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Motive Matters

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Motive Matters

2Corinthians 5:11-6:2  October 12, 2003


Scripture Reading:

Responsive Reading # 648, the beatitudes, Mt. 5:1-12 (compare with Mt. 23)


Why have you come here this morning? The possible answers range all the way from quite honorable to not quite so honorable.

Let’s think of some honorable reasons:

for the love of God, in holy fear, in weeping and repentance,

offering all you have and all you are to God,

with a burning desire to find peace with God,

with an equally burning desire to worship him in Spirit and in Truth,

for the assurance of forgiveness,

to obtain the power and grace to forgive,

to find strength to rise above sin,

to find truth and wisdom to live the Christian life,

to find comfort and the strength to go on in life and in service.

Christ has promised that in these things you will be filled (beatitudes in Mt. 5).

Let’s think of some of the not so quite honorable reasons:

because your wife/husband/parents made you feel guilty if you didn’t or forced you for your own good,

to see what someone else gives/wears/does,

to critique or judge the service or those who serve,

to show off your talents for your own glory instead of God’s glory,

to have some person instead of God say “well done”,

to give and serve out of guilt instead of love,

to glean the latest tidbit of gossip or information you might use to exalt yourself or take the eyes of others off your own debilitating sins,

to wield whatever control you can among the innocent who will exalt you for how well you manipulated them,

to come with a haughty spirit purposing in your heart to keep on sinning regardless of what God says or the power and grace he gives you to overcome.

Christ promised that in these things you will be filled with woe (Pharisees in Mt. 23).

So do you think it would be fair to say, that in God’s kingdom, motive matters?

Indeed, motive matters even in our own law.

ILLUS: The example from law that regards premeditated murder as more punishable than manslaughter, per se.    

We might call it the “doctrine of the prior agenda”.


The Doctrine of the Prior Agenda

Change; Motives; Sanctification

Matthew 22:1-14; Galatians 5:16-24

In Fast Company Richard Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute?, was asked, "What stands in the way of people finding their mission?" Bolles replied:

Prior agendas. For example, my wife, Carol, is a well-known career counselor in her own right. She was meeting with a client who worked in the rubber industry—let's call him George. George told her in their first session, "I've got to get out of the rubber industry." So she gave him some homework to do before their next session to help him with that. He came back the next week, and he hadn't done a lick of the homework. My wife, rich with intuition, asked him, "What will happen if you don't get out of the rubber industry?" George said, "My wife will divorce me." Carol connected the dots and asked, "Does this mean you want your wife to divorce you?"

He couldn't keep the smile off of his face. She knew then that he would never change his job until it had given him what he wanted: a divorce, with his wife taking the initiative—and the guilt. Based on his behavior, my wife named this "the doctrine of the prior agenda." You can't help people change or find their mission when they have a conflicting prior agenda.

People will never change until they truly want to.

à        Citation: Daniel H. Pink, "What Happened to Your Parachute?" Fast Company (September 1999)

It is the same in the church. It is the same in God’s kingdom.

Our motives are complicated by our own conflicting prior agenda instead of God’s, which, of course, mean that we are placing ourselves above him, which in not necessarily a safe thing to do.

In 2Corinthians 5:11-6:2, Paul deals with the matter of motives in ministry.

As you know from previous messages in 2Corinthians, Paul’s ministry as an apostle has come under severe criticism and attack by some false teachers in the congregation.

So he explains for them and for us the proper use of right motives in ministry and therefore, their difference from wrong motives.

Motives matter to God, and they should matter to us.

Big Question:

What motivations do we have for ministry in light of heaven’s hope?

We can use fear judicially.

We can use pride appropriately.

We can use love compellingly.

We can use heaven comparatively.

We can use godliness creatively.

We can use friendship sacrificially.

We can use grace urgently.

I.       Cycle One

          A.      Narrative (v. 11)

          B.      Implication

We can use fear judicially.

          C.      Illustration

Your own judicial rules won’t work with God. The false teachers were making their own rules and using fear in a wrong way.


