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Showing posts with label Pride. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pride. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Madness of Pride


Mark 1:14-15
14 Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. 15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”  And I'm so grateful Jesus gave his life to win our pardon and break the power of sin in our lives.

Introduction
From the very beginning of his ministry, Jesus spent his time reaching out to sinners.  He preached to them, taught them, ate with them, forgave them, and healed them.  Most importantly, he urged them to repent of their sins.  Sin is madness.  It is a form of insanity.  It destroys our lives, hurts people we love, and a damages the world around us.  Worst of all, sin separates us from God—the source and purpose of our life.  Despite all this, we continue to struggle with sin.  It’s madness!  I’m so glad Jesus came preached, “Repent of your sins and believe the Good News.

Most people realize we are sinners and we don’t have a problem asking God to forgive our sin.  However, we might use the word sin in a general way without thinking about the specific ways we sin.  Unfortunately, you can’t address a problem unless you know what it is. So let’s consider some of the basic ways people sin so we can repent and ask God’s forgiveness.  Last week we considered gluttony—over-indulgence and over-consumption.  Today, we will study pride.

In the movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”, the character Violet Beauregarde represents the sin of pride.  Violet is vain, self-centered, snobby, and disrespectful.  Violet chews gum obsessively and boasts that she has been chewing the same piece "for three months solid", a world record which Violet proudly proclaims was previously held by her best friend. Violet is aggressively competitive and proud of her gum chewing trophies.  Unfortunately, Violet’s pride gets her is BIG trouble.  She steals some of Willy Wonka's defective gum and turns into a blueberry. She has to be squeezed to get rid of all her juice before she explodes. 

The Madness of Pride
Pride is a terrible sin.  All sins are bad, but people tend to think of some sins as worse than others.  Who would disagree that murder is a heinous crime?  Treason against one’s country?  Deplorable.  How about a sexual sin like rape or molestation?  But pride?  Is pride really that bad?

Consider this: the Bible teaches that Satan was once an angel in Heaven.  However, he grew proud (Isaiah 14:13, Ezekiel 28:16) and thought he could take God’s place.  Therefore, God cast Satan from heaven and he will ultimately be destroyed in hell.  Pride caused Satan to fall.

The Bible firmly condemns pride.  Examples:
·       Proverbs 8:13 – I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech
·       Proverbs 16:18 - Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.
·       Isaiah 13:11 - I will crush the arrogance of the proud and humble the pride of the mighty.
·       1 Peter 5:5 - “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
·       Philippians 2:3 - Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

It can be somewhat confusing because we also often use pride in a positive way.  When I was little and I played peewee football, the coach often told us he was proud of us when we did our best.  He also told us to “Have some pride in our team—whether we win or lose.”  And of course, come July 4th, we may proudly salute the American flag and sing “And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free!”  Our hearts sometimes swell with pride in a healthy way.

There’s nothing wrong with having confidence, dignity, and self-respect.  Furthermore, it’s OK to be proud of your kids, which is just a feeling of deep pleasure and admiration you have from being associated with their accomplishments.  And when it comes to our country, we can be proud of our shared identity as a nation who has been truly blessed by God—though I would very strongly caution that we must never be so arrogant as to think our blessings were won by our own efforts.  That is the very sin the Bible condemns nations like Israel for in the Old Testament. 
(Amos 6:8 - …the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, says: “I despise the arrogance of Israel, and I hate their fortresses. I will give this city and everything in it to their enemies.”)  Sinful pride leads us to believe we don't need God. We trust instead in our own power and might and means.

The Pride the Bible condemns is arrogance, vanity, and conceit.  It is thinking more of yourself than you should.  And it leads you to think you are better than others.  And as with Satan, it can make you forget your place and act as though you are higher than God.  Pride will puff you up as big as Violet Beauregarde when she turned into a blueberry.  And the only cure will be for God to squeeze you until there’s no more prideful juice left in your body.  But you don’t have to go through that; not if you just humble yourself and stay away from pride.

It’s Hard to be Humble
“Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when your perfect in every way.  I can’t wait to look in the mirror, ‘cause I get better looking each day…”

We need to let go of pride and be humble.  To be humble is to understand who you really are according to God.  Humility is knowing the world doesn’t revolve around me; it is having my place in the universe in proper perspective.  God made humanity from dirt of the ground, but we were made by the very hands of God in His image.  We are the only creatures authorized to represent God.  So humility also recognizes of how unique and special we are without leaving us with a big head to think we don’t need God.

