How to Test Your Motives

This lesson is all about our motivation in ministry. Why do we do the things we do for God? Do we serve him because of what we get out of it? Or because he deserves it and it is the right thing to do?

How to Test your Ministry Motives: (Matthew 6:1-18)

What is a Motive? According to Webster, it is something that prompts a person to act in a certain way or that demonstrates volition; the goal or the object of one’s action; inner hunger that promotes a person to action.

As you read the Bible you notice that God is always concerns about our motives. (Proverbs 16:2, 20:27, 1 Chronicles 28:9, Psalm 26:2, 1 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 1 Corinthians 15:32, Philippians 1:15-18).

  • The Competition Test (James 2:4)
  • The Promotion Test (1 Corinthians 4:5, 2 Corinthians 2:17)

God stresses that every leader to regularly ask the WHY question; this addresses the leader’s heart and motives. Our passage today answers three WHY questions… why do we practice spiritual disciplines, why do we share resources, why do we serve others?

1. The Alertness Test (Matthew 6:1) BEWARE, be on your guard against the possibility.

2. The Oscar Test (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16, Luke 12:1-3) HYPOCRITES, actors wear a mask an pretend to be something different.

3. The Secret Test (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18)

  • GIVING (Matthew 6:4) – Jesus affirms the importance of anonymous giving. Historically, synagogues had an out of the way room where people would leave their offering in a secret box, called the “secret chamber of silence.” Anyone could leave a gift to help needy people. This embarrassed neither the giver nor the receiver, but the Pharisees didn’t use it because they wanted to be noticed.
  • PRAYING (Matthew 6:6) – Prayer is not to be made into a big public deal with fancy formulas, archaic words, and lofty thoughts.
  • FASTING (Matthew 6:16-18) – God doesn’t require attention-getting actions. When you go into training inwardly, act normally outwardly.

4. The Left-handed Test (Matthew 6:3) DO NOT LET the left know what the right is doing.

5. The Applause Test (Matthew 6:1, 2, 5, 16, 23:5) NOTICED and HONORED and SEEN by men, then God won’t be applauding. You might become a small town celebrity, but God is not impressed. You’ll get rewards here and now but not in heaven. The Pharisees knew that Jesus was attacking them (phylacteries and tassels) for their hypocritical and sinful motives.

Do you lose your reward if people notice what you do? Nope (Matthew 5:16). The goal is God getting the glory, the issue for today is your motivation. Only a fool would grab the rewards of time and let the rewards of eternity go free.

Consider This:

Does the success in others motivate you? If so, Why? Is it that you want God to use you like that? Or is it out of envy or jealousy of their accomplishments?

Are your the same person when no one is looking? Most of the time, part of the time, not much at all?

How do you handle doing work or ministry in the church and no one notices?

Questions:

1. What are hypocrites? (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16) Here, “hypocrites” likely refers to the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus criticizes the hypocrites for intentionally drawing attention to their giving. Those who follow Christ should not mimic the scribes and Pharisees; instead, they should give discreetly. This phrase also occurs in Matthew 6:2, 5, 16. The hypocrites, who have received their reward in the form of praise from others, will only receive condemnation from God.

Matthew is fond of the term “hypocrite” (he uses it thirteen times to Luke’s three and Mark’s one), which is derived from the theater and means “play-actor.” To be a hypocrite is to pretend to be someone you are not. It is easier to pose as a righteous person than to actually be one. One second-century rabbi declared that nine-tenths of all the hypocrisy in the world was to be found in Jerusalem.

2. Are you a different person in public than you are in private?

3. What will happen to hypocrites? (Matthew 24:51, Job 15:34a)

4. How does Isaiah describe the root problem behind Israel’s hypocrisy? (Mark 7:6-7, Isaiah 29:13)

5. Why does Jesus say, “Beware of hypocrisy?” (Matthew 6:1, 2, 5, 16, Luke 12:1)

6. Name three spiritual disciplines that reveal spiritual hypocrisy. (Matthew 6:2-6, 16-18)

7. What motivates a hypocrite? (Matthew 6:1, 2, 5, 16, Mark 12:40)

8. Are you motivated to practice righteousness when someone else is watching?

9. To what degree is your desire to live righteously dependent upon receiving recognition by those around you? Would you still live for God if people stopped stroking you?

10. What is almsgiving? (Matthew 6:2-4)

11. What word implies that giving to the poor is an assumed fact if you are a Christian? (Matthew 6:2, 1 John 3:17, James 2:15-17)

12. Why was it so important to give, according to the OT? (Leviticus 25:35, Deuteronomy 15:7-11, Psalm 41:1, Proverbs 19:17, 21:13, 29:7)

13. What command did Jesus give to safeguard against hypocritical giving? (Matthew 6:3) This is a symbolic saying that captures the extreme measures that should be taken to avoid public acclaim for generosity.

