trinity and to His creation and creatures. He is morally and ethically responsible for Himself and His world.
- God is a rational, revelational, relational, and morally responsible Being. He thinks His own thoughts. He reveals Himself to His people in a variety of ways: through nature and His providence; through the law (or its requirements) written on every person’s heart; and through the Bible (Romans 1:18-23; 2:14-15; John 17:17). Most notably God has revealed Himself in His Son who is truth and reality (John 1:14-18; 14:6-9; Hebrews 1:1-3).
- God is a religious Being who alone deserves to be worshipped.
- Man, the image of God, is also a rational, revelational, relational, morally responsible, and religious being. He is designed to represent, to reflect, and to imitate God in thought, desire, and action. Man is to reflect the very nature of God as a dependent, covenantal being. He does by imitating Christ who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:1-3).
- As God’s image, what motivates God should motivate man: God’s glory and the good of God’s people.
A proper view of motives and motivation starts with God in the heavens. The Godhead had a single purpose – His glory. This purpose motivated God to create and re-create. It motivated the Son to humble Himself as the Godman. It motivated the Spirit to indwell the Church and individual believers. Man, the image of God, was designed to be motivated and to choose pleasing God as the true act of worship.
Since the fall mankind has been faced with the shocking reality of sin and life apart from God. Man’s original God-first mentality changed to me-first, for my glory, and for my benefit mindset. As a result fallen man (see the Jews’ response in John 5:16-18; 8:37; 10:39), in competition with God, attempts to create his own virtual reality. His world is make-believe even though he is residing in God’s world. He lives the lie as were the Jews. He is on a collision with Christ who is truth and reality (John 8:31-32; 14:6).
Man’s make-believe world is for him, by him, and to him (anti-Romans 11:36). The scene of two toddlers and one toy helps depicts the reality of the fall: the cry of I-had-it-first springs from a heart that has been affected by the fall. Man’s me-first mentality is the result of remaining sinfulness in spite of regeneration and it is the legacy of membership in Satan’s family and kingdom. This mentality is not by any means limited to toddlers.
1. What motivates in general and in particular? Give reasons for your answers.
2. Read Genesis 1:1-2 and John 1:1-11: what do you learn? Who is the subject of those verses?
3. Reflect on God’s motivation: His own glory and the good of His people – see Psalms 115:3 and 135:6. What are your thoughts and why?
Motives and Motivation: Part II
Why Do People Do What Do
Various Theories of Motivation
Continuing our study: motives and motivation, the book of Genesis teaches that God designed man an inside-out being. Man is influenced and motivated by something on the inside (the heart, the spiritual aspect of man) and that which is outside of him. Contrary to popular thinking, that which is outside of the person is not causative or determinative of a person’s motives and motivation and subsequent thoughts, desires, and actions. Man’s heart, its contents and its activity, holds the key to motivation. Over the next several blogs, I will discuss God’s motivation and the means by which He motivates man.
Motivation is a theoretical, practical, personal, and theological reality and concept. It refers to the reason and the purpose a person, including the Triune God, has for doing or not doing. A person’s motive(s) drives action (or inaction). Thoughts and desires are linked to motivation and vice versa. For man, feelings intrude and create another source of motivation. Bad or good feelings often times take center stage for the believer and unbeliever. Their link to thoughts and desires is missed. Feelings are addressed as if a person is his feelings.
Motivation precedes and leads to habituation. In turn, habituation leads to and enhances motivation. At its core motivation involves the whole person – thoughts, desires, and actions. A person’s motive is linked to the importance he places on having or doing something or avoiding something. Ultimately, motivation is both vertical (related to the true God or God as you know Him) and horizontal (self and others). These two are always linked.
Why talk about motives and motivation? People want to know why people do things. As previously mentioned theories from the secular, anti-God world abound to explain human behavior. These theories can be traced to the field of psychology and its faulty anthropology. For instance, according to instinct theories, people are motivated to behave in certain ways because they are evolutionarily programmed (William James). According to this godless, God-dishonoring theory, motivation is a result of something other than God’s creative activity of man as His image – thoughts, desires, and actions.
The incentive theory postulates that people are motivated to do things because of external rewards (Skinner). Man is assumed to be an animal (in contrast to Genesis 1-2 and Psalm 8). According to the drive theory of motivation, people are motivated to take certain actions in order to reduce the internal tension that is caused by unmet needs (Charles Hull). In other words, man is a victim to God’s providence (see Romans 8:28-29, 35-39). Humanistic theories of motivation are based on the idea that people have strong cognitive reasons to perform various actions. This is famously illustrated by Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory. He postulates different motivations at different levels all directed toward getting. Man is considered to be deprived and needy who deserves to be a satisfied (see Matthew 22:37-40; 2 Corinthians 5:9, 14-17). In other words, man is a selfish victim.
Secular theories originate from a heart opposed to or ignorant of God and are in opposition to God – His truth and reality. They are based on counterfeit wisdom and a sinful view of man and God. The Church must learn from Isaiah. He encouraged the people – motivated them – to look away from secular teachings and to God’s word for direction by using the phrase: to the law and to the testimony (8:20). One of the seven woes Isaiah pronounced on Israel is given in Isaiah 5:20: Woe to those who call good evil and evil good, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Like their forefathers including Adam, Israel was headed for exile because of their disregard for biblical truth. They functioned in their own reality, by their own truth, and as if they knew better than God. Such it is when one’s anthropology (view of man) is divorced from or devoid of biblical truth.
Every person is a theologian, good or bad, because every person has a belief about God and has a relationship to Him whether they are acknowledged or not. He is a created, dependent being in God’s world whether acknowledged or not. Therefore, life and motivation are theological. Each person lives in or out of proper relationship with God. Since motivation is a theological construct, we must learn how God addresses the issue of motivation. Secular theories flow from sinful theology. Those that propose them are poor theologians and live the lie and help others do the same thing.
1. Review the secular theories regarding man and motivation.
2. What is their basis?
3. What is their view of man?
4.Where does God fit into their theories?
5. Define motivation.
6. Motivation is related to a theological construct: explain the statement..
Motives and Motivation: Part III
Why People Do What They Do
God and His Majesty and Man the Chooser
When discussing motives and motivation our starting point is God, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, and the Light and Reality. God has zeal for Himself and His glory. Since man was created to be motivated by God for God to God, he is to have zeal for the glory and majesty of God. Man highlights God’s majesty and glory when he is motivated to please God for God’s sake and because God is. Sadly we live in a culture that has eviscerated the true meaning of majesty.
According to the dictionary, the word majesty refers to impressive stateliness, beauty, sovereign power, and dignity. Other synonyms include grandeur and magnificence. The word is used to refer to such things as mountains, royalty, and triumphs in the artistic and scientific worlds. These definitions and the thoughts that they stimulate are reasonable in their own right. However, the descriptions and their content most often are divorced from God’s perspective and from God as the main subject (Psalms 24 and 139). Therefore, they mislead and fail miserably to help us consider God and His glory and majesty. God is the majestic One. His creation is a reflection of Him. God sets the standard for glory and majesty not creation itself or man’s sinful interpretation of it.
Biblically the word zeal refers to the incomparable God in the fullness of His Being. It refers to the greatness and splendor of God as revealed in His mighty works of creation and re-creation. These works cry out to all creation that God is present, powerful, and purposeful. Therefore God, and only God, is worthy of praise and adoration from all people. The Bible is replete with references to the awesomeness of God. Our God motivates and He motivates based on truth and reality. He motivates on the basis of Himself as witnessed by His works. But His works are a witness by Him, of Him, for Him, and to Him but only for those with ears to hear and eyes to see.
In contrast to God and His truth, false anthropology (view of man, his problems and solutions) dishonors God and is detrimental to man. Adam and Eve were to display godly zeal by guarding and protecting the Garden and living as people of God (Genesis 1:26-31; 2:15). Sin and God’s judgment changed mankind’s direction so that man had zeal only for his own glory. Man was now in competition with God. Jesus Christ reversed this existence as He ushered in a new reality and the new creation (John 1:14-18; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Christ had zeal for God’s glory and majesty. The believer is in Christ. As God’s image, the believer is to imitate Christ, God’s true image, and His zeal for the Father’s glory and majesty (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:1-3; John 4:31-34).
Man’s response to life (actually God’s providence!) is to be predicated on who God is and who man is as a believer. Man was created a rational/thinking, morally responsible, purposeful being. As such, man is to think, purpose, desire, and act according to biblical truth and what he is in Christ. Only the believer is able to do this. Sadly and often, the believer chooses to live the lie as he returns to the Garden.
Man is motivated – he is a motivatee. He decides and chooses for a purpose. He has a “why” for doing and not doing even if not acknowledged. He hopes to accomplish something. Daily, the ultimate choice for everyone, believer and unbeliever, is to please God or to please self. Pre-fall Adam had the capacity and the desire to please God and to display God’s majesty. After the fall, the unbeliever has the capacity and motivation only to choose to please self. He is motivated away from God. He has no desire or ability to please God (Romans 5:5-8). In contrast, the believer has been changed and is motivated by the Holy Spirit to imitate Christ and to grow in covenantal faithfulness. However, the believer, and only the believer, has an inner-man tension: to serve and please God or self. That choice is pictured in Joshua 24:14-15, Romans 13:12-14, and Galatians 5:16-18. The tension remains until Christ returns. How will the believer live as the victor he is in Christ?
1. Write out your view of God and why you hold to it.
2. Write out reasons to please God and reasons to please self.
3. What makes it easy for you to please self and hard to please God?
4. Read Psalm 34:8: what is the psalmist’s message and how does it apply to motivation?
Motives and Motivation: Part IV
Why People Do What They Do
Varying Levels of Motivation
Continuing our discussion of motives and motivation, there are several levels of motivation exist for all mankind. No matter the level, motives are often mixed. It is important to look within and to examine oneself according to Scripture (2 Corinthians 13:5; Hebrews 4:12; James 1:22-25; 4:1-3).
At a basic level there is the motive of getting: what a person can get from something or from someone. Self takes center stage. I am speaking of simple selfishness. The mantra is: What is in it for me? This basic level of getting has a variety of expressions. The mindset of I-had-it-first is manifested early in life (remember the example of two youngsters and one toy), but it is a common pattern for all mankind. Common examples of this level of motivation can be observed at the check-out counter at the store, at an intersection while waiting, and at home – anywhere! Me-first mentality consists of thoughts and desires that lead to getting for me at the expense of others and God. The object may be a cup of coffee, a television show, first in the car, or some beverages for self, by self, and of self. It is the prevalent mindset in the fallen world inhabited by sinners even saved ones.
A second level of motivation is a spin-off of getting for self. I am speaking of a decision-making situation in which obedience is required or desired. The youngster may clean up his room. As the obedient one, he functions primarily to avoid consequences or obtain something such as reward. Getting for me is his motivation for performing a certain behavior. The result of the child’s decision may be interpreted as a job-well-done but his motivation was self-directed. Selfish motivation always dishonors God.
A third level of motivation considers others but the goal is still to get. Pleasing others is intended to get what I want – generally a good feeling often by avoiding bad ones. The person uses others to get for himself even though the other person may get something as well. For instance, a person may desire to do a good job (fulfill a personal responsibility) in order to obtain something. That something may be a happy parent or kudos. The child reasons: a happy mom and dad make life easier for me. Therefore he cleans his room.
People may be driven to get appreciation, recognition, or favor in the eyes of the other person. These wants are important to the person. Desiring recognition itself may be neutral but sinning to get it or sinning if a person doesn’t get it speaks volumes regarding the status of the desire for self. If in an effort to get it, the person may make it easy for the other person to give him what he wants. Self still takes center stage and he uses other people. The person is ostensibly looking away from self but the goal is still self-pleasing. The resultant activity is often acceptable to others but the person’s primary motivation is still self-focused. Pleasing God for His sake is not in the picture.