Christians are called to be humble.  But how do we become humble?  Is there anything we can do to become more humble?  Yes there is!  We can pray and cooperate with the Hands of God that want to sculpt humility into our soul.

Here are some exercises that can help God establish more humility in you.

The Little Way
The first exercise is called “The Little Way”.  To follow the little way means that throughout your day you actively seek out the most menial jobs, welcome unjust criticisms, befriend people who annoy you, and help those who are ungrateful.
Example…
Following the little way can help develop more humility within you.

Solitude
Another practice that can help develop humility is solitude.  Solitude means to take some time to be alone.  It is a great practice to get away from people for a little while so you stop worrying so much about what people think and remember to care more about what God thinks.

In the age of social media, we are constantly sharing with others what we are doing, where we are, what we’re eating, etc.  Through Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, we are in constant contact with our “friends” and the whole world has a chance to give us feedback of what they think.  Think how much more spiritually grounded we would be if we were as constantly connected with God and seeking His approval as we are with our social media networks.

Through solitude, we step away from the world—both our face-to-face interactions with people and our virtual interactions through social media—to focus on interacting only with the God who forms us.  Jesus, the Son of God, knew the great benefit of going away to be by himself.  At the onset of his ministry, he spent 40 days alone in the wilderness fasting and communing with God.  It prepared him for his three years of public ministry, culminating in his death and resurrection to save the world from sin.  And throughout his ministry, we read that Jesus rose early in the morning and went away to a lonely place to be by himself and pray.

If a man as busy as Jesus—with twelve disciples to teach and lead and crowds of people constantly following him around begging for food and teaching and healing—could find time to be alone with God, surely we can find more time to be alone with God.  Maybe, it could help us break free from the madness of sinful pride.

Conclusion
The solution to pride is not to run around belittling yourself all the time.  That's just low self esteem or false-humility.  The solution is to glorify God and give Him the credit.  It’s not so much that we are so low; it’s just that God is so high.  Rather than focusing on yourself, keep your eyes lifted up to God.  When we focus our sights on our Heavenly Father, all the rest of life seems to fall in place.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Naaman the Overachiever

            There is a fascinating story from the Old Testament from a time when Israel was struggling against enemy kingdoms all around.  The Arameans were neighbors to the Israelites, and they often raided Israel to pillage and take captives.  Listen to the story of how God forever changed the life of one of those Aramean commanders.

2 Kings 5:1-17
1The king of Aram had great admiration for Naaman, the commander of his army, because through him the Lord had given Aram great victories. But though Naaman was a mighty warrior, he suffered from leprosy.

At this time Aramean raiders had invaded the land of Israel, and among their captives was a young girl who had been given to Naaman’s wife as a maid. One day the girl said to her mistress, “I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy.”

So Naaman told the king what the young girl from Israel had said. “Go and visit the prophet,” the king of Aram told him. “I will send a letter of introduction for you to take to the king of Israel.” So Naaman started out, carrying as gifts 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold, and ten sets of clothing. The letter to the king of Israel said: “With this letter I present my servant Naaman. I want you to heal him of his leprosy.”

When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in dismay and said, “Am I God, that I can give life and take it away? Why is this man asking me to heal someone with leprosy? I can see that he’s just trying to pick a fight with me.”

But when Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes in dismay, he sent this message to him: “Why are you so upset? Send Naaman to me, and he will learn that there is a true prophet here in Israel.”

So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.”

11 But Naaman became angry and stalked away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! 12 Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.

13 But his officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’” 14 So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child, and he was healed!

15 Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.”

16 But Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will not accept any gifts.” And though Naaman urged him to take the gift, Elisha refused.

17 Then Naaman said, “All right, but please allow me to load two of my mules with earth from this place, and I will take it back home with me. From now on I will never again offer burnt offerings or sacrifices to any other god except the Lord.