14. Is it hypocritical to practice a spiritual discipline even when you don’t feel like it?

15. Why did Jesus use a different word for “streets” in Matthew 6:5 and Matthew 6:2?

16. What commands did Jesus give for those who wanted to properly practice the spiritual discipline of prayer? (Matthew 6:6)

17. Is it wrong to pray in public? (Matthew 6:5, 1 Timothy 2:8)

18. List several reasons for fasting. (Ezra 8:21-23, Nehemiah 1:3-4, Jonah 3:5-10, Acts 13:2, Isaiah 58:6-8, Mark 2:18-20)

19. What commands must be observed if our fasting is to be without hypocrisy? (Matthew 6:16-17)

20. What is the result of practicing our spiritual disciplines in secret? (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18)

Believer’s Bible Commentary:

Give with Sincerity (Matthew 6:1–4)

Matthew 6:1 In the first half of this chapter, Jesus deals with three specific areas of practical righteousness in an individual’s life: charitable deeds (Matthew 6:1–4), prayer (Matthew 6:5–15), and fasting (Matthew 6:16–18). The name Father is found ten times in these eighteen verses and is the key to understanding them. Practical deeds of righteousness should be done for His approval, not for people’s.

He begins this portion of His sermon with a warning against the temptation to parade our piety by performing charitable deeds for the purpose of being seen by others. It is not the deed that He condemns, but the motive. If public notice is the motivating factor then it is the only reward, for God will not reward hypocrisy.

Matthew 6:2 It seems incredible that hypocrites would noisily attract attention to themselves as they gave offerings in the synagogues or handouts to beggars in the streets. The Lord dismissed their conduct with the terse comment: “They have their reward” (i.e., their only reward is the reputation they gain while on earth).

Matthew 6:3, 4 When a follower of Christ does a charitable deed, it is to be done in secret. It should be so secret that Jesus told His disciples: “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Jesus uses this graphic figure of speech to show that our charitable deeds should be for the Father, and not to gain notoriety for the giver.

This passage should not be pressed to prohibit any gift that might be seen by others, since it is virtually impossible to make all one’s contributions strictly anonymous. It simply condemns the blatant display of giving.

Pray with Sincerity (Matthew 6:5–8)

Matthew 6:5 Next Jesus warns His disciples against hypocrisy when they pray. They should not purposely position themselves in public areas so that others will see them praying and be impressed by their piety. If the love for prominence is the only motive in prayer, then, Jesus declares, the prominence gained is the only reward.

Matthew 6:6 In Matthew 6:5, 7, the Greek pronoun translated “you” is plural. But in Matthew 6:6, in order to emphasize private communion with God, you switches to singular. The key to answered prayer is to do it in secret (i.e., go into your room and shut your door). If our real motive is to get through to God, He will hear and answer.

It is reading too much into the passage to use it to prohibit public prayer. The early church met together for collective prayer (Acts 2:42; 12:12; 13:3; 14:23; 20:36). The point is not where we pray. At issue here is, why we pray—to be seen by people or to be heard by God.

Matthew 6:7 Prayer should not consist of vain repetitions, i.e., stock sentences or empty phrases. Unsaved people pray like that, but God is not impressed by the mere multiplication of many words. He wants to hear the sincere expressions of the heart.

Matthew 6:8 Since our Father knows the things we have need of, even before we ask Him, then it is reasonable to ask, “Why pray at all?” The reason is that, in prayer, we acknowledge our need and dependence on Him. It is the basis of our communicating with God. Also God does things in answer to prayer that He would not have done otherwise (James 4:2).

Jesus Teaches the Model Prayer (Matthew 6:9–15)

6:9 In Matthew 6:9–13 we have what is generally called “The Lord’s Prayer.” In using this title we should remember that Jesus never prayed it Himself. It was given to His disciples as a model after which they could pattern their prayers. It was not given as the exact words they were to use (Matthew 6:7 seems to rule this out), because many words repeated by rote memory can become empty phrases.

Our Father in heaven. Prayer should be addressed to God the Father in acknowledgment of His sovereignty over the universe. (Matthew 6:9)

Hallowed be Your name. We should begin our prayers with worship, ascribing praise and honor to Him who is so worthy of it.

Your kingdom come. After worship, we should pray for the advancement of God’s cause, putting His interests first. Specifically, we should pray for the day when our Savior-God, the Lord Jesus Christ, will set up His kingdom on earth and reign in righteousness. (Matthew 6:10)

Your will be done. In this petition we acknowledge that God knows what is best and that we surrender our will to His. It also expresses a longing to see His will acknowledged throughout the world.

On earth as it is in heaven. This phrase modifies all three preceding petitions. The worship of God, the sovereign rule by God, and the performance of His will are all a reality of heaven. The prayer is that these conditions might exist on earth as they do in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread. After putting God’s interests first, we are permitted to present our own needs. This petition acknowledges our dependence on God for daily food, both spiritual and physical. (Matthew 6:11)

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. This does not refer to judicial forgiveness from the penalty of sin (that forgiveness is obtained by faith in the Son of God). Rather this refers to the parental forgiveness that is necessary if fellowship with our Father is to be maintained. If believers are unwilling to forgive those who wrong them, how can they expect to be in fellowship with their Father who has freely forgiven them for their wrongdoings? (Matthew 6:12)

And do not lead us into temptation. This request may appear to contradict James 1:13, which states that God would never tempt anyone. However, God does allow His people to be tested and tried. This petition expresses a healthy distrust of one’s own ability to resist temptations or to stand up under trial. It acknowledges complete dependence on the Lord for preservation. (Matthew 6:13)

But deliver us from the evil one. This is the prayer of all who desperately desire to be kept from sin by the power of God. It is the heart’s cry for daily salvation from the power of sin and Satan in one’s life.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. The last sentence of the prayer is omitted in the Roman Catholic and most modern Protestant Bibles since it is lacking in many ancient manuscripts. However, such a doxology is the perfect ending to the prayer and is in the majority of manuscripts. 8 It should, as John Calvin writes, “not only warm our hearts to press toward the glory of God … but also to tell us that all our prayers … have no other foundation than God alone.”

