Motivation check

I am writing this devotion from my home office for the first time in about a month because it’s finally cool enough to work up here without sweating profusely. After 50+ days of over 100-degree heat (not just 101 or 102 . . . I’m talking 108 and 113), we Kansas people are rejoicing in the cool weather that came in over Labor day. Personally, I hope it stays this way for a while.

I got to go on many adventures with my high school youth pastor — one of my heroes then and still one of my heroes now. And one of the things he would do on our rougher missions trips was to make sure our attitudes were in the right place by yelling, “Motivation check!” And the proper response from the group was, “Oo-rah!” . . . loosely translated, that means, “We’re all good. Let’s keep going.”

Today’s verse is John 14:23.

23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.

Sometimes I have to examine my motivation for following Christ. Why have I chosen to live my life this way? Why have I chosen to live the way I do? Is it to make others think I am better than they are? Is it because I’m afraid of the world? Is it because I was raised this way and have never experienced anything else?

They’re good, honest questions I think every Christian needs to ask themselves. As I have discussed in previous posts, I really struggle with pride, so I try to do a motivation check every morning when I wake up. Because if I try to live life for my own edification on my own strength, I’m not going to have a very good day–although recently it’s felt like even living for Christ hasn’t resulted in very good days either, but that could just be the time of year. =)

Jesus is talking to the disciples in this chapter, explaining that He’s leaving them but that once He leaves, His Father will send Someone Else, a Comforter, to live in them and talk to them and pray for them and remind them of the things that He has said.

“All who love me will do what I say.”

I want to live my life because I love Jesus. My motivation needs to be my love for Him and my gratitude to Him because of everything He has done for me. That’s where my motivation needs to come from.

Living the Christian life — a real Christian life — just because it’s the right thing to do doesn’t work. Being motivated by justice doesn’t work because as a Christian in a broken world, you won’t be treated justly and you shouldn’t treat others justly either. As Christians in a broken world, most of the time, we have to act justly in our own life but treat others with mercy . . . like Jesus did. And, like Jesus, oftentimes we’ll be treated unfairly. And if you’re just living like a Christian because it’s the right thing to do, it’s hard to keep living that way when no one else around you is doing the right thing.

I think that’s what so many people get caught up in religions . . . and I’m not talking Islam or Buddhism or Mormonism here. I’m talking about Baptists. I’m talking about people who claim to believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven but live in a performance-driven relationship with God. Religion is the most dangerous weapon in Satan’s arsenal because once you’re in it, it’s so hard to get out . . . and you think you’re making God happy. But all religion does is make you feel superior to others and it drives a wedge between you and God because God can only help you if you admit you need help.

The only way to successfully live a real Christian lifestyle is to love Jesus with everything you have. Because when everything falls apart and you feel like you’re all alone and you just want to give up because you’re not strong enough to keep going, you won’t be motivated by bringing glory to yourself . . . you won’t be driven by trying to make yourself look better than everyone else . . . and you won’t be afraid. You’ll just love Him. And loving Him will help you get through the darkest days in your life. Because He never leaves. He’s always there. And He understands.

And He reminds me that this life isn’t all there is, even though some days it feels like it. There is more to life than what we see and feel and know. And even though some days . . . or weeks or months . . . may be rough, they’re just a part of a much much bigger story. And that story has a happy ending.

August was a difficult month for me. Full of frustations, personal and professional. I’m praying that September is better, but if it isn’t . . . consider this my morning’s motivation check.

Oo-rah.

Judging

Christians are really good at judging people, which is pretty incredible because that’s not something we’re even capable of doing. It seems easy to look at someone who is doing something we don’t agree with and to levy judgment against them simply for the reason that we don’t like their actions. But there’s a big difference between disliking someone’s actions and judging them as a person.

I find it interesting that many people who say they follow Christ think it’s their mission in life to judge other people, whether they’re making the right choices or not, whether they’re living their lives the right way or not. They say they follow Christ when they do this, but we don’t have a record of Jesus judging anybody. Because that’s not why He came. Jesus came to save people, not condemn them.

The verse today comes from John 3:17.

17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

 Christ was here on a rescue mission.

So where do Christians get the idea that we’re supposed to walk around telling people what they’re doing wrong and how that affects their worth as a person?

Now. I should probably clarify what judging actually means. Judging is passing sentence on a person’s heart based on what their actions.  And if you think about it, that’s all a judge in a court room does. Based on the evidence of a person’s actions or behavior, a judge makes a ruling on whether a person meant to break the law or not . . . and whether he’s sorry about it or not.

Judging is about us determining someone else’s motivation. And that is impossible for us to do. We can’t know someone else’s heart, their reason for doing the things they do, their motivation for living life. That is hidden to us. All we can see is the results of their motivation.

Now . . . can we judge actions? Yes. If you believe the Bible, you believe in right and wrong. Stealing is wrong. Lying is wrong. Adultery is wrong. Homosexuality is wrong. Being jealous is wrong. Disobeying parents is wrong. But stating those facts isn’t being judgmental. That is what the Bible says. Many times. Over and over. The Bible declares that these things are sin. And in the same breath, the Bible turns around and says that all of us are sinners. One sin isn’t worse than another sin. So how can one sinner turn to another sinner and declare himself worth more or less? We can’t. Only God can determine the worth of a soul, and we already know the price He paid for us — His Son.

Now . . . is it wrong to call another Christian on their crap? No. If you know a Christian — someone who professes to follow Christ — and they are living a life that is obviously against God, you as a Christian have a responsibility to step up and talk to them. Christians, we’re family. We are supposed to keep each other honest. We’re supposed to keep each other accountable. And while we can’t see someone’s heart, we can see their actions, and a Christian’s actions should look different than someone who isn’t a Christian. Again, calling another Christian out on repetitive, obvious sin isn’t judging; it’s being obediant to Scripture.

Now . . . is it wrong to see someone sinning and immediately decide that they are not a follower of Christ? Yes.

Is it wrong to speak ill of a person as though you understand their heart and their motivation? Yes.

Is it wrong to see a person’s actions and decide that they aren’t worthy of God? Yes.

Many of us would say we’ve never done those things, but if we say that we’re lying. We do it all the time, whether we mean to or not. Yes, we can see someone’s actions and deem whether or not they are wrong by using the Bible as our moral/ethical compass. But to decide whether or not that person is worthy of being loved? To decide whether or not that person is worthy of being prayed for? To decide whether or not that person is “good” or “bad” person? Wow. Where do we get such egotistical ideas? There’s nobody good. There’s nobody worthy of being loved. Not even us.

So the next time you see someone sinning — whether it’s a little bitty sin or a great big sin — try to remember that while we can judge whether the sin is right or not, the sinner belongs to God. God has already judged. The law already declares us lost. Jesus came to rescue us. And it’s up to us to decide whether or not we want to be saved. And if Christ didn’t come to judge people, why do we think we need to?