Introduction
            There are a lot of different reasons to come to church.  Some people come to church to find fellowship with other people.  Some people come to church because their parents or their spouses make them!  Some people come to church out of habit because it just seems like the right thing to do.  Going to church has become way of life for some Americans—people’s parents attended church and it has just became ingrained in some people that Sunday is not complete without a morning trip to church.  That way of life is fading for many; church attendance is down for every Christian denomination across America compared to past decades.  Going to church has to be about more than just tradition or else what’s the point?  That’s why so many have stopped coming.
            I hope you come to church because you want to encounter the living God.  I hope you came to church this morning expecting to hear a word from God.  Do you think about what you expect to happen at church when you are at home brushing your teeth and fixing your hair and getting dressed?  Do you think to yourself, “Today I am going to encounter the Living God.  I wonder how that’s going to change me?”  For if you truly encounter God, something is definitely going to happen.
            What if as you are worshiping here today, you hear God speaking to you as clearly as you hear me speaking to you?  What if there’s no doubt at all in your heart that it was indeed God’s voice you heard?  What if He asked you to go on an amazing quest—something spectacular, something glorious and yet also treacherously dangerous that might even cost you your life?  Would you do it? 
            In the early centuries of the church, Christians were heavily persecuted.  Many of them lost their lives and became martyrs because of there faith.  Even today, in some countries, Christians are severely persecuted and loose their lives simply because they believe that Christ is their Lord and Savior. 
But sometimes I think it might be easier to die for your faith than it is to live for your faith.  Now death seems frightening and dreadful; but if we die, the struggle is over and (if we believe in Christ) we go home to paradise with God where there is no more pain and no more tears.  But to live for your faith requires you to be willing to die a little every day.  To live for your faith requires that you suffer a lifetime of deaths as we die to our own sinful desires and are reborn in the Spirit.  To live for your faith requires that you grow old and watch your friends and family die while your own body slowly breaks down.  Yet this is the quest that God gives most of us—not to become martyrs, but to take up our cross daily and follow Christ.
A Girl I’ll Call Kayla
This is the life of the young servant girl in our Old Testament reading from 2 Kings 5.  Unfortunately, we don’t even know girl’s name and it seems wrong to talk about her story without knowing her name so I’m going to take the liberty of calling her Kayla.  Kayla was kidnapped from her family and forced to live her life among her enemies in a foreign land as a humble maid to her capture’s wife.  Some might think it better to die than to live such a life of humility and suffering.  Yet Kayla bore the suffering and even helped her master.  When she hears Naaman—her master and the commander of the raiding party that kidnapped her—is suffering from leprosy, Kayla suggests a way that he can be healed.  She already understood the words Jesus would speak hundreds of years later, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  So Kayla suggests that Naaman go see the prophet Elisha. 

Naaman
Who was this guy Naaman?  Naaman was a mighty warrior—the commander of the Aramean army (the Arameans were the enemies of God's people, the Israelites).  When Naaman led an army into battle, his army was victorious.  I imagine everyone admired Naaman—he was successful, wealthy, powerful, and popular.  I bet he was even good lookin’!  The Bible says even the king of Aram admired Naaman (and when the king admires you, you must be pretty admirable—at least by worldly standards). 
Naaman achieved a lot in his life.  He was proud of his achievements too.  He expected respect wherever he went—whether it was by kings or prophets.  Naaman felt he deserved respect.  I mean, look at all he had accomplished!  Doesn’t a man of Naaman’s stature deserve respect?  Yet for all his accomplishments, Naaman was really just a rotting corpse waiting to die from leprosy.
            So what’s a man of Naaman’s fame to do—just lay down and accept death?  Absolutely not!  No, Naaman would proudly fight it to the end.  He would go to the ends of the earth if he had to.  He would climb the highest mountains.  He would seek the most skilled physicians and the most powerful prophets if that’s what it took.  He would face this disease with the same heroic pride and dignity he’d faced his enemies in battle. 
Yes, Naaman was a man worthy of this world’s respect.  And he insisted on being afforded the dignity he deserved.  And so he secured a personal letter of introduction from the king of Aram himself and he gathered together an entourage of officers, soldiers, horses, and chariots and went off on his quest to conquer his leprosy.  And he took with him treasures of gold and silver and fine cloths—worth more than $700,000 by today’s standards.  He wanted everyone to know that he was to be respected and admired.  And that he even deserved to be healed of leprosy.
            Yet when he arrives at Elisha’s house, the prophet won’t even come out and talk to him.  Instead, he indifferently sends out a lowly messenger to instruct Naaman.  “Surely,” Naaman must have thought to himself, “Elijah will come out and perform some elaborate healing ceremony.  He will chant and wave his arms and anoint me with the most expensive oil he owns.  And surely he will ask or even demand that his God heal me.  Doesn’t he know who I am?”
            But Elisha instead sends a mere messenger to tell him to go and wash himself seven times in the Jordan River.  This is an insult to a great man like Naaman.  The Jordan River was just a muddy creek compared to the majestic rivers of Naaman’s own country.  How could such a puny, insignificant river have any type of healing effect on such a great man as Naaman?  Naaman probably thought Elisha was just blowing him off.  And so he stormed away in conceited rage.