Matthew 6:14-15 This serves as an explanatory footnote to Matthew 6:12. It is not part of the prayer, but added to emphasize that the parental forgiveness mentioned in Matthew 6:12 is conditional.

Jesus Teaches How to Fast (Matthew 6:16–18)

Matthew 6:16 The third form of religious hypocrisy that Jesus denounced was the deliberate attempt to create an appearance of fasting. The hypocrites disfigured their faces when they fasted in order to look gaunt, haggard, and doleful. But Jesus says it is ridiculous to attempt to appear holy.

Matthew 6:17, 18 True believers should fast in secret, giving no outward appearance of it. To anoint your head and wash your face was a means of appearing in one’s normal manner. It is enough that the Father knows; His reward will be better than people’s approval.

MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (A. Farstad, Ed.) (1223–1225). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

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Why Do You Want the Spirit?

Here are my notes for the fourth session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my Poster-TheForgottenGodsmall group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.

The first step in reversing the neglect of the Holy Spirit is to desire to see him at work in us. So ask, “Why do you want him?” We can’t assume our hearts are right in our motivation. Why does it matter?

What are a few possible motivations for desiring the Holy Spirit?

Can you detect any of these in your heart?

Read Acts 8:9-24

It appears that Simon was intrigued by the power of the Holy Spirit. Why did he want the Spirit?

What would Simon’s motivation look like if it were transferred into the American church today? Have you seen examples of this in your church experience?

Peter calls Simon’s motivation into question. Seeing the Spirit working is one thing, but your heart must be in the right place. What is the purpose of the Spirit working in a believer’s life?

  • The Spirit works to glorify God (John 16:14)
  • We work to glorify God (Matthew 5:16)

When was the last time you saw someone do something amazing, yet received all the glory for himself?

When was the last time you saw someone do something amazing, yet all the glory went to God?

Jesus was very clear that their mission could not be accomplished on their own, they needed the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1-2)

We fixate on flashy manifestations of the Spirit, but when a proud person exhibits humility, is this any less supernatural?

What are some less glamorous ways the Holy Spirit’s power can be manifested in a person’s life.

Why are these expressions just as powerful?

Another trap we can fall into: we could be trying to lead the Spirit. We start with our dreams and desires then ask the Holy Spirit to accomplish our plans.

Practically, what does it look like to be led by the Spirit rather than trying to lead the Spirit for your purposes?

What is the right reason for desiring the Spirit?

  • 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, it is for the common good.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:31, there is a more excellent way: love people placed in our lives.

If we are open to the Spirit’s working in our lives, we must first let go of things that keep us from close fellowship with him.

Having the Spirit is not about being everything you want to be, but about God working through you to help people around you grow.

If the proper motivation for desiring the Spirit is love, ask yourself how much you love the people around you. Francis Chan challenged us in the room to speak the truth in love, and recognized how difficult this is for people to do this…

  • Are you willing and humble to do this for someone else?
  • Are you willing and humble enough to receive this from others?

Francis Chan Quotes from The Forgotten God:

  • Recently, a man dying of cancer asked the church elders to anoint him with oil and pray for his healing. Before we prayed, however, I asked the man a question I don’t normally ask: “Why do you want to be healed? Why do you want to stay on this earth?” The man, as well as everyone else around, seemed a bit surprised that I would ask such a blunt question. The reason I probed like this is because in the epistle of James, we are reminded that we often don’t receive the answers to our prayers because we ask for the wrong reasons: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3). Our desire to live should be for the sake and glory of the God who put us on this earth in the first place.
  • Right now I want you to take a break from reading and spend some time asking yourself why you want the Holy Spirit. Is it for power? Is it for your own betterment and purposes? Or is it because you want to experience all that God has for you? Is it because you love the church and desire to be a better servant to your sisters and brothers?
  • First Corinthians 12 tells us that each follower of Christ is given a “manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). As we’ve seen, these manifestations, or gifts, are “empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11). So these reflections of the Spirit’s presence and activity in us have nothing to do with our natural abilities, and we have not received them because we have earned or somehow deserve them. Since these gifts come according to God’s will and not ours, it should be clear that they should not be used for our own boasting or entertainment.
  • The Holy Spirit has given you a supernatural ability to serve the people God has placed around you. If God cares enough about His church to give you this Spirit-empowered ability, shouldn’t you care enough about the church to use that gift for the same purpose?
  • The Holy Spirit works to glorify Christ (John 16:14), yet so many who emphasize the Holy Spirit seem to draw attention to themselves. The Corinthian church was notorious for this.
  • I have yet to meet someone who wouldn’t want to see a miracle. My concern is that I’ve met many people whose pursuit of miracles is greater than their pursuit of God. A lot of people want to talk about supernatural things like miracles, healing, or prophecy. But focusing inordinately on these things quickly becomes misguided. God calls us to pursue Him, not what He might do for us or even in our midst.
  • It used to be that if I had a great worship experience, I asked God to duplicate it the next time I came to worship. Like the kid impressed by a silly magic trick, I would pray, “Do it again!” One thing I’ve learned about God over the years, however, is that He rarely “does it again.” He’s the Creator, which means that He is (among other things) creative.
  • The Spirit is not a passive power that we can wield as we choose. The Spirit is God, a Being who requires that we submit ourselves to be led by Him. Do you really want to be led? Even people who are natural leaders don’t get to lead the Spirit. Everyone is called to be led by Him.
  • What if He asks you to give up something you’re not ready to give up? What if He leads you where you don’t want to go? What if he tells you to change jobs? To move? Are you willing to surrender to Him, no matter where He wants to take you? Am I?
  • The fact is that God is calling. The Spirit is beckoning. The real question is will you follow? Will you listen? I know I prefer a multiple-choice option for what God is asking me to do. That way, if I don’t like A or B, there are always options C and D. Sometimes, of course, this is exactly how the Spirit leads us. There can be two equally good choices that God lets us choose between.
  • My purpose in these questions is to get you to take 1 Corinthians 12 seriously, to believe that you have been given a manifestation of the Spirit and that your church, the worldwide body of Christ, and the world are crippled without your involvement. I write this because I love the church and want you to trust that you are more than just a helpful addition. You need to believe you are a vital member.
  • If you are still alive on this planet, it’s because He has something for you to do. He placed us on this earth for purposes that He orchestrated long before we were born (Ephesians 2:8–10).
  • When we submit to the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit, He helps us become more holy—more like Jesus. It is a lifelong journey of putting our flesh to death, or as Paul puts it in Galatians 5, of walking by the Spirit and not gratifying the desires of the flesh.
  • The phrase crucifying the flesh is not exactly a friendly, appealing group of words. I think this is because God wants us to be clear on what we are getting into. He wants us to know that His gift of the Holy Spirit is really not for our own pleasure or purposes. The Spirit is meant to lead us toward holiness. The Spirit is here with us to accomplish God’s purposes, not ours.

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Four Basic Doctrines

The following is another lesson from my Sunday morning Bible study, covering about four weeks!

In James 2, he discusses the subjects of godless favoritism and godly faith. Immature people talk about their faith; mature people practice their faith. James gives the simplest of tests to see if one is mature or immature: the way we treat other people really indicates what we believe about God. A man can’t say he loves God and yet hate his brother (1 John 4:20).

Let’s take an overview of what we find about favoritism:

  1. The Command Against Favoritism (James 2:1-8)
    1. The Examples (James 2:1-4): His readers are guilty of the following sins:
      1. Treating rich visitors with great respect (James 2:1-2a, 3a)
      2. Treating poor visitors with no respect (James 2:2b, 3b-4)
    2. The Enigma (James 2:5-7): James cannot understand this, for often it was the rich who persecuted them and ridiculed their Savior.
    3. The Exhortation (James 2:8): James says, “Obey our Lord’s royal command found in the Scriptures.”
  2. The Consequences of Favoritism (James 2:9-13)
    1. To break this law is to break all laws (James 2:9-12).
    2. To show no mercy is to receive no mercy (James 2:13).

Here is the meat of the four lessons. In the beginning of James chapter 2, the author examines four basic doctrines in light of the way we treat other people:

The Deity of Christ (James 2:1-4)

  1. Jesus was not a respecter of persons (Matthew 22:16)
    1. Jesus did not look at outward appearance, but at the heart.
    2. Jesus was not impressed with status and riches (Mark 12:41-44)
    3. Jesus saw potential in sinners (Matthew, Peter, the woman at the well)
    4. Jesus was a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19)
    5. Paul was judged by his past (Acts 9:26-28)
  2. Jesus was despised and rejected (Isaiah 53:1-3)
    1. Jesus had no home to call his own (Matthew 8:20)
    2. Jesus grew up in despised Nazareth (John 1:11, 46)
    3. Jesus was judged by human standards, and rejected by his own people (John 7:24)
    4. Jesus used Peter, Zaccheus and John Mark in spite of their failures in the past.
  3. A prescription for us:
    1. Look at people through the eyes of Jesus.
    2. Look at people as children for whom Christ died.
    3. Check our prejudice and motives (James 2:4)

The Grace of God (James 2:5-7) the emphasis is on the fact that God chooses, which involves grace. We are his children by his sovereign choice, not our merit. No one deserves salvation (Ephesians 1:4-7, 2:8-10).

  1. God ignores national differences
    1. Peter at the home of Cornelius (Acts 10:34)
    2. Must one become a Jew before becoming a Christian? (Acts 15)
    3. No distinction between Jew or Greek (Galatians 3:28)
    4. No condemnation for those in Christ (Romans 2:6-16)
  2. God ignores social differences
    1. Masters and slaves, rich and poor all equal to God (Ephesians 6:9)
    2. Who makes one poor or rich? (1 Samuel 2:7-8)
    3. God chooses the poor (1 Corinthians 1:26-27)
  3. Poor in this world and rich in the next (1 Timothy 6:17-18). God promises the kingdom to those who love him
  4. James slams the people (a stern rebuke) in James 2:6-7.
  5. The doctrine of grace forces us to relate to people based on God’s plan and not the basis of human merit or status. Jesus broke down the dividing wall (Ephesians 2:11-22) between Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, male and female, educated and ignorant, young and old, black and white.