Standard of Judgment

Codes; Ethics; Judgment; Justice; Law; Morality; Righteousness; Standards; Ten Commandments; Truth

Psalm 7:11; Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10-23; Romans 14:9-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27; Revelation 20:11-15

In Words We Live By, Brian Burrell tells of an armed robber named Dennis Lee Curtis who was arrested in 1992 in Rapid City, South Dakota. Curtis apparently had scruples about his thievery. In his wallet the police found a sheet of paper on which was written the following code:

1.      1.     I will not kill anyone unless I have to.

2.      2.     I will take cash and food stamps—no checks.

3.      3.     I will rob only at night.

4.      4.     I will not wear a mask.

5.      5.     I will not rob mini-marts or 7-Eleven stores.

6.      6.     If I get chased by cops on foot, I will get away. If chased by vehicle, I will not put the lives of innocent civilians on the line.

7.      7.     I will rob only seven months out of the year.

8.      8.     I will enjoy robbing from the rich to give to the poor.

This thief had a sense of morality, but it was flawed. When he stood before the court, he was not judged by the standards he had set for himself but by the higher law of the state.

Likewise when we stand before God, we will not be judged by the code of morality we have written for ourselves but by God's perfect law.

à        Citation: Craig Brian Larson, Choice Contemporary Stories and Illustrations (Baker, 1998), p. 181; Brian Burrell, Words We Live By (S&S Trade, 1997)

God uses his judicial majesty to jumpstart change and conformity to his rules.


What Provokes Change

Apathy; Bondage, spiritual; Change; Complacency; Control; Courage; Faith; Fear; Growth; Motivation; Risk

Proverbs 1:32; Amos 6:1

Danny Cox, a former jet pilot turned business leader, tells his readers in Seize the Day that when jet fighters were first invented, they "flew much faster than their propeller predecessors. So pilot ejection became a more sophisticated process. Theoretically of course, all a pilot needed to do was push a button, clear the plane, then roll forward out of the seat so the parachute would open."

But there was a problem that popped up during testing. Some pilots, instead of letting go, would keep a grip on the seat. The parachute would remain trapped between the seat and the pilot's back.

The engineers went back to the drawing board and came up with a solution. Cox writes:

The new design called for a two-inch webbed strap. One end attached to the front edge of the seat, under the pilot. The other end attached to an electronic take-up reel behind the headrest. Two seconds after ejection, the electronic take-up reel would immediately take up the slack, and force the pilot forward out of his seat, thus freeing the parachute.

Bottom line? Jet fighter pilots needed that device to launch them out of their chairs. Question is, what will it take to launch us out of ours?

à        Citation: Jim Davis, pastor, Silverdale, Washington; source: Danny Cox, Seize the Day: Seven Steps to Achieving the Extraordinary in an Ordinary World (Career Press, 1994)

A healthy fear of God is, well, just that – healthy, even refreshing.


Safe to Get Saved?

Conversion; Fear; Hunger, spiritual; Salvation; Thirst

Isaiah 55:1-2; John 4:1-26; John 7:37-39

Conversion is hardly safe. After all, it requires approaching the King of the Universe, face-to-face. In his book The Silver Chair, C. S. Lewis draws an analogy with the story of a young girl named Jill. She's in the land of Narnia, and she's thirsty. At once she sees a magnificent stream . . . and a fearsome lion (Aslan, who represents the Lord Jesus):

"If I run away, it'll be after me in a moment," thought Jill. "And if I go on, I shall run straight into its mouth." Anyway, she couldn't have moved if she had tried, and she couldn't take her eyes off it. How long this lasted, she could not be sure; it seemed like hours. And the thirst became so bad that she almost felt she would not mind being eaten by the Lion if only she could be sure of getting a mouthful of water first. . . .

"Are you not thirsty?" said the Lion.

"I'm dying of thirst," said Jill.

"Then drink," said the Lion.

"May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?" said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

"Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?" said Jill.

"I make no promise," said the Lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer. "Do you eat girls?" she said.