A True Miracle
            We, like Naaman, expect dramatic miracles from God, but we look right past the miracles that He performs everyday—miracles of natural healing, miracles of mercy on our sins, miracles of the natural laws of nature.  Do you know that right here in this sanctuary, in the air that you just inhaled, that there is enough germs and bacteria to kill you.  However, by God’s natural design, we have an immune system that can fight off these diseases that would normally kill us.  Yet do we thank God for this miracle?  No.  Most of the time, we aren’t even aware of it.  We only see dramatic cures from cancer and miraculous recoveries from near fatal accidents as miracles and we take the more common miracles for granted—even though God is at work in them all the time.
            In a similar way as Naaman, we often look for God to ask us to do something grand to earn His mercy, but we hesitate to do the little things God asks of us every day.  Luckily for Naaman, his officers reasoned with him and convinced him to give Elisha’s cure a try.  And when Naaman washed in the Jordan seven times, God healed Naaman’s leprosy just as Elisha said. 

You Can’t Impress God
I believe God healed Naaman of another disease that day too—the disease of thinking he was good enough to impress God.  Finally, God broke through Naaman’s armor of overachievement and showed him you can’t do anything to win God’s favor.  You can’t impress Him with all your trophies and accomplishments.  You may impress people, but you can’t impress God.
Who are you trying to impress with your life?  If you are trying to impress people then you may succeed, but to what end—it’s all in vain.  But if you decide instead that you will try to impress God—the one who really matters—and if you consider even a fraction of who God is, you are faced with the devastating fact that you can’t even begin to make a minor impression on God.  He is the one who scooped out the valleys, filled the oceans with water, and built up the mountains.  To Him, all your glorious triumphs, all your great victories, all the admirations of your friends, family, and colleagues are but child’s play.  And when you realize that, you are finally at a place when you are able to fall down on your knees before God and say—“Lord, I am utterly helpless!  Save me Lord!  Save me!”  And that’s what Naaman, the overachiever, finally realized.  And that’s why he said in verse 15, “I know at last that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”  And I’m not sure, only God knows, but I believe Naaman receive salvation that day—even before Christ came into the world and died on the cross to show how it is possible for us to receive salvation.  Because Naaman finally realized that the God of Israel is the only God in the world, that God’s grace is a free gift that cannot be bought, and he decided that from day forward that he would not offer sacrifices to any other god but the Lord.
Sometimes we need to be reminded, like Naaman, that no matter what accomplishments and achievements we have, what it all boils down to is we’re all just the same—a bunch of rotten, leprous corpses waiting to die because of sin.  And the only thing that stands between us and death is the mercy and grace of God.  He has the cure.  And we don’t have to and we can’t do anything grand enough to earn the cure.  We don’t have to climb the highest mountain.  We don’t have to be martyred for our faith.  We only have to realize that there is only one God in this world and He is the only one who can save us.  And we have to trust Him and ask Him to save us.   

Tell the World
            Today, you have the opportunity to do just that.  You have the opportunity to fall down on your knees and cry out to God, “Lord, I am utterly helpless!  Save me Lord!  Save me!”  For all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
            There are some right here in this sanctuary who have not yet come to Christ; for you, today could be the day.  And there are a multitude of others out there in the world who have not yet come to Christ.  And for those of us who have already cried out to the Lord for salvation, we hear God’s specific message to us today in Romans 10:13-14 - 13For “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?
So, if you already believe in Jesus Christ, God wants me to give you this message:  God is sending you to tell the everyone that there is hope and healing through Jesus Christ.  Go tell the world.
And if you have not yet give your life completely to God through Jesus Christ, God has this message for you today:  Today is the day.  Don't put it off any longer.  Decide today who you will serve--whether it will be the empty and useless and petty idols of this world--money, fame, power, prestige, things, drugs, alcohol, sex...  Or will you realize these cannot save you and you cannot save yourself.  Turn to God through faith in Jesus.  He died on the cross for your sins.  He rose from the grave to conquer death.  He offers forgiveness and everlasting life.  And Jesus will give true meaning to your life.  So decide today to worship him and him alone.  Do not spend one more minute of your life sacrificing to any other god.