A fourth level of motivation flows from a real concern for others. Yet the concern is still linked to self. The youngster who cleans his room because he does not want to incur punishment may be concerned about his parents as well as himself: “I don’t want them to be mad or sad.” He knows that the family doesn’t function well when the parents are angry. The youngster is moving from self but self is still paramount.
There is a fifth and higher level of motivation. It centers more on the desire to please God. It does not come “naturally” but supernaturally (John 3:3-8). It is “natural” for the unsaved. The desire to please God is a supernatural gift wrought by divine activity (John 3:3-8). Only the believer can truly please God. He was indwelt by the Holy Spirit and re-created to please God which includes glorifying and enjoying Him forever (1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians. 5:9; Ephesians 1:4). The centrality, supremacy, and majesty of God’s glory are to be the major interest of the believer. In that way, the believer is truly imitating Christ who was completely and wholly satisfied in pleasing His Father.
The concept of Christian hedonism enters the picture here. At least one theologian teaches that God is most glorified when man is most satisfied in Him and perhaps with Him. The statement refers to motivation. The statement may suggest that God is lacking in glory and that He “needs” His creatures to give Him what He desires and deserves. It is true that the Bible does not record when God is most glorified. So we must be careful offering something that the Bible does not. We know that in heaven God will be glorified by His creatures perfectly, continuously, and eternally. We also know that resurrection life begins at salvation now in this life (John 17:3; Romans 6:9-10). God does call His people to be satisfied and contented. Those blessings, and gifts, come only when believers are satisfied and contented with God for who He is and not primarily from what He gives and what they get. That satisfaction and contentment begins on earth at salvation. As David wrote he hoped that he could not get enough of God (Psalm 34:8). Experiencing His God-ness only whetted his appetite – he wanted more. Job discovered this truth as recorded on Job 38-41.
God is glorified when His people, individually and corporately, are growing in Christlikeness. Jesus came to do His Father’s will. Believers are to follow Christ’s example. Joyful and humble satisfaction with God is relational and rational. This satisfaction is the result of the believer’s union with Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit who enlightens the believer with the true knowledge of God (Ephesians 1:14-18). When true knowledge of God and self are linked joy, contentment, trust, and obedience follow in varying degrees. The believer is fulfilling God’s initial design. The believer, and only the believer, will be motivated to please God simply because God is God. Life is simplified. The five elements (satisfaction, joy, contentment, trust, and obedience) were perfectly wedded together in Christ. He lived to please the Father. Covenantal faithfulness motivated Him to the cross and beyond. All believers will follow in Jesus’ footsteps.
1. Review and name the levels of motivation.
2. What undergirds levels one to four?
3. Level five has a primary motivation of what?
4. What may be a danger in pleasing God?
Motives and Motivation: Part V
Why People Do What They Do
Varying Levels of Motivation, Continued
Continuing the discussion: motives and motivation, we come to the issue of pleasing God. A person’s motives and motivation for pleasing God must be evaluated. This can be a tricky area. Acknowledged or not, some people attempt to use God. They please God to get. Getting, not glorifying, is their theme. People do any number of activities in order to get something from God as well as others. The person does not seek God for God’s sake and the joy that comes from pleasing God. He expects to get something from God by having God perform for him. The person has a low view of a “small” God and a high view of himself.
The Pharisees are prime examples of people who tried to use God. They lived according to God as they knew Him and wanted Him to be. The Pharisees rejoiced that they kept their own standards. Similarly, today even among believers, the standard of making and keeping house rules may become more important than biblical truth and obedience to God. The Pharisees assumed their standards prevented them from breaking God’s law. They expected something from God and from others in return for their efforts (Luke 18:9-14). Jesus exposed them, their efforts and their teaching, as hypocrisy (Matthew 16:5-16; 23:1ff; Luke 12:1-2).
In a similar vein, a spouse may seek to please God as a tool, even a bribe, designed to entice God to change his spouse or child. He or she may be truly interested in real change for the other person which is wonderful. However, God makes no guarantees to the believer except His love and protection. The concerned spouse or parent is not the other person’s Holy Spirit. The believer should be satisfied with God and His results when pleasing God is his only goal. God may grant a believer’s request with a yes, no, or later. Pleasing God for His sake is always best for God and the believer.
A person wants what he thinks is best. He may believe his thoughts and ways are proper. However, as is often the case, that person is a getter with a different view of God and His providence than taught in the Bible. The person may define his or her welfare differently than God does (Genesis 50:15-21; Romans 8:28-29). When that happens God is not glorified and is in fact dishonored. The believer is not satisfied with God or his circumstances. Bad feelings and sinful actions result. Life is complicated.
Those who seek after God for their own sake function as both the idol – something to be worshipped – and the idol-maker. They worship themselves. They use God to obtain something that pleases them. They may look or feel good simply trying to attain it (such as the Pharisees or the pastor who leaves his wife for his secretary in order to “strengthen” his ministry).These people are seekers who are worshipping themselves in their own worship service. In a real sense, God is functioning as their idol. For instance, in times of trouble a person wants and demands relief; they may seek it from God as if they were entitled to it. They have perceived God in their image for their use. Relief their way by their definition is paramount rather than pleasing God for His sake. They believe God owes them more than He gave His Son. Self, not God, is on center stage. Zeal for their glory replaces zeal for God’s glory and majesty.
God is not simply a, or even the, Giver to be used. He is Lord of lords and King of kings. He is the believer’s refuge and ever-present help in or out of trouble; but God is not for sale (Psalm 46:1-3, 10). Rather, the believer is to run to God for fellowship and intimacy simply because God deserves it (Proverbs 3:5-8). Circumstances don’t change that fact. God has changed the believer from a self-worshipper to a God-worshipper. Therefore, the believer recognizes that true worship of God is a blessing and privilege as well as duty (1 John 3:1-3). True worship is giving to God His due, honor and glory, which happens as the believer gives himself to God! Self must get out of the way. You are not God!
The above are general principles. Specific application must be made by the believer given his circumstances (God’s providence), his level of understanding, and willingness to apply biblical truth. The believer’s goal is to imitate the Son who gave all of Himself to God. The Son’s greatest privilege was giving honor and glory to the Father which benefitted His people. Fulfilling that privilege carried Him to the cross and beyond. In its simplest form, glorifying God means trusting and obeying a good and powerful God because there is no other way! When faced with unpleasantness, even the believer is tempted to use or ignore God.
1. Pleasing God for God’s sake and His glory motivated Jesus to come to earth. Study such passages as John 4:31-34 and record John’s teaching regarding motivation. What do you learn?
2. Think how you may be intent on pleasing God but with a double motive. Write out the specifics and make changes accordingly.
3. Read Psalm 34:8 and Philippians 3:7-11: how do they help you understand the Bible’s teaching on motivation?
Motives and Motivation: Part VI
Why People Do What They Do
Varying Levels of Motivation, Continued
In our discussion: motives and motivation, we come to the sixth and highest level of motivation: pleasing God simply for His sake. No strings attached! This requires true knowledge of God and man which post-fall requires study and learning. This was Jesus’ motivation. The believer is to continually recall that God created man with the goal of pleasing Him through intimacy with God now and the prospects of eternal fellowship. Even in a sinless world, God is Creator, Controller, and Sustainer. As such God deserves to be honored and glorified. This was true in heaven among the angelic beings; it was true in the Garden pre-fall. In each environment, the angels and Adam and Eve knew God and themselves. They had supreme reasons for pleasing God. They knew God knew them and they knew God. They enjoyed intimate fellowship with Him. However, many of the angels and Adam and Eve failed because self took center stage. We are not told why!
The Bible is replete with the truth that God deserves to be pleased and praised (Ecclesiastes 5:1-3; Psalms 146:5-9; 147:4-6; 148:1-6). Zeal to demonstrate and illustrate God’s glory flows from a personal relationship with God in Christ by the Spirit and true knowledge of God and man. Moreover, God has put eternity into their hearts….. (Ecclesiastes 3:11). There is no escaping God!
Jesus had such a relationship with the Father. He acted on the above truths as He pleased His Father (John 4:31-34). God motivates His people by teaching them, saving them, and drawing them to Himself. He reveals Himself – who He is and what He has done, is doing, and will do. The believer’s knowledge of God and himself should lead to a growing joy and contentment as he pleases God. Knowing these truths motivated Jesus to leave heaven, humble himself, go to and stay on the cross, and return to the Father. They are to motivate the believer as well.
It is in the believer’s best interest to please God because God is God and the person is not. There is no higher motivation than that realty. It is a fundamental truth of life – on earth now and in heaven. What is best for God is best for the believer. God desires, and will have, His majesty and glory acknowledged and proclaimed (compare Philippians 2:9-11 and Hebrews 2:8-9). If those facts have not taken hold of you, ask yourself why not. You may assume that God doesn’t exist, that He is not important, or that He is less than glorious.
You may assume that He is not the God whom He says He is. You may consider the cross an insignificant historical event without any salvific and daily-life importance. Or sin may be so common-place in your life that you are comfortable with it. You may think you have no need to repent. You may assume that the problems are too great for God’s resources. You may assume that God is good and not powerful or vice versa. No matter the reasons, stop! Focus on the only standard that you can trust. Focus on God’s word. Consider the results of your way of living. Seek truth which is Christ and the word (John 14:6; 17:17). It is a matter of life and death, now and eternally.
1. Pleasing-God is antithetical to pleasing self, man’s orientation post-fall. Review the various levels of motivation discussed so far.
2. What is the believer’s best interest and give reasons for your answer?
3. How may a person “use” God? How do you use God?
Motives and Motivation: Part VII
Why People What They Do
God’s Motivation, Part A
Motives and motivation are an integral part of the redemptive story. Redemptive history is God’s story. Scripture infallibly and inerrantly records and interprets God’s story for us. As recorded in the Old and New Testaments, history is the story of God making good on His promises – first to Himself and then to His people. On earth, Jesus displayed and authenticated the Triune God’s eternal, covenantal promise (John 1:14-18; 6:37-43; 14:6-9).
Scripture begins with God and His creative activity: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). The Triune God is:
- Our God is in the heavens; he does whatever pleases him (Psalm 115:3)
- The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths (Psalm 135:6).
- The One Enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them (Psalm 2:4).
The New Testament picks up the refrain in the Lord’s Prayer taught by Christ: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be thy name (Matthew 6:9). Jesus points the disciples to the goodness of God by calling Him their Father. Their God is the God of the universe and is their Father! The phrase in heaven indicates that all things are subject to God’s power and total control. These are clear statements of the reality, majesty, glory, power, and control of God.
The word in the original translated pleases (Psalms 115 and 135) indicates delight, pleasure with, and rejoice in. These are clear statements of the power and control of God. God rejoices and delights in Himself and in His program. How could it be otherwise! It is something only for God and done by God. God is motivated from within. He rejoices in Himself inherently, perfectly, and eternally. He rejoices in being God and revealing His God-ness. Jesus, the Godman, in perfect harmony with the Triune God, was motivated by one overriding desire – to be covenantally faithful (John 4:34; 10:17).
God is motivated by that which is inherent in His Being. What we know of God we know because God revealed it to us. He did and does so by His Son – the Living Word (John 14:6); by His written Word, Scripture – John 17:17, by nature; and by the moral law written on the heart of every man. Make no mistake: God reveals and motivates by and through His revelation
Man, God’s image, is designed to rejoice and enjoy God. When hard times come – actually they are God’s providence – a person’s own thoughts, desires, actions, and feelings may attempt to seduce the believer. The believer must be careful so that he does not substitute unbiblical thoughts and desires as his standard for his motivation. Feelings are so common and commonly misinterpreted.
Moreover, rejoicing in and enjoying God is not an option. It is a creation mandate designed to be a pleasure and blessing. Man rejoices and enjoys God when he lives as a God-pleaser. This mindset and activity consumed Christ while He was on earth and it is to consume the believer now. It is most beneficial for man while on earth and it pictures heaven. In this way he is heavenly minded enabling him to be of earthly good (1 John 3:1-3). Only the believer can do this but he does it imperfectly and non-redemptively unlike Christ.