The Word of God (James 2:8-11) James reaches back into the Old Testament laws (Leviticus 19:18), and teaches a lesson like what we find in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

  1. Why is love of neighbor called the royal law?
    1. Love affirms that we are his disciples (John 13:34): true believers are taught to love one another (1 Thessalonians 4:9).
    2. Love rules all other laws: love is fulfilling the law (Romans 13:10). Who needs other laws if we would only love one another?
    3. Obeying out of love makes you a king: since hatred makes one a slave, love sets one free from selfishness and enables us to reign like kings.
  2. Take any of the Ten Commandments and you will find ways to break it when you respect a person’s position or status. For example:
    1. It makes you lie to some people.
    2. It leads to idolatry, lifting some people up.
    3. It even leads to mistreatment of parents.
  3. Christian love does not mean I have to like the other person, or agree with him on everything; but treating that person as God would treat them, and the way God has treated me.
    1. It is an act of my will.
    2. The motive is to glorify God.
  4. Christian love does not leave a person where I find him: love helps people to reach higher and go better, helping the poor, love builds up others.
  5. We only believe as much of the Bible that we practice. If we fail in this most basic challenge, then we will not do other lesser matters of the Word. Let’s not be like the Pharisees and careful about lesser matters and careless about the important foundational stuff (Matthew 23:23).

The Judgment of God (James 2:12-13) believers will not be judged for our sins (John 5:24, Romans 8:1) but our works will be judged (Romans 14:10-13, 2 Corinthians 5:9-10).

  1. Our words will be judged
    1. The two visitors mentioned in James 2:3.
    2. Careless words (Matthew 12:36).
    3. Words from the heart (Matthew 12:34-37).
    4. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-26, 33-37, 7:1-5, 21-23).
  2. Our deeds will be judged
    1. Additional insight (Colossians 3:22-25).
    2. Sins are not held against us (Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 10:17).
    3. But our sins affect our character and works.
  3. Our attitudes will be judged (James 2:13)
    1. Contrasts: showing mercy, showing no mercy.
    2. The lie: that we can earn mercy by showing mercy.
    3. The law of liberty (obedience sets us free).
    4. We are able to walk in liberty (Psalm 119:45)
  4. The law prepares us for liberty: a child under rules is not mature enough to handle himself. He received outward discipline until the time he develops inward discipline.
  5. Liberty is not a license to do whatever you want, but the freedom to become who we are meant to be in Christ.

This is just the first half of James 2; next time we will dissect various types of faith.

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Motivation for Doing God’s Will

The first step after knowing God’s will is to discover our motivation for doing God’s will. Much of this outline comes from Thomas Merton’s classic, No Man is an Island, and then I have elaborated on his thoughts. *

Freedom:

  1. I have an instinct that tells me that I am less free when I am living for myself. Living for self is really a basic natural function. In a way, living for my self is not freedom, because I am a slave to the old selfish nature.
  2. My freedom is only freedom when it is brought into the right relation with the freedom of others. This is the essence of community, all members exercising freedom of self-sacrifice on behalf of others. If one fails to be in relation to others, we are not able to exercise the freedom to choose to follow a cause higher than our own natural instincts.
  3. I don’t find in myself the power to be happy merely by doing what I like. There is joy in being in relationship with others and seeking to look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).
  4. To give my freedom blindly to an equal or inferior is to degrade myself and throw away my freedom, I can only become perfectly free by serving the will of God. God calls us to a higher purpose, which adds meaning to our existence. Serving ourselves is not freedom because it is evidence that we are slaves to instinct.
  5. Obedience to man has no meaning unless it is primarily obedience to God. As believers, we do all as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:17, 1 Corinthians 10:31). As we understand the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) we are to first love God and then love others.
  6. Conscience is the soul of freedom.
    1. A rational being who does not know what to do with himself finds the tedium of life unbearable. He is literally bored to death. Life outside of a relationship with Christ brings no purpose of higher meaning. Life is hard, and if there is no call toward a higher life, there is hopelessness and despair.
    2. I cannot make good choices unless I develop a mature conscience that gives me an accurate account of my motives, my intentions and my moral acts. It is not enough to just do the right stuff or believe the right stuff; the motivation behind our actions is of great interest to God and our true selves.
    3. We must have right purposes: conscience is the light by which we interpret the will of God in our own lives.

Pure Intention:

  1. Our happiness consists in doing the will of God. It makes sense that if we resists the will of God and we know it, we find ourselves feeling guilty that we knowingly disobeyed God’s will.
    1. The essence of this happiness does not lie in the agreement of wills, it consists in union with God.
    2. The union of wills which makes us happy in God must ultimately be something deeper than just an agreement. We must develop conviction.
  2. God’s will is more than a concept–it is a reality, a secret power which is given to us, from moment to moment to be the life of our life.
    1. It is not an abstraction.
    2. It is not a static center drawing our souls blindly to it
    3. We find ourselves in relationship with the Creator and His purpose and desire transcends our being.
  3. The will of God is the movement of His love and wisdom ordering and governing all free and necessary agents.
  4. Ponder this: Shall I be content to do God’s will for my own advantage? This is the essence of being obedient because of what I get out of it.
    1. Our intentions are pure when we identify our advantage with God’s glory. Receiving a blessing for obedience is different from doing something expecting a blessing.
    2. In order to make our intentions pure, we do not give up the idea of seeking our own good, we simply seek it where it can be found–in a good that is beyond ourselves.
  5. Question: what is an impure intention?
    1. One that yields to the will of God while retaining a preference for my own will. I still do this out of selfishness.
    2. This drives my will from His will, since I am not losing myself in the pure intention of following God alone because He deserves it and it is the right thing to do.
    3. It doubts in theory that God wills that which is generally best for me. Do we really believe that all God asks and wills is for my best interest? If we doubt it, we are not able to act on God’s will without reservation.
    4. To this man, the will of God becomes rich when it is pleasing to him, poorer when it offers less immediate satisfaction.
  6. Question: who is this man of impure intentions?
    1. Is hesitant and blind.
    2. Is always caught between two conflicting wills.
    3. Cannot make simple and clear-cut decisions.
    4. Has twice as much to think about: worrying about God’s will and his own at the same time.
    5. Is deceiving himself.
      1. Blinded by his own selfishness.
      2. Plunged into a confusion of doubtful choices, endless possibilities.
  7. Sanctity consists not in merely doing God’s will, but in willing God’s will. Obedience without pure intention is not attractive.
    1. It is not always necessary to find out what God’s will is in order to do it. Often times we know what His will is, the question is whether we embrace His will over our own.
    2. But if we are to will what He wills, we must begin to know something about what He wills. Study of God’s Word is helpful.
  8. How can I find out what is the will of God for my life?
    1. Before He wills me to do anything, He first wills me to be. This is a key concept in having a dynamic relationship with Christ. We are to be with him (Mark 3:14) before we are to do things for Him.
    2. What I do depends upon what I am (gifts of the Spirit).
    3. It is His will that we not only live as rational beings, but as new men regenerated by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).
    4. Seek Him where He is to be found: His Church, His Word (john 14:26).
  9. When we speak of God’s will, usually we are speaking of some recognizable sign of His will.
    1. It is one thing to see a sign, it is another to interpret it correctly.
    2. The vision of the prophets: being alive to the divine light concealed in things and events, they saw glimpses of the light where other men saw nothing but ordinary happenings.
    3. Signs show us the road, but only a few paces, as a lamp lights only the steps in front of our feet.
    4. If I am to know God’s will, I must have the right attitude toward life, to know what my life is and to know the purpose for my existence. Many people are simply clueless about the purpose of life and the mission of God in the world.
    5. His will for me points to one thing: the realization, discovery and fulfillment of my true self in Christ (in order to save my life I must lose it, Matthew 16:25, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24).
  10. I cannot work out God’s will for my life unless I am consciously helping other men find God’s will in theirs. Here again is the idea of community.
    1. His will is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3), our transformation in Christ (Romans 12:2), our deeper integration with other men (Hebrews 10:25).
    2. The book is called, No Man is an Island: we need others that God has also regenerated.
  11. Remember: we must will the will of God, not simply do it. This is a lot of work, it is easier to just do something than it is to make such an effort to be something or to will something.
    1. So, we must know what it is that He wills.
    2. We must will His will because we love it.
    3. It is better to say “no” and then go, than to say “yes” and not obey (Matthew 21:28-31, which did the will of his father?).
  12. Right vs. simple intention.
    1. Right intention is pure: attention is placed upon the work to be done, then we rest in the accomplishment and hope in reward.
    2. Simple intention: we are less occupied with the thing to be done, we are more aware of the One who works in us.
    3. The man of simple intention works in the atmosphere of prayer.
  13. Simple intention is a rare gift from God.
    1. Rare because it is poor.
    2. It seeks nothing but the supreme poverty of having nothing but God.
      1. With right intention, you risk losing the fruit of your work.
      2. With simple intention, you renounce the fruit before you begin and you don’t expect it.

* Thomas Merton was a contemplative monk, who on December 10th, 1941 entered the Abbey of Gethsemani, a community of monks belonging to the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Trappists), the most ascetic Roman Catholic monastic order. While on a trip to a monastic East-West dialogue conference in Thailand, Merton died in Bangkok on December 10, 1968, the victim of an accidental electrocution. The date marked the twenty-seventh anniversary of his entrance to Gethsemani. The monastery is located near Bardstown Kentucky, not far from Louisville, where I went to seminary.

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The Christian Life is to be Shared

I love the stories found in the book of Nehemiah. He was a brilliant example of leadership, devotion, prayer and faith. In the midst of difficult times he was able to motivate people in the direction that led to peace, strength and security. After inspecting the situation and seeing the city of Jerusalem in ruins, Nehemiah addressed the people:

But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” (Nehemiah 2:17)

Did you notice the words we and us in this verse? In order to motivate the people of Jerusalem to rebuild the wall, Nehemiah had to personally identify with their problem, their need, and their future. It was no longer their problem;  Nehemiah saw the broken wall as our problem. Imagine the kind of response Nehemiah would have received if he had said, “You folks have gotten yourselves into a bad mess. You know what you need to do? You need to rebuild that wall. If you need me, I’ll be in my office. After all, I wasn’t part of the problem. You people will have to get busy and do the work. Let me know how it turns out.”

Identifying with the problem encourages motivation.