Monday, March 16, 2015

2. Get Rid of Selfish Motives


Copyright March 10, 2015 by Chris Mullis
Mark 8:31-38

Introduction
            The Season of Lent, which is the 40 day period leading up to Easter, is a great time to take stock of your life.  We derive this 40-day period from the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting as he prepared to begin his public ministry.  Fasting is depriving your physical body of food to help induce a more spiritual experience.  Some people give up food or other things during Lent to help them focus more on their relationship with God.  But the whole point is to get rid of anything in your life that distracts you from what’s most important—a pure relationship with Christ.
stock of your life.
            Last Sunday, we started a message series to help you purify your life and draw closer to Christ.  Just as we cleaned up our church building last week, we seek to clean up our lives so we can better focus on the Lord.  Last week, I encouraged you to spend more time reading the Bible.  I challenged you to start in the Gospel of Matthew and read one chapter every day—and so read the entire Book of Matthew by Easter.  Today, I want to challenge you to get rid of selfish motives.  Let’s read together what Jesus had to say about selfish motives.

Mark 8:31-38
31 Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead.
  • Jesus begins by explaining God’s master plan to save humanity from sin and its consequences.  Sin leads to pain and death and eternal separation from God.  When I was a kid, my church explained all this in simple terms that I could easily understand.  They said, “Everyone sins and falls short of God’s glorious standards.  And the consequences of sin are death.  When you die, you will either spend eternity in Heaven or Hell.  Because we all sin, we all deserve Hell—which is an eternal punishment you can’t even imagine.  But because God loves us so much, he sent Jesus to save us.  And if we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and follow him, we will spend eternity in Heaven—where there will be no more sin or suffering or sickness or tears or death.  This salvation is made possible because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead.  And here in this passage before it ever happens, Jesus explains the Master’s plan.
32 As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.
  • Peter did not want Jesus to die.  In general, we don’t want anyone to die—especially people we love.  But let’s not pass over this too quickly or we will miss something important about Peter’s motive.  Why doesn’t Peter want Jesus to die?
    • First of all, it didn’t make sense to Peter.  His vision was too small.  People tend to have very limited perspective.  We think in terms of what’s going on in our lives, right now.  Not many of us have a greater vision to think about what will be happening ten years from now or even one year from now.  And we rarely think very much about what’s going on in other people’s lives or what will be going on in their lives in the years ahead.  We are pretty focused on ourselves in the here and now.  But God thinks in broader terms.  He sees the here and now, but also one year from now, ten years from now, and ten thousand years from now.  Consider this:  as Jesus explained his plan to his disciples in this passage 2,000 years ago, he was thinking how you would be sitting here in this church right now contemplating it.  He saw how his actions would directly affect you, your children, grandchildren and your descendants another 1,000 years from today.  But Peter’s vision was small.  And Peter didn’t want Jesus to die because Peter loved Jesus.  He didn’t want harm to come to him.  
    • Peter didn’t want to lose Jesus.  This is one type of love (from the Greek word for love: phileo—which we studied a few weeks ago).  It is a somewhat selfish kind of love.  It is more about our desires than the actual wants and needs of the one we “love.”  This is a common form of love we see throughout the world.  You see, Peter did not want to be apart from Jesus.  Maybe he even felt he couldn’t bear to be without Jesus if he died.  This kind of love is motivated more by what Peter wants than what Jesus wants or even what is best for Jesus or the world.  But the highest form of love is another Greek word often used in the Bible: Agape.  Agape is the love that abandons its own selfish desires and works for the good of others, with no conditions and without any expectation of receiving something in return.  This is the love that motivated Jesus to die on the cross for our sin.
33 Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
  • It might seem strange that Jesus would rebuke Peter so sternly—even calling him Satan.  Yet, Peter’s motives were selfish.  There was a type of love in him, but it was mixed with impurity too.  In fact, what Peter was doing was not much different from what Satan once did when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness.  When Jesus went into the wilderness fasting for 40 days in Matthew chapter 4, Satan tempted him to eat something.  “Tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Matthew 4:3)  And Satan offered to give Jesus “All the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (verses 8-9), if only Jesus would bow down and worship Satan.  Peter wasn’t asking Jesus to bow down and worship him, but he was asking Jesus to bend away from God’s perfect salvation plan in favor of Peter’s lesser, worldly desires.  In Peter’s eyes, Jesus was on the verge of a gaining the popular support of the people; couple that with Jesus’ amazing power and Peter thought they could set up an earthly Kingdom of unequaled justice and righteousness.  But this was not God’s plan.  So Jesus said to Peter almost the same thing he said to Satan in the wilderness.  “Get away from me, Satan!”  And then Jesus explains the pure motives that must guide our thoughts and actions if we are his followers.