As God’s image bearer, man was created a revelation receiver, interpreter, and implementer. Man knows because the glorious, majestic, holy Triune God has revealed Himself in His Son and in His Word by the Holy Spirit (John 14:6-9; 17:17), by nature and His providences (Romans 1:18-20); and by the moral law written on the heart of every person (Romans 2:14-15). God motivates by and through His revelation. He reveals Himself – who He is and what He does. Man is without excuse and he is also blessed (Psalm 8)! Knowing God as Father, Creator, Controller, and Savior is one the greatest blessings this side of heaven for the believer.
A constant refrain found in the Scripture is God’s pleasure in bringing a people into His presence. In that way, He pleases Himself. He covenanted in eternity past to accomplish on earth what He planned in eternity (John 6:37-43; Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:4). Redemptive history records the how of God’s story. In the Old Testament God was with His people – the pillar of fire and cloud, and the glory cloud in the tabernacle. Once a year, the privileged high priest entered into the Holy of Holies as God’s man (Leviticus 16). The high priest entered into God’s presence and he did not die! The official activity of coming into God’s presence without death was established by God at Sinai. The people relished the presence of God but they had to understand that holy and unholy do not mix (Leviticus 10:10-11; 1 Peter 1:16). When the high priest emerged from the Holy of Holies alive and well, the people rejoiced knowing that a mediator brought them into God’s presence and that their sacrifices were accepted.
The New Testament points back to the sacrificial system by pointing to Christ. Christ is the ultimate, perfect High Priest who once and for all entered the Holy of Holies on behalf of believers (Hebrews 6:18-20). He pleased His Father by completing the Intratrinitarian work established in heaven (John 6:37-43; Hebrews 10:19-22). Therefore the believer has access to enter into God’s presence in Christ by the Holy Spirit. God’s love and justice came together in Christ which points to God’s pleasure: glorifying Himself by bringing enemies into His eternal presence for His honor and the now-believer’s good (Romans 5:6-10).
The Day of Atonement summarizes and highlights the Old and the New. It pointed to the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, who tabernacled/dwelt with and among His people (Matthew 1:23 – Immanuel, and John 1:14, 18). Christ completed His priestly work on earth and returned to the heavenly tabernacle in God’s presence (Hebrews 8-10). He intercedes for His people from His position of exaltation and woos them to Himself (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). He and the Father sent the Holy Spirit to indwell His Church and His people (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1; 1 Corinthians 3:10-17; 6:15-20; 1 Peter 2:4-10). God has always been in and with His people, individually and corporately. The Triune God has so much of Himself invested in His Church.
Due to the finished work of Christ and the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit, God’s glorification program has moved further along as believers eagerly anticipate Jesus’ return (Romans 8:24-25). In the interim, the believer grows in his zeal to illustrate – give evidence of – and rejoice in God’s glory. A look at the book of Exodus helps us understand God’s zeal for pleasing Himself. A proper understanding of God’s view of Himself equips and motivates the believer to be zealous for God’s honor which is one of the believer’s highest motivations.
1. Read Psalms 115:3 and 135:6: how do they fit your view of God?
2. What does God’s motivation about himself tell you about Him and you?
3. List the differences it will make in your life.
Motives and Motivation: Part VIII
Why People What They Do
God’s Motivation, Part B
Motives and motivation are an integral part of God’s character. God is a jealous, zealous God as recorded in Exodus 20:5: You shall not bow to them or worship them for the Lord your God is a jealous God….. The command given to Israel pictures the covenant relationship between God and His people. God was preparing the people for entrance into the Promised Land and fellowship with Him. The Land pointed back to the Garden of Eden pre-fall and forward to heaven. In between while earth, God was present with His people through the prophets, direct revelation, the pillar of fire and cloud, and the Levitical system including the tabernacle. Immanuel, God with us, is true in the Old and the New Testament (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23)
The word jealous implies a strong, intense desire for something or someone. It is a relational and love word. In the second commandment, God professes His passion for Himself – His holy name and character. He declares rightful ownership of all mankind and creation. He is fully devoted to Himself and all creation is to be fully devoted to Him. God demands full and exclusive devotion (Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; 32:16, 21; Joshua 24:19; Psalm 78:58).
A central meaning of the word zealous focuses on loyalty within relationships especially marriage and family. God was Israel’s husband and Israel was God’s son (Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:14; 31:32 and Exodus 4:22; Jeremiah 31:9). The Church is the new Israel and the new family of God (Galatians 3:29; 6:16; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-10).
The Corinthian congregation which was self-serving, self-grasping, self-exalting, and individualism convinced of their spiritual vitality. They were proud people resulting in factionalism, division, and idolatrous strife. Paul exhorted them to turn their self-allegiance to loyalty and devotion to their jealous God (1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 10:22). James gave a similar warning in James 4:5. First and foremost, God is devoted to Himself. This fact makes certain that He will take care of His people, His family, who are loved with an everlasting love. The believer should be thankful that God is devoted to Himself!
God is motivated to make and keep promises. He is true to His own promise-making. He is the only true Promise-maker and Promise-keeper. This truth is captured in the refrain: I will be your God and you will be my people (Exodus 6:7; Deuteronomy 26:17-19; Leviticus 26:12; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hosea 1:9-10; 2:23 – Romans 9:26; 1 P 2:10; Hebrews 8:10). God is loyal to Himself. Therefore, for no matter how many promises God has made, they are yes in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). He expects and deserves single-minded devotion and loyalty from His creatures.
His Son demonstrated that truth. The Church, the New Israel, and the individual believer must model their loyalty to God after that which God gives to Himself and which was demonstrated by Christ. God’s full devotion to Himself and Christ’s full devotion to the Father defy human comprehension. Just a glimpse of Christ and His life should be motivation for the believer.
God does not tolerate spiritual and physical adultery/idolatry which represents unbelief and double-mindedness. Idolatry is living according to lusts (desires focused on self, for self and by lies – self is presumed to on the throne). It is competing with God. God does not bless His competition (Isaiah 42:8-9; 48:11). Accordingly, God’s zeal for Himself is a zeal for judgment – to right all wrongs. He judges His enemies and all those who oppose Him: …punishing the children for the sins of their father to the third and fourth generations of those hate me… (Exodus 20:5). Further, the Bible declares that: it is mine to avenge; I will repay (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19). These truths enable the believer to love their enemies and never to return evil for evil but return good for a perceived evil (Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 12:17-21; James 4:11-12). In this way the believer imitates Christ.
1. What do you learn about God’s motivation: for himself and for His creatures, and for His creation?
2. If God was not first and foremost zealous for Himself, what would happen to you and the world?
3. How was Christ concerned with God’s honor and glory? What was His response from entity until now?
Motives and Motivation: Part IX
Why People What They Do
God’s Motivation, Part C
God’s zeal has a flip aside. Not only is God zealous to judge His enemies but He is zealous to bless His people (Exodus 20:6: he shows love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.). The Holy Spirit through Moses covers the subject in the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus. In chapters 28 and 26 respectively God declares blessings for obedience – covenantal faithfulness – and curses for disobedience – covenantal unfaithfulness. God desires to bless His people and has done so by giving us Himself in and by His Son and in and by the Holy Spirit. The Triune God takes care of His people by taking care of Himself! His motives and motivation are demonstrated so that the world will know who He is.
God vindicates His people thereby blessing them. Paul used this redemption logic to enable the Thessalonians to rightly interpret the times (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). Paul presupposed that God’s judgments are right (1:5). Therefore, a godly response to hard times is a testimony to God’s calling and election of His people. By their endurance, they proclaim God’s zeal for His people as He molds and prepares them for life in the kingdom which began at salvation. Paul presupposed that God is just (1:6). Therefore He will avenge His people, punishing the ignorant and arrogant, and giving relief to His people (1:7-9).
The enemies of God’s people are enemies of God as well. Paul completed the thought in verse 10: at the second coming, God will be glorified in His people because His people have been zealous for Him which is a testimony of His jealousy for Himself. They stayed the course living godly lives as they anticipated the second coming. They were to stand firm as thankful, busy people (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 3:6). They were not to grieve without hope as do unbelievers (1 Thessalonians 4:13). God’s majesty will shine forth in His people by what they do and don’t do. Zeal for His glory will crescendo as God’s people begin to see God as He is as they grow in anticipation of heaven (1 John 3:1-3). Jesus epitomized the correct manner to be zealous for God’s glory.
The Bible paints an amazing picture of the Light and His glory (John 1:4; 8:12; 9:5; 1 John 1:5). God and Christ are the Light. Light, truth, reality, and life are linked (John 14:6). This is God’s world and He is Creator and Controller (Psalms 24 and 29; Daniel 4:34-35). Jesus came to set the captives free and enabled the blind to see (Luke 4:18-22). Part of the light of God – truth and reality – is revelation and illumination. Christ introduced and explained the Father to the world (John 1:14, 18; 6:46). True light as opposed to all that is counterfeit and masquerades as light, wisdom, and reality had come in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15).
As part of the light, God wants believers to anticipate the second coming and live as if it is a reality now although in veiled form (John 17:3; Romans 6:9-10; 1 John 3:1-3). Christ is in His people by the Holy Spirit in order that His people live with an eternal perspective (Hebrews 12:1-3). The Christian life covers every aspect of life and in every venue – the home, the workplace, family, friends, and the workplace. Living as a God-pleaser requires proper knowledge of God, of the believer, and of biblical principles that are to be applied daily. What follows next is application – growth in Christlikeness.
God has every right to expect and demand full allegiance from all mankind. He is the Light and has brought the light. However, for the believer, He is not only Creator and Controller but He is Redeemer. Redemption can be understood as a divine act by which Christ’s fulfilled, redemptive mission completed the eternal plan of the Trinity (John 6:37-43; Ephesians 1:4). The consummation of God’s redemptive purpose was ushered in by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and awaits Christ’s second coming (Acts 2).
1. Write out the ways that God has blessed His Church and individual believers.
2. Study Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26 to get a flavor for the comprehensive nature of God’s blessings and curses. Look at the blessings for covenantal faithfulness and curses for covenantal unfaithfulness. God is serious about His honor and conveying that fact to people. Write out your response.
3. What is your response to the God who makes these claims and demands?
Motives and Motivation: Part X
Why People What They Do
God’s Motivation, Part D
The zeal and jealousy of God for Himself is often overlooked and misunderstood. God is glorious but He supernaturally hid His glory in Christ. He came as one of us but without sin and lived among His people who knew Him not and rejected Him (John 1:4-10). Try this mental exercise. Think of a most glorious and yet awesome thing. Consider the sun which is some 20 million degrees F at the center of its core and some 10,000 degrees F at its surface. Then think what would happen if the sun came to earth. The results would be death and destruction. Now think of the most glorious and majestic Being. It is the Triune God and Jesus Christ who came to earth but hid His glory (Philippians 2:5-8). The people in Israel considered Jesus another man just like any Jew. They assumed they knew His origin and progeny. They stood face to face with Him and did not die. They concluded: He is a loser and a liar. He is not God. They rejected the Lord of lords and King of kings. They were ignorant and arrogant.
The Incarnation is the term for Christ’s assuming human nature as He left heaven to do His Father’s will. He lived on earth as the God-man fully God and fully man. He was one Person and two natures. Problem-solving and the glory of God in the form of redemption and salvation would have been absent from the world. Damnation with misery here and now and eternally would have been the only outlook.
Hiding His glory was a supernatural, miraculous expression of covenantal faithfulness and zeal for the Triune God’s glory. In eternity past, the Triune God determined to save a people. God had to save because man sinned. No mere man could pay the price and meet the standard that matched the character of the Triune God. Therefore the Incarnation was God’s answer to accomplish His eternal decree. Hiding His glory was God’s ultimate means of glorifying Himself. His full glory would come as the Savior went down only to come up (1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Ephesians 4:7-10). The Triune God glorified Himself in His Son and by the outpouring of the Spirit. From all eternity God has had zeal for Himself and His glory. God insured that the fullness of His glory would be manifest to every creature in due time by the sending of the Son and the outpouring of the Spirit.