When Lee Iacocca became chairman and CEO of Chrysler at the height of the auto giant’s problems in 1979, he knew he would have to ask employees to take a pay cut to keep the company out of bankruptcy. Although he persuaded Congress to guarantee the company loans, he was still deeply distrusted by Chrysler’s union members. He knew that he had to find a way to persuade these workers that he had Chrysler’s best interests at heart.

Iacocca called a meeting of key management and union executives. He announced that for the next year his salary would be $1. The plan worked. By sacrificing his own salary, Iacocca proved that he placed the welfare of the company over personal gain. He identified with the workers. He was saying, “We are in this together, and together we can make it through.” He knew that people will accept a lot of pain when everybody is going through the trial together. If the followers know that the leader is in with them, together they can move a mountain or, in Nehemiah’s case, rebuild a wall.

So Nehemiah did it right. Did you know the meaning of his name? Nehemiah means, “Yah (or God) comforts or encourages.” I see that the best leaders are not the ones who tell others what they need to do for the leader, but are able to inspire others to get done what is best for the people.

Not everyone was happy. Trouble arose from without and from within. Sanballat and his friends tried to stop the work, but without success (Nehemiah 4:1, 2, 7, 8, 16, 17, 20). Trouble from within was economic. Building the walls caused a labor shortage; farms were mortgaged, and high rates of interest were charged (Nehemiah 5:2, 3, 4, 5). Nehemiah said, “The thing you are doing is not good” (Nehemiah 5:9). He corrected the problem and even gave financial aid to those in need (Nehemiah 5:10, 11, 12, 1518, 19). Again Sanballat and other non-Jews made several attempts to lure Nehemiah away from the job and shut it down, but they failed (Nehemiah 6:2, 5, 6, 8, 10, 14). Nehemiah proved to be a person of strong will and unusual boldness. “So the wall was finished… in fifty and two days” (Nehemiah 6:15).

Application: In what ways can you identify with the people you lead? How can you say to them, “We are in this together?” Have you come to terms that not everyone will be happy and excited about your leadership? But notice that Nehemiah remained connected to God in the midst of trouble (Nehemiah 1:5-7, 8-11, 2:4, 4:4-5, 9, 15, 6:9, 12). He was a man of prayer and faith. The Christian life is to be shared, all of us are in this together. Leaders and followers are in this together. That is what the Bible calls koinonia, which is fellowship, or sharing a common life.

I like the model of leadership that Ken Blanchard has promoted all over the country, the Lead Like Jesus model, he says, “Great leaders lead like Jesus.” The essence of this style of leadership is servanthood; we are to be servant-leaders. I will be leading a small group on this in the spring of 2011.

Leadership is an influence process – any time you influence the thinking, behavior or development of another person, you are demonstrating leadership behavior. So if you are a parent, CEO, pastor, Sunday School leader, electrician, accountant, then you are a leader and following the greatest leadership role model only makes sense. We should desire to be a Jesus-like leader, where God is glorified, people are served, and organizations are more effective in impacting the world for the Kingdom of God.

Commercial: Over the next eight weeks, Skip and I will facilitate a John Maxwell video series called, “Developing the Leader Within You.” It is designed for all of us to become the leader that God intends for his children. We all have influence over others at some point throughout the day, let’s become the best leaders we can be. Click Here to get more information.

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The Counselor’s Motivation

Why do you want to counsel others? Many pastors have been thrust in to the work by people who have come unsolicited for help with their problems. A valid reason could be a sincere desire to help people grow, but there are poor reasons:

  1. The need for information, curiosity: a curious counselor will often forget the needs of the client.
  2. The need for relationships: The counselor’s need for close friends and seeking to find them in a counseling situation will hinder the helping. Improvement and termination is not the priority for the counselor. Friends don’t often make the best counselors, either.
  3. The need for power: An authoritarian counselor wants to “straighten out” others and give advice, playing the role of “problem solver.” Most people will eventually resist his type, even if they like the security at first.
  4. The need to rescue: The rescuer takes away the responsibility from the client by demonstrating an attitude which says, “You can’t handle this. let me do this for you.” This could be called the “do good messiah” approach. It may satisfy for a while, but rarely helps in the long run.

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Helping, Fixing or Serving?

I am a tremendous advocate of servant leadership. As we think about the biblical mandate of serving others (Mark 10:45), we often think of volunteerism; doing something for someone else. I found this article about the motivation and the larger picture behind volunteerism and doing things for other people: whether we should call it helping, fixing or serving others.

”Fixing and helping create a distance between people, but we cannot serve at a distance, We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected.”

Helping, fixing and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.

Service rests on the premise that the nature of life is sacred, that life is a holy mystery which has an unknown purpose. When we serve, we know that we belong to life and to that purpose. From the perspective of service, we are all connected: All suffering is like my suffering and all joy is like my joy. The impulse to serve emerges naturally and inevitably from this way of seeing.

Serving is different from helping. Helping is not a relationship between equals. A helper may see others as weaker than they are, needier than they are, and people often feel this inequality. The danger in helping is that we may inadvertently take away from people more than we could ever give them; we may diminish their self-esteem, their sense of worth, integrity or even wholeness.