34 Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 35 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. 36 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? 37 Is anything worth more than your soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
  • Jesus taught being his follower means getting rid of our selfish motives and letting Agape love motivate everything we do.  Just as Jesus was willing to lay down his own life for the sake of others, we should do what’s best for others—even if they don’t deserve it or plan to do anything for us.  What a difference it makes when you finally decide to get rid of your selfish motives and let Love guide all your actions! 

What Motivates You?
            Why do you come to church?  Why do you go to work? Why do you support your wife and kids?  Why do you do the things you do?  There are many different motives for the things we do.  And sometimes our motives are not too pure.  I suppose we would be here all day if we tried to list them all.  So I’ll just list the first four that come to mind.
The first is pseudo-love.  We already talked about how Peter “loved” Jesus and didn’t want to lose him.  I call this “pseudo-love” because it is “like” love, but it is not Agape Love (the selfless, unconditional love God wants us to practice).  It is the love of a mother who “smothers” her children—who loves them so much, she can’t give them the space they need to grow into individuals, but must hover over them at all times.  The truth is, helicopter parents practice a selfish kind of love.  Really, they are using their kids to satisfy a deep longing in their own lives.  And this is not true love.  It is not the motive God wants us to have.  And if this is the kind of love that motivates you—whether you be a helicopter parent, a jealous boyfriend (or girlfriend or just friend), or anyone who is motivated by your own intense desires for the companionship of someone else, you need to get rid of your false motive.
Another false motive is greed.  Are you motivated by your intense longing for more wealth, possessions, or power?  Do you always want to have the latest gadget, the biggest house, the fanciest car?  Do you always feel like no matter how good the stuff you already have is you always need something a little better?  These are all forms of greed, which is a powerful motivation in our society.  But God doesn’t want us to be motivated by greed.  Perhaps you need to get rid of this false motive.
Pride.  Are you overly concerned about preserving your own dignity?  Do you have an excessively high opinion of your importance?  Or conversely, are you always concerned with what others think about you?  These are all forms of pride, arrogance, vanity…  The Bible does not speak highly of pride.  Rather, Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”  Jesus listed pride as one of the vile things that comes from an evil heart—alongside adultery, greed, and wickedness (Mark 7:22).  If Pride, vanity, self-importance, or arrogance motivates your actions, it’s time to get rid of your false motives.
Control.  Do you always need to be in control?  Does everything have to be done a certain way—your way?  Do you have to be intimately involved in every decision your kids or your spouse makes?  Is it almost impossible for you to delegate responsibilities to someone else because you’re afraid they won’t do it the way you would?  Do you find it incredibly annoying to work with others as a team because you’d rather just do it your own way?  If you find it unnerving to let go of control, then it’s probably time to get rid of your false motive of control.  Let me let you in on little secret.  You are not in control anyway.  And all your annoying efforts to keep things “under control” are not pleasing to God.  It’s time to stop trying to run the world around you and learn to trust God (and other people too).
One more—pleasure.  We live in a world that says, “If it makes you happy, do it.”  “Follow your own heart.”  “Have it your way.”  It sounds harmless, but if the desire for pleasure motivates you, you need to get rid of this false motive.  God calls us to be motivated by love.  And quite often real love motivates us to do things that are not pleasurable—sometimes things that are very hard.  That’s why when we get married, we promise to love our spouse “In good times and bad times, for richer for poorer, in sickness and health, until death …” I’m so Glad Jesus wasn’t motivated by the hedonistic pursuit of pleasure.  For it was not pleasurable to hang on the cross for our sins.  And yet, because he loved us, this is exactly what he did.  What about you?  Perhaps it’s time to get rid of your false motives. 

Challenge
            Last week, I challenged you to read your Bible more—to start in the Gospel of Matthew and read one chapter a day.  I hope you have accepted my challenge and have been reading.  If not, it’s not too late to start today.
This week, I want to give you a new challenge to add to the one from last week.  This week, I want you to make a list of what motivates you to do the things you do.  Sit down with a pen and a piece of paper.  Prayerfully list out all the things you typically do each day.  Be specific.  Get up and take a shower, take the kids to school, go to work, talk to a friend on the phone, go to the grocery store, cook dinner, etc.  Now think deeply about why you do these various things.  What is your motive for each one?  Why do you do it?  Right down your motives for each thing.  Ask yourself:  are my motives pure?  Would Jesus be happy about my motive for doing this?  How much is this motivated by pure love (Agape)?  What motives do I need to get rid of?  How might I let my actions be guided more by love?  I challenge you to make a list this week and pray that God would help you be motivated more by love.