God originally designed man to be motivated by zeal for God. After the fall zeal for self and self-pleasing consumed mankind. Such it is with fallen man who has the bent to return to the vomit of self-pleasing (Proverbs 5:21-22; 26:11). Yet God’s glory was not lost. Try as mankind might, mankind can’t suppress the glory of God (Romans 1:18-23). God reigns and zeal for His glory will eventually rule in every believer’s heart and the Church. The world will buy her knee (Philippians 2:9-11). The fullness of His glory awaits Christ’s second coming. What a day that will be! How are you preparing for it (2 Thessalonians 2:12-15; 2 Timothy 2:1-10; James 5:7-12)?
However, the believer is not simply a waiter. Resurrection life begins (Romans 6:9-10). An eternal perspective is part of the believer’s very being as a new creature in Christ (Hebrews 6:18-20; 12:1-3)The Christian life is not about hurry up and hold on or simply suck it up and get by because “heaven is around the corner.” No, like Christ the believer lives with “one foot in heaven.” Because of what the believer is in Christ and through the indwelling Holy Spirit, the believer has a foretaste of heaven now (Colossians 3:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3).
Enjoying God for who He is and not so much what He gives describes Christ’s life. It is the epitome of the height of understanding motives and motivation. It is the believer’s key to keep a proper perspective of the now – the temporal, material, and physical that is experienced by the senses – and that which is to come (the not yet) – which is interpreted by the “eyes” of saving faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). Therefore, the believer is zealous for God’s glory. The third commandment talks on new meaning. It focuses on honoring God for who He as the great and awesome covenantal Triune God who does not leave or forsake His people.
1. How do you define zeal and jealous?
2. God has His own best interest. What are they and how is a blessing and a curse?
3. Zeal and jealous are inter-relational that indicate loyalty, devotion, and affection. The contrast of zeal for God is what? Where are you on that scale?
4. Give ways that God demonstrates His zeal for Himself? Give ways you demonstrate zeal for yourself? What is the result of each way of life?
Motive and Motivation: Part XI
Why People What They Do
The Believer’s Motivation to Please God
Continuing our discussion regarding motives and motivation, it is important to clarify the concept of free will. God eternally and man from creation are free moral beings. Both God and man are rational/thinking and religious beings. Neither God nor man is coerced from the outside. Man is influenced by inside and outside factors but man’s motivational center is the heart. Man is an inside-out person – from the heart. The question arises: does man have a free will? The short answer is yes but we must define the term free. Man is not a robot or automaton. Man is free to be what he is. He acts according to his nature. His freedom is constrained by his nature, what he is in his heart. He can’t be what he is not.
Man thinks, desires, and acts according to his nature. As a free, moral agent, man must be what true to that which is in his heart. At some point, he demonstrates himself from the inside out. Post-fall, man is either in God’s family and kingdom or in Satan’s family and kingdom. Man will act according to his family resemblance which is an expression of his nature.
Believers have been regenerated and they have been rescued from Satan’s family and kingdom (John 3:3-8; Colossians 1:13). Therefore, he is free to choose to please God over pleasing self, but he is not perfected in his motives and motivation and consequently his choices. Therefore, the believer chooses self over pleasing God more often than he would like (Romans 7:14-25).
In contrast, the unbeliever can only choose according to his nature which is antigod and pro-self (Romans 8:5-8). He does this well, in varying degrees, and as patterned thinking, wanting, and doing. He does not wish to please God and it is impossible for him to choose to please God (Romans 8:5-8; Ephesians 2:1-3). The problem is within. Unless there is a heart and nature change, the person continues to attack God in various forms.
The other side of the free-will coin is also important. Is God free? What is He free to do? God is free only to be God. He is limited by His God-ness, by His essence. He chooses according to who and what He is. It is impossible for Him to think, desire, and act contrary to who He is and what He has decreed. He can’t and would not consider contradicting Himself. God must be God! God can not lie or deny Himself. In fact, He has no desire to go against His Being which is truth and reality personified (Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18; 7:21; James 1:17).
The sin of self-pleasing is a direct result of the fall. By it, motives and motivation were changed radically. The Fall followed Satan’s example in heaven as Adam followed the serpent’s counsel in the Garden. Self-pleasing and sin is an attack on God and His wisdom and goodness. Sin is not simply an ethical act of commission or omission (1 John 3:4). It arises from the heart of man, the residual of membership in Satan’s family and kingdom. Sin is the presence of manifested evil in a person’s life. Unsaved man thinks and desires for self and against God and acts accordingly. Self-pleasing is a patterned, habituated lifestyle. It is best pictured as the sinner raising his fist at God and proclaiming that his way is best. The fist-raising occurs in various forms and is manifested in various degrees. It begins early in life and the person develops patterns of self-pleasing unique to him. The sinner whether he acknowledges it or not is following in the footsteps of Satan and the first Adam. He has chosen not to walk in the footsteps of the second Adam – Jesus Christ.
In accordance with His plan to glorify Himself, God has been displaying His power, glory, and majesty throughout history and rejoicing in it. So, too, are believers to rejoice in and enjoy God in His providence. Often when hard providences come, and they will, the believer is faced with a theological dilemma. The believer may consider himself facing a mountain too high to climb, a tunnel so dark and never ending, and a hole so deep that he can’t get out. Unless the believer is steeped in the goodness, majesty, and glory of God and he has a zeal for manifesting God’s glory, the believer will tread spiritual water and eventually drown. By pleasing-self in lieu of pleasing-God, the believer lives the lie. Control is the issue: God’s or his. The secular world has terms for a person’s feelings and response to these times including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, anger, and the like. In fact, these are descriptions of a person’s thoughts, desires, and actions or inactions. Control and resources are the issues.
Jesus’ time in the wilderness outlines the believers’ way to please God (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13). Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. Jesus was faced with choice: please God or self by heeding satanic counsel. Jesus’ motivation to please God perfectly and completely was opened to everyone to witness. Jesus stayed the course by drawing on the Word of God for choice then in the wilderness and throughout His ministry. Jesus used the sword of the Spirit (God’s word) to set the proper course for him and all believers.
Jesus did not tarry on earth any longer than was needed for Him to accomplish the Triune God’s plan. While here, He knew God’s honor was at stake. Jesus chose God over self, always and forever. Amazing! I think this is one of the lessons taught by Paul in Philippians 1:20-24. Christ and Paul were ready to leave earth. Yet both enjoyed pleasing the Father no matter where they were. That seems incredible and even absurd to sinful people. Jesus and Paul were on a mission and completing it God’s way for His glory was their main motivation.
Perfectly and continually Jesus was motivated by the desire to please His Father and complete the plan and design set out in eternity past (John 6:37-43). Christ’s motivation carried Him to the cross and beyond. Now He is in session wooing His children to come and enjoy Him eternally knowing that joy begins now (Hebrews 6:13-20; 9:11-14; 10:19-22).
What motivated Christ is what motivates the Triune God. What motivated Jesus should motivate believers. Motives and motivation are critical for God and man. God is a Planner and the Implementer of His plan. God is the Promise-maker and Promise-keeper par excellence. His glory and majesty is being played out in the present age as He continually brings a people to Himself and as He judges His enemy (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). He keeps His promise through the work of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:20-22; 5:5)! The fact of God’s covenantal faithfulness is a powerful motivator to please God and enjoy that activity. It is a powerful incentive for the believer and the Church to cherish God’s relationship with them. It is a powerful motivator to grow in Christlikeness.
I have mentioned several reasons why the believer’s motives and motivation should be zeal for God’s name and person. I will mention other motives and motivation in later blogs. At this moment, concentrate on the simple but profound truth that God is the Teacher and produces excellent students! Lovingly, our God has taught us about Himself (He is Creator, Controller, and Redeemer of His people). He demonstrated His love and justice at the cross and reaffirmed that truth with Jesus’ bodily resurrection (John 3:16-21; Romans 3:21-26; 4:25). God indwelt believers with His Holy Spirit and He fashioned a new relationship between Him and the believer through union with Christ (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). These are unparalleled provisions for the believer and God’s Church enabling both to live as God-pleasers and as children of the King. In the next blogs I will unpack some specifics of these truths.
1. Define free will write out how your definition helps you understand God and man.
2. What have you learned about God and Jesus that motivates you to please God?
3. How is it possible to live with an eternal perspective when the present can be filled with hard times?
Motives and Motivation: Part XII
Why People What They Do
Your Response to God, Part 1
Any discussion of motives and motivation and brings the person face to face with the living with God who is purposeful, powerful, good, and merciful. These descriptive words attempt to indicate what God is all the time at the same time. None of the terms describe Him totally. They attempt to convey to finite beings God’s perfections. He is sui generis; He is in a class by Himself. Even these latter words are a meager attempt to exalt the person of God. There is no Being like God. There is no class to place God. He is all that the sovereign, incomparable God should be and more – He is perfection and defines it (Exodus 15:11; Psalms 35:10; 71:19; 77:13; 89:6; 113:5)!
Think about God. God protects His name and those to whom He has given it. Who is this God? He is love (1 John 4:8), light (John 8:12; 9:5; 1 John 1:5), Spirit (John 4:23-24), and truth (John 14:6). He is long-suffering, slow to anger, and abounding with covenantal faithfulness and compassion (Exodus 34:6-7; Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Nahum 1:2-3; Jonah 4:2). God is slow to anger in relation to what man deserves and what He deserves! After contemplating these facts, why wouldn’t you and the Church want to please Him and draw closer to Him? This God has made a point of presenting Himself to you as faithful and true. The cross proves this and the resurrection confirms this. The cross opens the heart of God. It opens the inner life of God. When you examine the cross, you find a God Who loves with an everlasting love.
Some understand by their feelings that problems are bigger than them and conclude they are bigger than God. Some use past experiences and conclude that God has failed to care of them. Many people point to life (God’s providence) as a reason to ignore, avoid, or denigrate God. He and His providence do not fit their game plan and seemingly exhausts their resources.
In contradistinction to these false, idolatrous views, God is personal. He has made a point of presenting Himself to His people as ever-present, faithful, and true as expressed throughout redemptive history. In the fullness of time, the Son came and lived and died perfectly (Galatians 4:4-6). God’s fullness and beauty is manifested in and at the cross (Romans 1:16-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31). The cross explains God! The cross testifies to God’s trustworthiness and faithfulness. The resurrection confirms these realities. God did not stop there. He poured out His Holy Spirit on His Church and in His people. All of these truths accent God’s concern for Himself, His glory, and His people. Unfortunately, even among believers, these truths are ignored or even denied especially when God’s providence (life) is unpleasant.
Rightly understood, the cross opens up the heart of God – His motives and motivation for Himself and His people. It gives insight into His Being. When you examine the cross, you find God loving unlovely people with an everlasting love. Humanly speaking, this fact is counterintuitive and absurd (Romans 5:6-10). Unpack the meaning of the term everlasting love. The Triune God loved Himself and the believer eternally. Without love for Himself, God would not be God and He would not love others especially His enemies (Romans 5:6-10). Moreover, He would be like fallen man!
Rather, God loved the sinner and He loved him into His kingdom and family (Colossians 1:13)! In spite of the fact that the now-believer was steeped in a self-pleasing patterned way of life, God loved Him as His own! He loved him for Himself and the believer was blessed as a result. In order to glorify Himself, the Triune God actualized His decision made in eternity by sending the Son and by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Son faithfully and lovingly took the full wrath of God by going to hell on the cross. Christ’s goal was to please His Father. This required the cross, resurrection, and ascension. The Spirit faithfully and lovingly applies the benefits and gifts of salvation to the believer. These truths, only briefly mentioned, are powerful motivators to please God and put self aside. They represent part of the good news.