When we help, we become aware of our own strength. But when we serve, we don’t serve with our strength; we serve with ourselves, and we draw from all of our experiences. Our limitations serve; our wounds serve; even our darkness can serve. My pain is the source of my compassion; my woundedness is the key to my empathy.

Serving makes us aware of our wholeness and its power. The wholeness in us serves the wholeness in others and the wholeness in life. The wholeness in you is the same as the wholeness in me. Service is a relationship between equals: our service strengthens us as well as others. Fixing and helping are draining, and over time we may burn out, but service is renewing. When we serve, our work itself will renew us. In helping we may find a sense of satisfaction; in serving we find a sense of gratitude.

Harry, an emergency physician, tells a story about discovering this. One evening on his shift in a busy emergency room, a woman was brought in about to give birth. When he examined her, Harry realized immediately that her obstetrician would not be able to get there in time and he was going to deliver this baby himself. Harry likes the technical challenge of delivering babies, and he was pleased. The team swung into action, one nurse hastily opening the instrument packs and two others standing at the foot of the table on either side of Harry, supporting the woman’s legs on their shoulders and murmuring reassurance. The baby was born almost immediately.

While the infant was still attached to her mother, Harry laid her along his left forearm. Holding the back of her head in his left hand, he took a suction bulb in his right and began to clear her mouth and nose of mucous. Suddenly, the baby opened her eyes and looked directly at him. In that instant, Harry stepped past all of his training and realized a very simple thing; that he was the first human being this baby girl had ever seen. He felt his heart go out to her in welcome from all people everywhere, and tears came to his eyes.

Harry has delivered hundreds of babies, and has always enjoyed the excitement of making rapid decisions and testing his own competency. But he says that he had never let himself experience the meaning of what he was doing before, or recognize what he was serving with his expertise. In that flash of recognition he felt years of cynicism and fatigue fall away and remembered why he had chosen this work in the first place. All his hard work and personal sacrifice suddenly seemed to him to be worth it.

He feels now that, in a certain sense, this was the first baby he ever delivered. In the past he had been preoccupied with his expertise, assessing and responding to needs and dangers. He had been there many times as an expert, but never before as a human being. He wonders how many other such moments of connection to life he has missed. He suspects there have been many.

As Harry discovered, serving is different from fixing. In fixing, we see others as broken, and respond to this perception with our expertise. Fixers trust their own expertise but may not see the wholeness in another person or trust the integrity of the life in them. When we serve we see and trust that wholeness. We respond to it and collaborate with it. And when we see the wholeness in another, we strengthen it. They may then be able to see it for themselves for the first time.

One woman who served me profoundly is probably unaware of the difference she made in my life. In fact, I do not even know her last name and I am sure she has long forgotten mine.

At twenty-nine, because of Crohn’s Disease, much of my intestine was removed surgically and I was left with an ileostomy. A loop of bowel opens on my abdomen and an ingeniously designed plastic appliance which I remove and replace every few days covers it. Not an easy thing for a young woman to live with, and I was not at all sure that I would be able to do this. While this surgery had given me back much of my vitality, the appliance and the profound change in my body made me feel hopelessly different, permanently shut out of the world of femininity and elegance.

At the beginning, before I could change my appliance myself, it was changed for me by nurse specialists. These white-coated experts were women my own age. They would enter my hospital room, put on an apron, a mask and gloves, and then remove and replace my appliance. The task completed, they would strip off all their protective clothing. Then they would carefully wash their hands. This elaborate ritual made it harder for me. I felt shamed.

One day a woman I had never met before came to do this task. It was late in the day and she was dressed not in a white coat but in a silk dress, heels and stockings. She looked as if she was about to meet someone for dinner. In a friendly way she told me her first name and asked if I wished to have my ileostomy changed. When I nodded, she pulled back my covers, produced a new appliance, and in the most simple and natural way imaginable removed my old one and replaced it, without putting on gloves. I remember watching her hands. She had washed them carefully before she touched me. They were soft and gentle and beautifully cared for. She was wearing a pale pink nail polish and her delicate rings were gold.

At first, I was stunned by this break in professional procedure. But as she laughed and spoke with me in the most ordinary and easy way, I suddenly felt a great wave of unsuspected strength come up from someplace deep in me, and I knew without the slightest doubt that I could do this. I could find a way. It was going to be all right.

I doubt that she ever knew what her willingness to touch me in such a natural way meant to me. In ten minutes she not only tended my body, but healed my wounds. What is most professional is not always what best serves and strengthens the wholeness in others. Fixing and helping create a distance between people, an experience of difference. We cannot serve at a distance. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected, that which we are willing to touch. Fixing and helping are strategies to repair life. We serve life not because it is broken but because it is holy.

Serving requires us to know that our humanity is more powerful than our expertise. In forty-five years of chronic illness I have been helped by a great number of people, and fixed by a great many others who did not recognize my wholeness. All that fixing and helping left me wounded in some important and fundamental ways. Only service heals.

Service is not an experience of strength or expertise; service is an experience of mystery, surrender and awe. Helpers and fixers feel causal. Servers may experience from time to time a sense of being used by larger unknown forces. Those who serve have traded a sense of mastery for an experience of mystery, and in doing so have transformed their work and their lives into practice.


Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D. is Associate Clinical Professor of Family and Community Medicine at U.C.S.F. Medical School and co-founder and medical director of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program. She is author of the bestseller, Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal.

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