But that is not the whole story. There is the bad news. As a result of the fall and God’s judgment, mankind is dead, debased, depraved, and defiant. We know that God is a consuming fire and the just Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25; Hebrews 10:26, 31). He does not leave the guilty unpunished (Exodus 34:6-7). He rights every wrong and He has set a day to reconcile all things and all people to Himself (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians. 1:5-10).
Sin is an attack on God and His goodness. It is not simply an ethical act. Rather it arises from the heart of man such that the sinner raises his fist at God and says my way is best. Little does he know he is following the footsteps of the first Adam rather than those of the second Adam – Jesus Christ! It is a blessing and a privilege to be known personally by a God Who protects His name and those who bear it.
Pray tell, why would anyone attempt to sully God’s name by sinning via self-pleasing when faced with the Lamb (the good news of the gospel) and Lion (the bad news of the gospel)? Why would someone attempt to use God for His own purposes? What further motives and motivation does a person need to please God than what we have studied together so far?
Motivated to please God, the believer humbly accepts the blessing and privilege of being known personally by God. In response, he lives as a God-pleaser in place of a self-pleaser. In this way God protects His name and those who bear it. He expects believers to have zeal for His name as He has for Himself. Psalm 117 (the shortest psalm in the Bible) makes this point. In verse 2 we read: For great is his steadfast love toward us and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. This verse encapsulates the thought of Exodus 34:6. God makes and keeps His promises by holding His people in close intimacy with Him. In response, God’s people are moved to determine reality and truth from God’s perspective. As a result, they put off self-pleasing and put on God-pleasing.
Motives and motivation are changed as are habits of thinking, wanting, and acting and vice versa (Romans 13:12-14; Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:8-10). Love of God is expressed by love of neighbor and enemy. Neighbor includes anyone who God brings into the believer’s life (Matthew 22:37-40; Mark 12:28-34; Romans 13:8-10). The believer’s proper vertical reference enables him to be a blessing to others thereby completing the true circle of life as given in 1 John 4:7-12, 19. God is love and He has changed believers from self-lovers to lovers of God and others. Lovers of God love others as they have been loved (Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 5:6-10). In that way and only in that way is God glorified.
1. What have you learned about God’s motivation of himself?
2. What does the term sui generis mean to you?
3. If God is the incomparable One and if he has zeal for his name, how should you process those truths and how should respond to them?
Motives and Motivation: Part XIII
Why People Do What They Do
Your Response to God, Part 2
Martin Luther was a man who had a deep concern for motives and motivation. History tells us that Martin Luther, steeped in his own personal lawkeeping, took careful notice of Romans 1:16-17: For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “the righteous shall live by faith.” The issue for Luther was one of righteousness which he defined as his legal standing before God. Unlike some, Luther was concerned about his standing before God. He was so concerned that he drove himself in order to be acceptable before God. Paul like Luther had zeal for his own lawmaking and lawkeeping as did Israel (Romans 9:1-5; 10:1-4). Unlike Luther, Paul before his conversion seemed satisfied with himself and his activities (Philippians 3:3-6). Luther was never satisfied. He knew his works were woefully inadequate before God. He was still guilty. Yet he worked all the harder.
The issue for Luther was the definition and the source of righteousness. Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, Luther became convinced that there was no right standing or clean record before God in one’s own self and effort. There is only one way for a right standing before God – he had to saved and via God’s way. There was no salvation apart from God’s gift of righteousness – right standing before God – received only by saving faith. He came to understand that no one had or could obtain a right, legal standing before the Lawgiver based on personal lawkeeping. He came to realize the Law was based on God’s perfection and required perfect lawkeeping by the perfect Lawkeeper. That wasn’t him! I suspect he embraced this truth and marveled at God’s wisdom, truth, and righteousness. Luther had a cataclysmic revolution in himself and his theology. God had protected His own glory and He would use Luther for continuing that task. The Protestant Reformation which had been birthed centuries before Luther was delivered by Luther. .
Prior to his conversion, Luther, as many people, had a high view of himself and his own lawkeeping. He would have denied that fact but it is true nevertheless. Otherwise why would a person develop their own view of salvation and its means?
The flip side of his view of himself was his low view of God, His law, and Christ’s lawkeeping. If he was his own savior, he did not need Christ’s lawkeeping. Moreover, Luther used his lawkeeping to please himself. However, his efforts were an utter failure and he began to realize it. He tried in vain to free himself from his chains and the tyranny of self-bondage but he failed. We don’t know how many times he read the passage in Romans. We do know that Luther was a driven, miserable man. But now and but then appeared before him (Romans 3:21; Ephesians 2:4)! He had continued to search the word and he eventually found the pearl of great price in spite of himself (Matthew 13:44-46). God is merciful and just!
On the day of his conversion, Luther acknowledged that he was not God; God was God. He came to understand that God had a right and obligation to make rules and to expect them to be obeyed. He finally accepted the truth that salvation is of the Lord and not of Martin Luther. He believed that God had accepted the believer’s record as righteous because of Christ’s righteousness through Christ’s perfect lawkeeping and sacrificial death. Christ’s righteousness was counted as the believer’s and this fact is received by the exercise of saving faith. The believer is then declared not guilty (Romans 8:1, 32-34). Luther joyfully accepted Christ’s personal lawkeeping as his own perfect lawkeeping before a perfect God. A boulder of burden was removed from his shoulders! What had been missing from Luther’s thinking, and perhaps yours, was the truth that God is love, long-suffering, and just. He judges all men everywhere in or out of Christ. Luther had been in a quandary because he relied on faulty understanding of God, the Bible, and himself.
Luther had known God as Creator and Controller; he came to know him as Father, Redeemer, and the trustworthy Promise-maker and Promise-Keeper. Luther’s motivation for all of life changed. He began to acknowledge and embrace the fact that God was his Redeemer and Deliverer. He rejoiced! Therefore, Luther was able to surmise that the cross wedded God’s love and mercy and God’s justice and wrath (Romans 3:21-26). He came to rejoice in the fact of Jesus’ perfect lawkeeping and perfect substitutionary sacrifice. He was amazed that Jesus went to hell on the cross for him and Christ’s people. Christ functioned as the true Lawkeeper as their Substitute. God judged him and all believers in Christ. In a legal transaction in the heavenly courts, God counted Christ guilty and the believer not guilty. Amazing! Due to love, knowledge, and trust, there had been a radical about-face in Luther’s motives and motivation.
What motivated Jesus to go to the cross and stay on the cross? As I have said, simply and supernaturally, He desired to please His Father. Christ’s motivation and motives were linked to His Intratrinitarian relationship and proper knowledge of the Triune God. Focusing on and manifesting God’s glory was a blessing and encouragement for Christ. He knew the way home to heaven was via the cross. He went down to go up. Pleasing God simplified life for Jesus and Luther and will do the same for all believers.
Luther and Paul had lived the lie about God and self. Glory as they defined it was to them by them for them. It is interesting that Paul seemed satisfied with himself and his theology (Philippians 3:1-6). Unlike Martin Luther’s case and perhaps most cases of regeneration, God intervened in Paul’s life in one miraculous encounter (Acts 9, 22, 26).
Much like Job who also had lived the lie for a time but as a believer, God gave Job and Paul Himself (see Job 38-42). Each was changed. Paul’s statement as recorded in Philippians 3:7-11 is a monumental statement of the glory of God and Paul’s desire to enjoy it. Paul’s perception of himself changed radically as his perception of God changed. His desire was to have more of God. In that way, Paul imitated Christ. Job came to full repentance as recorded in Job 42:5-6. Job started well (Job 1:20-22; 2:10) but as situation continued Job demanded God to give him an accounting. He was willing to take God to court. God faced Job with Himself as He re-introduced Job to Himself. Job got the message and repented in sackcloth and ashes. He considered himself nauseating putrefaction. Job understood himself in the face of the glory and greatness of God. In both cases, each man changed his view of God and himself although they faced the living God in different circumstances.
Job, Paul, and Luther had their lives simplified as a result of God’s radical action in their lives. However, Paul and Luther were faced with many hardships. God’s people are not immune to God’s “hard” providences. The cross proves that fact! It is a powerful motivator! Each of the men mentioned looked beyond the cross to the resurrected Lord and fellowship with Him. Such it should be for believers today. Resurrection life begins now!
1. How did you answer the questions in paragraphs one and two?
2. What is the basis for your answers?
3. In what ways does your knowledge of God – His love and justice – motivate you to change your thoughts, desires, and actions daily?
Motives and Motivation: Part XIV
Why Do People Do What They Do
Specific Truths That Motivate
We are continuing our study motives and motivation by investigating specific truths that motivate. That truth is encapsulated in the question: Who is your God (or gods)? This question is simple but it demands a thorough answer. It uncovers and exposes motives and motivation. There is God (notice the capital G). He is not just another god or one of many (see Acts 17:22ff). Two facts are diametrically opposed: everyone has a god and functions as a god AND there is God. Everyone is motivated. A person marches to some drumbeat, has allegiance to someone, and lives in devotion to him.
Motives and motivation began in eternity past within the Godhead. God had them! As the image of God and God’s creational design, man is motivated. God created man, His image bearer, a revelation receiver, interpreter, and implementer. Man is to read, hear, interpret, and correctly apply God’s truth daily. Biblical truth under the direction of the Holy Spirit brings changed thinking, wanting, and doing. Daily the believer is to think God’s thoughts, to desire what God desires, and to act accordingly. He does this by hiding the word in his heart (Psalm 119:9-11). He is to grow in knowledge and grace as he develops Christlikeness (Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:9-12; 2 Peter 3:18). Motives and motivation are key factors of growth in Christ or in Satan.
Nature and Scripture do not lie. They reveal the fact that God is and He is Creator (Romans 1:18-23). God is the Creator and the Controller and Sustainer of the universe (Colossians 1:15-20). He is the Savior of His people (the good news). Post-fall, man turned from God to self and he is condemned and doomed – the bad news (Romans 3:19-23). Scripture, and only Scripture, reveals the good new – God is Father and Redeemer of His children – in the backdrop of the bad news – sin separated (Romans 5:12-14). The Bible combines the good and bad news with the truth that Christ died for sinners (John 3:16; Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
Here is a major motives and motivation question that every person must answer. How do the non-negotiable facts as given here and in previous blogs motivate you and in which direction? They do motivate because, as I have mentioned, everyone is motivated and is a motivator by God’s design. Truth will move you toward or away from God. Every person will accept or reject truths about God and himself. There is a link between knowledge of God and knowledge of self and one’s response to God, self, and others.
I have mentioned several truths about God and self that are intended to motivate the believer to please God in lieu of self. What other truths does God use to motivate people to please Him? One truth is teaching the truth about the Triune God, man, and the world as revealed in His Word. God is Truth, Life, and light (John 14:6; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46; 1 John 1:5). Jesus Christ, the Light, came to His own but they rejected Him (John 1:11; 3:17-21). They loved the darkness which was characterized by unbelief, rebellion, lusts, and lies – what I call sensual living (John 3:19-21). Unbelievers resist and reject the truth and exchange God’s truth for a lie. They function as idolaters. Sadly, believers can and do function in the same manner.
The lie is this: the person has ability and right to make God in his own image. Self is on the throne. The unbeliever exchanges and replaces biblical truth about God and himself with his own knowledge and standard of truth (Romans 1:18-23). Varying sin patterns include lying, greed, deceit, and sexual sins are the result of this exchange (1:24-32). The common theme that underlies man as a truth resistor and exchanger is self on the throne – to get for my pleasure.
The senses are stimulated apart from biblical truth. Self reigns. Feelings and reasoning devoid of biblical truth interpret the facts. As a result fallen man has eyes to see and ears to hear but he sees and hears only what is pleasant and satisfying – through his unaided senses. His interpretative grid is his “truth” from a dead, dark, defiant, debased heart. Darkness and deadness is a description of a person turned to self by self for self. The darkness of man’s heart and the world is no match for the Light. The Light shines into darkness and deadness. Where there is Light there is no darkness. Fallen man did not and cannot extinguish or overcome Christ the Light (John 1:4-5; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46).
Darkness will be replaced by Light incompletely now at regeneration and completely in the new heavens and the new earth. The darkness of man’s heart will never remain in God’s family and kingdom because it is God’s world – family and kingdom – and the Son is the unquenchable, eternal Light. Light illumines the inner man. The Holy Spirit uses God’s truth so that the believer thinks, desires, and acts according to truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; 1 John 4:6). You might say, for the believer the light has been turned on by the Light and the Spirit (Ephesians 1:17-22). Life is simplified and God is honored. Any teaching disconnected from God and His word is untruth and darkness.
1. What is the one motivation to please God discussed in this blog?
2. How does the truth set you free? What are you freed from and freed to?
3. Christ lived the simplified life: how?
4. How are you to imitate Him?
Motives and Motivation: Part XV
Why Do People What They Do
A Second Truth That Motivates
A second truth to consider in our study of motives and motivation that motivates the believer to please God is described in the gospel of John. John emphasizes the fact that Truth will set man free (John 8:31-32). John is using truth as synonymous with reality. Christ and the Bible are truth (John 14:6; 17:17). Scripture doesn’t simply contain truth – it is truth. It is God’s personal, powerful, self-revelation. The spoken and written Word exposes men and the world’s darkness and lies. World refers not so much as a place because the world is the Lords (Psalm 24; Acts 17:24ff). Rather, world refers to the people, mindset, and system that places a premium on self to the exclusion of God and others.
John indicates man’s bondage – a type of wilderness in which man has on blinders and wears ear plugs. The unbeliever is unable and unwilling to taste, see, hear, and experience that God is truth and good. His senses are programed for self by self. The senses are designed to take in information – facts. Every person has an interpretative grid. The unbeliever lives in their own perverted reality. They live a sinful sensual lifestyle. They live for the now that which is material, physical, temporal, and satisfying to and by the senses for their own pleasure and benefit. What they taste, touch, smell, and hear is interpreted by self, for self, by self. Their interpretative grid is wrong! They are using the senses in the wrong way! Self-pleasing rules the day. Self-pleasing has numerous manifestations in varying forms in the unbeliever always and in the believer periodically.
Unsaved man has an existence apart from God. The unbeliever continually lives in the darkness of self-pleasing as he attempts to be God – create his own existence. It is a return to the Garden post-fall. Adam’s first sin was actually covenantal unfaithfulness. He did not protect and guard God’s honor, the Garden, and his wife. He chose to please self. The orientation to please self still dwells within man. For the believer, self-pleasing is replaced by God-pleasing as a mindset and a way of life. I call this lifestyle and mindset suprasensual living which I discuss more fully in the next blog. It contrasts sinful sensual living which I described above. The believer and only the believer is able to train his senses to interpret himself and God’s providence (“life”) through the eyes of saving faith and biblical truth. He is able to do this because he is in Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
The consequences of a self-pleasing lifestyle and mindset are pictured in such places as Proverbs 5:21-22, 13:15, and 26:11. Life is complicated because self is never satisfied. More is never enough. The mindset affects such mundane but necessary activities as eating, sleeping, working, and playing. The Bible’s way is the third way – not too much or not too little and always for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Self-pleasing may be related to too much or not enough sleep, too much or too little work, or overeating or undereating. The believer is to engage in these activities in order to please God. In that way, he will not work, sleep, or play too little or too much. Everything will be in its place and there will be time for everything in proper order (Ecclesiastes 3).
The beauty of knowing the truth and its proper application is the promise of freedom from and to. Freedom from is freedom from sin, self, self-pleasing, and Satan. Freedom to is freedom to God-pleasing for His sake. Pleasing God for His sake carries its own reward. It is one of God’s primary motivations for the believer to please God. God is glorified and the believer is blessed. In contrast, pleasing self-carries its own consequences, here and eternally. Misery is the end result of patterned self-pleasing.
In His inaugural sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth His hometown, Jesus made bold and Messianic claims predicted by Isaiah (Luke 4:18-22; Isaiah 61:1 and 42:7, 49:8-9, 58:6). Jesus acknowledged motives and motivation. He declared that the Spirit of the Lord was on Him. Jesus was anointed and fully invested with the Spirit which enabled Jesus to preach and proclaim freedom, to give sight to the blind, and to release all in bondage. What an agenda and for one who seemed like any other Jew and who the people thought they knew. He was from their hometown!
Jesus was speaking suprasensually. His interpretative grid of that which He took by the senses was biblical truth. In contrast, the people understood only sensually. Their interpretative gird was feelings, reasoning with biblical truth, and or experience. This led to the rejection of Truth (Jesus Christ) and truth (God’s Word). Jesus had and has an agenda: the Truth will set those free as His people, and only His people, come to realize that they are imprisoned by self, in self, and for self. The people had an agenda. They wanted freedom from their physical bondage. They lived sinfully sensually for so long that they were steeped in ignorance and arrogance. They had the Old Testament but used it to verify their self-pleasing (See the various discussions recorded in John 5-8).
Jesus comes to lift the veil of darkness. His motives and motivation are and have been made public. The Light penetrates the very depths of their inner person. Jesus delivered His people by having them understand and accept the reality of their bondage. Their bad news – darkness, deadness, and bondage – was the platform for the good news. Jesus is the Deliverer because He is Truth. He ushers in and demonstrates suprasensual living. Truth enables the prisoner to perceive his bondage and the solution to his bondage. Jesus saves His people from Satan, themselves, their sin, their deadness, darkness, and self-pleasing.
At the synagogue in Nazareth the people after hearing Jesus’ sermon attempted to rid themselves of Him (Luke 4:28-30). They could not. He walked through them and away from them. They rejected Truth, truth, Life, and life (John 14:6). They were the losers. Self-pleasing is always a rejection of Christ and it is always a losing proposition. Motives and motivation always demonstrates itself.
Do you know your status and your bondage? Bondage to self-pleasing still lurks in the believer. However, the believer has a vibrant relationship with Christ, the indwelling Spirit, and the word of God at his disposal. Moreover, he has sanctifying and enabling grace so that he puts off self-pleasing and puts on God-pleasing. I will spell out some specifics of these truths in later blogs.
1. Truth not guns or fists set you free. What are your thoughts on Jesus’ claim?
2. How is it true that Truth sets you free?
3. Freedom is a two-way activity: freedom from and freedom to. What is the believer saved from and what is he saved to?
Motives and Motivation: Part XVI
Why Do People Do What They Do
A Third Truth That Motivates
Suprasensual Living – Part 1
A third motivation to consider in our study of motives and motivation is the reality of suprasensual living. I have alluded to this concept in preceding blogs. Suprasensual living – beyond th3e senses – begins at regeneration and continues as part of resurrection life on the earth (Romans 6:9-10). Every person lives both sensually and suprasensually. Only the believer can live suprasensually. By these terms I am not referring to emotions or feelings per say. Neither am I necessarily referring to sexual lusts and passions. Rather I am referring to a person’s interpretative grid and his motivation. The grid for sensual living is self-pleasing via feelings, experience, reason divorced from biblical truth, and or a misinterpretation of biblical truth. The grid for one who lives suprasensual is biblical truth via saving faith in order to please God by imitating Christ.
The senses are organs for receiving information. Facts are everywhere and they are neutral. Every fact is perceived – it is taken in by the senses and interpreted. Every person has an interpretive grid. He thinks, interprets, concludes, develops a mindset, acts and desires, and pursues a lifestyle based on his interpretation of facts or reality as he perceives it. A person who lives sensually uses feelings, wants, reason devoid of and biblical truth to focus on the now. He relies on the personal and the subjective with the goal to get. He does not consider biblical truth a worthy interpretative grid. As a result his truth is actually counterfeit truth.
Solomon, Job, Paul, Augustine, and Luther had their time living sensually. But apparently only Augustine, until his conversion, and Solomon, later in his life, sought pleasure sexually as a patterned way of life. Solomon began well but turned to sensual living with self as the object through the means of pleasure via women, money, and power (1 Kings 11:1-4).
Job was a godly man but when hard providences came upon him, he attempted to take God to court (Job 1:8; 2:3; 42:2-6). He had multiple, unpleasant, sensual experiences that he interpreted through the grid of his relationship with God. He did not sin initially (Job 1:20-22; 2:10). However as his situation continued his interpretative grid changed. The bad feelings, desire to have a change in his situation, and his lack of understanding what God was doing motivated him to demand God to give an account. How dare God treat him this way! God’s presence was burden (23:2; 33:7-11).
Moreover, he complained that he was so unpleasant – he was a laughing stock of the community (30:1,9). He was not heard (5:1; 9:33; 16:18-21; 19:25; 31:35). He made demands on God (Job 9:28-35; 10:1-7, 8-17; 13:20-28; 31:35), some of them carried judicial overtones (Job 13:3, 6; 16:21; 31:35; 33:13), and he charged God with wrongdoing (9:3; 12:4-6; 24:1-12). After he came into God’s presence and faced the living God, his interpretative grid changed (Job 38-42). He had ears to hear and eyes to see. He viewed God, himself and his circumstances through the grid of saving faith and biblical truth. He was a new man – a mature believer!
Paul was a murderer, blasphemer, and a violent man (1 Timothy 1:12-15). In varying degrees and for a variable duration of their life, these three people engaged in sensual living. They defined reality their way for their glory and benefit. Other people were simply objects and tools to get and to use. For varying lengths of time they lived the lie. Such is the case when self is on the throne.
The Old Testament speaks against sinful sensual living in multiple places and in varying venues (the men of Shinar in Genesis 11:3-4; Lot in Genesis 13:10-13; Esau in Genesis 25:29-34; Jacob in Genesis 28:20; Samson in Judges 14:1-3; 15:18; 16:1-2; David in Psalm 51:1-3; Asaph in Psalm 73:14-15, 22; and young men in Proverbs 5:21-22; 10:3; 12:1; 26:11). As mentioned above, sinful sensual living is undergirded by feelings and subjectivity with the goal to get for me. It is characterized by the now: the temporal, the physical, and the material – what the person can get now. What a person can see, hear, taste, touch, and feel is his reality. For me takes center stage. As a result other people are used as pawns. It is a return to and acceptance of Satan’s counsel in the Garden. It is characterized by an animal-like existence (Psalm 73:22; Proverbs 12:1; Luke 15:17-18). Animals simply take and get; they don’t pray before or after their meals; they do not give thanks.
Sinful sensual living can be termed wisdom from below as in James 3:15-16. In the preceding verse (v.14) James summarized sinful sensual living as self-grasping and self-exaltation – selfishness (see Philippians 2:3-4). In the first three verses of the fourth chapter of James, James described the dynamics and results of sensual living. The person wants and does not get. Fights and quarrels are motivated by I wants which leads strife and division. God is dishonored and God’s people are miserable.
Esau is the prototype of sinful sensual living (Genesis 25:29-34). He used his senses sinfully as his motives and motivation for and in life became apparent. He traded his preeminent place in the covenant line in order to fill his belly and feel better for the moment (Philippians 3:19; Hebrews 12:16). The now took center stage because self was at the center. Feelings not biblical truth ruled. Esau returned from the open country perhaps from working. He was famished (the word indicates weariness, tiredness, and fatigue) and he told Jacob to relieve his bad feeling with a pot of stew. He bargained away his line in the covenant in order to feel better and relieve bad feelings. He thought very little of his God-given elder brother status. Feeling better and relief were his only goals. After eating, he apparently felt better, but it was short-lived.
Those engaged in sinful sensual living are living for a better feeling then and now – at that moment. The consequences of their choice are not a consideration at that moment or perhaps ever. Pleasing God is non-existent. Their thoughts and desires are self-focused. Functionally, they have placed God in a position of limited or of no importance. Self is king.
As previously mentioned, sinful sensual living is a result of membership in Satan’s kingdom which is characterized by an anti-God, for self, to self, by self mentality. Adam and Eve had sensual experiences before they sinned. They used their senses to enjoy God, His creation, and themselves. All people are in the physical world which is God’s world (Psalm 24:1-2). The person who lives sinfully sensually is earthbound and hell-bound if he continues to live patterned sensuality. He thinks, desires, and acts from a concern for self and without a proper Godward reference. The person is opposed to honoring God and others (1 John 2:15-17). He is in the world and he is of the world. The person interprets himself and God and God’s providence (life) through his own grid. Self is always center stage; misery is inevitable (see Proverbs 5:21-2; 13:15b; 26:11).
In marked contrast is suprasensual living which flows from a changed heart, new motives and motivation, and a new existence. The believer is a new creature in the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The believer lives suprasensually – the eyes of saving faith. He has a Holy Spirit-originated, -directed and -principled life. The one who engages in suprasensual living has changed thinking and wanting. Both are characterized by clarity, truth, and reality. Choices and life in general are simplified. Knowing truth sets a person free to please the Father rather than self (John 8:31-32). The lights are turned on and the believer steps out of the darkness of self-pleasing into the light of truth, beauty, and majesty (Ephesians 1:15-17).
1. Define sensual living and distinguish between sinful and godly sensual living. .
2. God created man with physical characteristics including the senses (sight, sound, taste, smell, and feel). How are they to be used?
3. How is it possible for anyone to make a proper interpretation of self, others, and the world and people around him?
4. Define suprasensual living.
A Third Truth That Motivates: Part VII
Suprasensual Living – Part 2
In our discussion of motives and motivation we have opened the discussion to a subject often mentioned – suprasensual living – beyond the senses. Only the believer has a suprasensual interpretive grid – saving faith – that is conditioned by biblical truth motivated by the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 4:18; 5:7, 9). The believer puts on the glasses of Scripture and “reads” facts, God, himself, others, and “life” through God’s word. The believer is able to understand and respond from God’s perspective. He has a proper vertical reference, an eternal perspective, and a proper view of God and His control. As a result, he focuses on pleasing God thereby growing in Christlikeness (Colossians 3:1-3; Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 John 3:1-3). The gift and blessing of supernatural motivation and orientation enables the believer to correctly interpret God’s providence and respond in a God-honoring way.
Moses is a good example of changed living – from sensual living to suprasensual living. Moses was taken into Pharaoh’s family by Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses’ rescue was miraculous. He was saved for God by God. Moses was under constant pagan influence being exposed to the Egyptian antigod lifestyle and mindset. He was steeped in sensual living (Acts 7:21-22). He was being Egyptianized. However, his motives and motivation was still with his people. In anger and apparently thinking he was Israel’s deliverer, he killed an Egyptian. He was not ready to be God’s man. Moses ran from Pharaoh after a fellow Israelite denounced him as no judge and ruler of the Israelites. He was only a killer of Egyptians (Exodus 1-2). He fled to Midian where he trained for 40 years. Moses was called by God while Moses was tending the flock (Exodus 3). Moses became the great deliverer of God’s people.
Hebrews 11:24-27 offers a commentary on Moses. We are not told when Moses changed his orientation but he did. Even then he was not ready until his time in Midian. But the author of Hebrews wrote powerful words regarding Moses. By saving faith, Moses forsook sinful sensual living – he refused to be known as Pharaoh’s son and chose to be mistreated rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin and sinful sensual living. This is not say that enjoying God’s creation and riches of and from it is sinful. Money is not evil but the love of it – affection and demand for it and what it gives is (1 Timothy 6:6-10). God blesses some people with material riches.
Moses looked beyond feelings and pleasure: the now, the personal, the subjective, the physical, and the material. He like Daniel (Daniel 1:8) refused to be trained by the non-Israelite culture. Both considered pleasing God of greater significance and pleasure than getting for self. Moses graciously lived suprasensually – through the grid of trust in God and biblical truth which glorified God and accomplished God’s purpose. Motives and motivation carried the day!
The believer’s interpretative grid is no longer simple sense perception based on feelings and wants, past experiences, and reason divorced from biblical truth. Having good feelings and avoiding bad ones are no longer the believer’s major desire. Rather, the believer lives according to biblical truth out of awe for who God is and out of thankfulness for what He has done and is doing.
God’s truth is true by definition and is the only standard to be used to compare all other truth claims. The believer’s interpretative grid flows from a changed heart. Therefore he is able to imitate Christ. He thinks God’s thoughts, desires what God desires, and acts as a God-pleaser. Because Jesus lived suprasensually and the believer is in Christ, he will imitate Christ motivated by a desire to please God for His glory and his own the good.
As a result of regeneration, the believer understands that Truth is real, absolute, and objective. Truth is a Person – Jesus Christ (John 8:31-32; 14:6). Truth is the Bible (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). God’s truth is the only God-honoring interpretative grid by which the believer, and only the believer, can evaluate facts about God, self, and others. The Holy Spirit enables the believer to use the Bible correctly. As a result, the believer lives suprasensually – according to biblical truth with the goal to please God by becoming more like Christ (Psalm 119:9-11; Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:9-12).
Suprasensual living is living above or beyond the senses, not being controlled by them. It is living by the eyes of saving faith rather than physical sight (John 4:31-34; 2 Corinthians 4:18; 5:7, 9; Philippians 3:20). Jesus is the prototype of suprasensual living. In his gospel, John records a constant refrain: Jesus came to please His Father and complete the work of the Triune God (John 4:31-34; 6:37-43). That is the epitome of suprasensual living: God’s truth is the wisdom from above that has effects on earth (John 3:3-8; 6:60-64).
The passage in John 4:31-34 is instructive. Jesus contrasted His source of satisfaction and contentment (pleasing His Father) to the source with which the disciples were more familiar: the pleasure of eating – (physical pleasure). He was speaking of motives and motivation. Jesus had completed His work with the Samaritan woman at the well. He revealed Himself to her as the Messiah (v.26). She left Him to find her people. The disciples returned after securing food (v.27). They urged Jesus to eat – physical food (v.31). Jesus responded by telling them that He had food. Jesus responded that he had food but this food was unknown to them (v.32).
The disciples wondered about the source of this mysterious food (v.33). In verse 34, Jesus explains that His food is the essence of suprasensual living. His food and His sustenance is doing the will of his Father (it is relational) and completing the work that the Triune God established in eternity past. Jesus came to trust and obey. This was more than simple duty. Pleasing God is reserved for God’s people! The idea of Jesus pursuing any other way of satisfaction would be incredible, almost unbelievable. Jesus would not have accomplished His mission and He would have been a failure as the God-man.
Suprasensual living includes an experiential or existential encounter with God. In several places in Scripture, God calls man into intimate fellowship with Him (Psalm 34:8: Oh, taste and see that God is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him). What does it mean to taste and see God and His goodness? At least it means to seek and enjoy intimacy and fellowship with the Triune God. Paul outlined his view in Philippians 3:7-11. Paul experienced God and like David wanted more! Tasting and seeing God involves feelings but it much more. Job had that experience as recorded in Job 40:1-5 and 42:2-6. His response to God was radically changed. Such was the case with Asaph (Psalm 73:16-26), David (Psalm 34:8; 51:1ff), and the prodigal son (Luke 15:17-18).
God has powerfully blessed and provided for believers. He has entrusted them with the Holy Spirit, saving faith, sanctifying faith and grace, and an eternal relationship with God by union with Christ, and His Word. He has entrusted them with truth: God is good, always and powerful. God tells and woos every believer to seek intimacy with him. God calls the believer to suprasensual living. This has been God’s message since the Garden and throughout redemptive history. Christ knows Himself and His people. He invites everyone to come. He has revealed in Scripture the manifold of reasons for any person to heed His invitation: How have you responded?
1. Define suprasensual living.
2. Contrast suprasensual living with sensual living.
3. What is the beauty of suprasensual living?
A Third Truth That Motivates: Part XVIII
Suprasensual Living – Part 3
We continue our study of motives and motivation. Suprasensual living is a major theme in the gospel of John (4:31-34; 5:19, 30; 6:38; 9:4, 40-41; 10:37-38; 12:49-50; 14:31; 15:10; 17:14). The motivation to please the Father is closely tied to Jesus’ dependence on the Father. Even though the Father and I are one in essence and nature, Jesus did nothing on His own (John 10:30). There is functional harmony between the members of the Trinity and no member of the Trinity is subordinate to the other in terms of essence. Jesus came to do the Father’s will (which was actually the Triune God’s will!) and to complete the work of the Triune God. Intratrinitarian harmony according to God and His standard are the hallmarks of Jesus’ suprasensual living.
Throughout his gospel, John contrasts these two mindsets and patterned lifestyles. The Jews including the disciples viewed Jesus, themselves, others, and “life” (actually God’s providence) from a sinful sensual perspective. For instance, in John 3, Nicodemus understood the new birth as the now – physical, material, and earthly. Jesus was speaking suprasensually. Jesus rebuked him in verse 10: You are Israeli’s teacher and you don’t know these things? The new birth has its origin in the Holy Spirit – from above – and not in the physical. The new birth is not man-made. With it comes new motives and motivation.
In chapter 4 the woman at the well believed Jesus was speaking of physical water drawn from a physical well that would quench physical thirst (4:7-11). Jesus offered more than physical satisfaction. The woman was interested in Jesus’ water but not necessarily Jesus (4:12-15). The woman continued to focus on the physical and the now by attempting to turn the conversation to the proper location of worship (4:19-20). Jesus would have none of her sensual thinking. He turned her to Himself through the medium of the suprasensual: the lens of saving faith and truth. God’s people are to worship God in Spirit and truth (4:21-25). He then revealed Himself as Messiah (4:26). The woman got it! (4:30). Jesus revealed Himself through the medium of suprasensual living and a saving-faith perspective. The woman and many of the Samaritans believed that Jesus was the Savior of the world (4:42).
In chapters 5-8, John recorded a refrain from the people: they knew Jesus, His origin, and His family. They studied the Scripture to find eternal life but not Jesus (5:38-40, 45). They did not believe Him or in Him; they attempted to murder Him (8:59; 10:31). In chapter 6, John recorded Jesus’ words to the people: you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill (6:25-27). Again they were thinking sensually – through a now in order to get. Their senses had been trained in self. Their understanding was a result of the use of their interpretative grid. They filtered what they took in by the senses through feelings, experience, reasoning divorced from biblical truth, or God’s word misunderstood. They reasoned: they saw Jesus and they did not die; they knew Jesus’ parents and His place of origin; Jesus did not look like the God they presumed to know and He claimed to be; and Rome was still in control.
Later in chapter 6 Jesus declared that He was the bread of life (6:35, 48). He claimed everlasting life for those who ate Him (6:50-51). The Jews were beside themselves. Thinking sensually, they asked: how can this man give his flesh to eat (6:52). Jesus rebuked the crowds regarding their interpretative grid as recorded in John 7:24 and 8:15. In each case Jesus told them that they judged Him as they did the physical world – by mere physical appearances. Jesus pointedly told them to cease living sensually and begin to live suprasensually – by the grid of saving faith and God’s word. Jesus agreed that they thought they knew Him and His origin. But Jesus followed with the denunciation of their sinful sensual perspective (7:28-29; also see 7:41-42, 52; 8:19, 21-24). The people perceived Jesus through the eyes of the senses and non-saving faith. The people did not know Jesus, His origin and identity, and consequently His mission. They had no idea of that were truly needy, imprisoned, and blind. They did not acknowledge their motives and motivation.
John records Lazarus’ death and resurrection and surrounding events in chapter 11. The miracle of a resurrection defies natural understanding. It requires a suprasensual perspective. From the beginning the disciples thought sensually (11:4-16). The disciples heard Jesus and thought that they understood. From their now perspective, Jesus’ mission to Jerusalem was unwise, silly, and dangerous (11:9, 16). Moreover, they thought Jesus meant Lazarus was asleep and not dead (11:11-13). As the long as the disciples, or anyone, perceived God and His providence sensually the beauty, majesty, and glory of God will be missed. God’s providences may be pleasant and “easy” or unpleasant and “hard.” No matter. God’s providence must be filtered through a suprasensual grid of saving faith and biblical truth if God is to be glorified and the believer is to get victory.
Jesus draws a contrast between His origin and their origin (John 8:23: But he continued, “You are from below. I am from above. You are of this world. I am not of this world”). He was building on His teaching regarding the birth from above – regeneration (John 3:3-8, 6:61-63). Jesus rebuked the crowds and Nicodemus regarding their point of reference and standard for judging. Jesus taught the people that He – Light, Life, and Truth – had come from above (John 1:4-10, 14-18; 3:3-8, 17-21; 8:12; 9:4; 14:6). He had ushered in a new realm of existence but His people had rejected His call for suprasensual living. They were too busy living sensually.
The writers of the epistles pick up this theme using exhortations such as walking not by sight but by faith, walking not according to the flesh but by the Spirit, and not loving the things of the word but doing the will of God (2 Corinthians 4:18; 5:7; Romans 13:12-14; Galatians 5:16-18; 1 John 2:15-17). The refrain to live suprasensually follows the logic of redemption.
1. Define sensual and suprasensual living.
2. What is the interpretative grid for sensual living?
3. What is the interpretative grid for suprasensual living?
4. Which one characterized Christ’s life and why?
A Fourth Truth That Motivates: Part XIX
We come to another consideration in our study of motives and motivation. God’s Fatherly concern for His children is a fourth and powerful motivation for God’s people to please Him. God has constantly reminded individual believers and the Church that He is their Father (Exodus 4:22; Jeremiah 3:19; 31:9; Hosea 11:1; Romans 8:15-16; Galatians 4:1-6; Hebrews 12:4-11). As such, He moves the believer and the Church toward Christlikeness through the agency of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:28-29; Ephesians 4:11-15; 2 Peter 1:5-10). Becoming more Christ is the essence of suprasensual living and is one of the best gifts and realities this side of heaven. The Triune God pushes His people toward a full-family resemblance.
As a member of God’s family, believers have a different set of motives and motivation. They are joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17; 1 Peter 1:3-5). The apostle John, as an old man and the last living apostle, continued to marvel at God’s Fatherhood and love. In John’s first letter, he wrote of the greatness of God and His love (3:1). God loved His people into His kingdom and family. Imagine! Former enemies and rebels were made God’s children; they were rescued from Satan’s family and kingdom (Colossians 1:13).
In verse 2, John repeated the reality of the believer’s identity: the believer is a child of God. These truths express basic realities. They move the believer from a kingdom and family in which sinful sensual living is the major characteristic to God’s family and suprasensual living. Motives and motivation change. John expressed that fact in verse 3. The believer has hope and lives out that hope with an eternal perspective and a view toward heaven. In that way he is of earthly good. The believer grows (purifies himself) because God is holy and is drawing the believer to Him.
God’s children should expect and appreciate the Father’s discipline and pruning (Hebrews 12:5-11; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7). God intends to return His people to true family resemblance in order for them to think His thoughts and desire His ways. Jesus paved the way through suprasensual living. He was faithful to Himself and the Triune God. The family portrait on earth should remind believers of heaven. The adage: like Father, like Son applies to believers and the Church (John 13:34-35). Believers have God as their Father and Christ as their brother. God makes good on His promise of developing Christlikeness in His children. The cross and the resurrection affirm and confirm that fact.
Living as God’s agent and as a child of the King motivated David throughout his life. Book I of the Psalter (books 1-41) contains God’s declaration to David and to all believers throughout all ages that God “had David’s back.” God’s double hold was in spite of the fact that David did not hold God high and exalted in some periods of his life (John 10:28-30; Psalms 32, 38, 51). At those times David was a broken man who was “put back together” by God’s grace. David left God but God did not leave David. God’s covenantal faithfulness is one of the predominant aspects of our God. Early in his life, David as God’s agent, the messianic king, was on the run from Saul. Yet this fact did not change his motivation to honor God (especially see Psalms 3-5, 8, 15, 22-24, 27 to name a few.
David had a real vision for God’s redemptive purpose and his role in it as the lesser David. David was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). David sinned but God did not let David stray from the fold. Overall, David had a proper view of reality and truth. He lived suprasensually but he was not Christ; he was not perfected. He did please himself many times in his life attesting to the fact that believers have retained the tendency and inclination to please self. Even then, and especially then, David experienced God’s closeness when he confessed and repented (Psalms 32, 38, 51). He had lived sensually but he returned to suprasensual living because he was a child of the King. Unlike membership in Satan’s family once in God’s family, a believer is always in God’s family. These truths must have been a blessing to and comfort for David. They should be a blessing and comfort for all believers.
1. Adoption is a misunderstood doctrine and blessing. Define it.
2. What blessings are given in Romans 8:12-17, 23; 9:4; Galatians 4:4-7; Ephesians 1:5 in regards to adoption?
3. The Fatherhood of God is often misunderstood. He is the Creator of all men but the Father only of His people. God’s selects His people and keeps His people. What is your response? See Matthew 22:2-14. What do you learn?
More Truths That Motivate: Part XX
There is another factor to address in our study of motives and motivation. It is the fact of God’s righteousness and justice which is another powerful motivation to live suprasensually. God, the righteous Judge, will bring all facts to light, right all wrongs, and He will not leave the guilty unpunished (Matthew 12:33-36; Romans 14:10, 12; 2 Corinthians. 5:10). An example of knowledge of God’s justice and its effect on a person is evidenced by David. David was on the run from Saul who had been told that God stripped the kingship from him. Saul no longer had God’s favor due to his sinful sensual living. Saul cared more for himself than for the glory of God and the kingship as God’s agent (see 1 Samuel 13 and 15). Saul viewed himself and others from his perspective and what he could get. Sadly, his motives and motivation were not apparent to Saul. He was a miserable self0examiner!
1 Samuel 17 records Goliath’s challenge of Israel – winner takes all. The giant thought in sensual terms: what he looked like, what he could then and now, the feelings that would result, the power ad pleasure he would have as the conqueror of Israel. He had no vertical reference as he lived by the senses and I want and I deserve. Like Esau what he could taste, touch, see, and feel were his interpretive grid for doing or not ding.
Saul also steeped in sinful sensual living had no proper vertical reference even though he had been anointed God’s king. He had a sensual experience. He looked and saw. He saw a giant of man who was after Israel. Burt his motives and motivation were self-directed. He sent David to do his kingly work initially he suggested that David use the tools of the world (17:38-39). As king, Saul should have shepherd God’s people by confronting the giant (1 Samuel 17:34-40).His motives and motivation were in contrast to David and were toward self and away from God!
In contrast, David living suprasensually focused on certain truths: the battle was the Lord’s and David was to be His agent (17:44-47). The giant had a sensual experience as well. As David approach, he looked at David’s size and lack of armor and concluded that David was no match for him and that victory was his (17:41-44). Goliath lived and died as a result of sensual living (17:48-50).
Scripture records two other situations in God’s providence that made Saul as an easy target for David and his men (1 Samuel 24, 26). Saul continued to think sinfully sensually. He was king anointed by God. He refused to repent. Thinking sinfully sensually leads a person away from God toward self. Saul was out to get David. God had used David and Saul wanted to remove David as an enemy. That was the height of sinful sensual thinking and living. David while on the run would not lay a hand of God’s anointed. He thought suprasensually which demonstrated pure motives and motivation. Thinking sinfully sensually, he would carve out his destiny his way and for his glory all the while convincing himself that the throne was God’s gift to him. However, each time David refused self-pleasing and sensual living. Even though he was God’s king he did not murder Saul. He refused to take matters into his own hands. Rather he lived suprasensually. He lived out of his relationship with God and God’s word. Therefore he trusted God and His provisions. David’s men were amazed. David’s decision did bring hardships on him and his men. But God was honored and the kingdom prospered under David.
The beatitudes are given Matthew 5:3-12. They help define motives and motivation. Much has been written about their meaning. In part they are a call to Christlike and suprasensual living. Jesus catalogues fundamental principles of conduct and morality. Yet Jesus is not a moralizer. Perhaps more importantly, the beatitudes give a picture of Jesus. He is the one Person who is truly poor in spirit (5:3). He is poor in spirit by His very nature, not as God but as the Godman! Verse 3 is Jesus’ call for His people to imitate Him. It follows that such a person mourns and is meek (5:4-5). Jesus perceives Himself from God’s perspective. He rightly mourns (see Luke 13, 19, 23 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13).
Jesus mourned and grieved properly because He knew how, when, and for what to mourn properly (see Luke 13:34-35, 19:41-44, 23:28-31; John 11). Jesus grieved because of the effects of sin, the people’s hardness of heart, and for Him, the looming cross and hell on it. Those who live sensually mourn for self and by self. They are under the circumstances. The now takes center stage. Their reference is egocentric. Jesus grieved properly because He had a proper vertical reference and perspective. He filtered His circumstances through the grid of God’s truth and plan.
Jesus taught the people to hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6). This is God’s way for Himself and for the believer. God is King and Judge. As such He rights all wrongs and punishes evil doers. Personal revenge is not God’s way. He does not take personal revenge. It is part of sensual living. Rather, Vengeance is mine says the Lord – He will repay (Romans 12:17-21). The book of James is part of the wisdom literature. In his book, James widens the scope of injustice (4:11-12). Sinful sensual living makes demands of God and others. It demands getting and now whether it is pleasure or so-called justice. James wrote to his congregation that slander – injustice – is speaking against the law and the Lawmaker. It attacks and competes with God. In essence, the slanderer judges the person as if the slanderer is God. It is part of sinful sensual living.
In Matthew 5:6, at least in part, Jesus is speaking of God’s kingly righteousness. The believer looks forward to God’s just judgments. The believer knows that he has been judged perfectly and completely in Christ. He will never be judged guilty again (Romans 8:1, 32-34). As a consequence the believer approaches himself and other sinners with a different perspective. He takes off the mantle of sensual living and puts on the garb of Christ’s righteousness. He puts off sinful sensual living, uses his senses correctly, and puts on suprasensual living.
Jesus was dispelling the logic of an eye for an eye (Matthew 5:38-42). Jesus pointed the people to the true logic of redemption. The Triune God is the just Judge of the world (Genesis 18:25). Getting even or being unreconciled to a believer is an example of sensual living. It is a picture of hell, and, too often, the external world and even Christian homes. The spiritual leaders of Israel were not poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). They made their law equal to God’s law functionally. They took God’s law into their hands and molded it for their selfish purposes (See Matthew 15; Mark 7; John 8:1-11; Acts 7 and Stephen; and Christ’s trial before the Sanhedrin). Throughout His ministry, the spiritual leaders attempted to use the law against Christ, the Lawmaker and Lawkeeper.
Sinful sensual living is manifested by a patterned failure to apply biblical truth to every aspect of life. It has consequences including misery in this life as well as judgment in the next (Proverbs 13:15b; Hebrews. 10:26-31). God is zealous for His glory. Therefore He protects Himself, His name, and His people. We may not see God’s retributive justice immediately but it is coming (Luke 13:1-5; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 25:31-46). It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:26,31). It is also a wonderful thing to embrace the arms of the just Judge of the entire world (Romans 8:1, 32-34). God’s children will never experience God’s wrath and hell because Christ suffered the entirety of God’s unmitigated wrath on the cross (Romans 8:1, 32-34). As a result they are FREE! The resurrection is the sign and seal of God’s wondrous plan of redemption and the harbinger of Jesus’ second coming. It is one of the major motives and motivation for suprasensual living which imitates Christ.
1. Define motivation and review some of the means by which God motivates people.
2. Coming to God in intimate fellowship is a duty but more: it is a blessing and privilege. Give evidence of that fact in your life as expressed in Psalm 34:8.
3. Compare Philippians 3:3-6 and 3:7-11: what did Paul learn and how are you like and unlike Paul?