"I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms," said the Lion. It didn't say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

"I daren't come and drink," said Jill.

"Then you will die of thirst," said the Lion.

"Oh dear!" said Jill, coming another step nearer. "I suppose I must go and look for another stream then."

"There is no other stream," said the Lion. It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion—no one who had seen his stern face could do that—and her mind suddenly made itself up.

It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went straight to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn't need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once. Before she tasted it she had been intending to make a dash away from the Lion the moment she had finished. Now, she realized that this would be on the whole the most dangerous thing of all.

à        Citation: C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair (Collier Books), pp. 16–18; Eugene A Maddox, Interlachen, Florida

          D.      Application

How healthy, holy and refreshing is your fear of God?

II.      Cycle Two

          A.      Narrative (vv. 12-13)

          B.      Implication

We can use pride appropriately.

          C.      Illustration

All pride and praise should ultimately be directed toward God and not ourselves.


Boasting in God

Evangelism; Gifts; Honor; Humility

1 Corinthians 1:31; 1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Corinthians 15:10; James 1:17

Ramon Piaguaje, a Secoya Indian born and raised in the rain forest of Ecuador, won the Winsor & Newton Millennium Art Competition, the largest painting competition in the world. His painting "Eternal Amazon" was selected from over 22,000 entries by professionals and amateur artists from 51 countries and was on display at the United Nations this past summer. Ramon, who started drawing as a teenager over 30 years ago, was not introduced to oil painting until 1993 in Quito. The young man who has captured the attention of the art world was first encouraged in his efforts by Orville and Mary Johnson, Wycliffe Bible Translators working in his village.

The Johnsons recognized a God-given ability and had encouraged him to keep drawing. When they left his village in the early seventies, having completed their translation of the New Testament, the belongings they took with them included 30 drawings by Ramon. Since then, Ramon has met the Prince of Wales and the secretary general of the United Nations, and "Eternal Amazon" has been viewed by ambassadors, artists, dignitaries, and members of the press and public from around the world. Ramon is quick to give the Lord credit for the acclaim he has received. "I can't take pride of the gift that I have as an artist, for it is God that has given me this talent, and I want to use it for his glory."

When the elderly missionary couple heard about the exhibit at the United Nations, they decided to surprise the South American artist. They entered the exhibition hall and found Ramon surrounded by many people. As he looked beyond his admiring fans, he saw the Johnsons and began to cry.

They hugged and wept for several moments. In Secoya, Ramon repeated over and over to Orville and Mary, "You are the ones that should be honored, not me . . . for you came to give us the gospel, and I believe that is why I now can be here."

à        Citation: Greg Asimakoupoulos, author and speaker, Naperville, Illinois; source: Hugh Steven, biographer for Wycliffe Bible Translators

          D.      Application

Is all your pride and praise directed toward God and not self?

III.    Cycle Three

          A.      Narrative (vv. 14-15)

          B.      Implication

We can use love compellingly.

          C.      Illustration

Your actions, compelled by love, may be just the thing someone else needs to see.


Best Friends

Compassion; Devotion; Faithfulness; Friendship; Love; Loyalty

1 Samuel 20; Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 18:24; Proverbs 27:10; Romans 12:10; James 5:19-20

Earl C. Willer tells the story of two men who grew up best friends:

Though Jim was just a little older than Phillip and often assumed the role of leader, they did everything together. They even went to high school and college together.

After college they decided to join the Marines. By a unique series of circumstances they were sent to Germany together where they fought side by side in one of history's ugliest wars.

One sweltering day during a fierce battle, amid heavy gunfire, bombing, and close-quarters combat, they were given the command to retreat. As the men were running back, Jim noticed that Phillip had not returned with the others. Panic gripped his heart. Jim knew if Phillip was not back in another minute or two, then he wouldn't make it.

Jim begged his commanding officer to let him go after his friend, but the officer forbade the request, saying it would be suicide.

Risking his own life, Jim disobeyed and went after Phillip. His heart pounding, he ran into the gunfire, calling out for Phillip. A short time later, his platoon saw him hobbling across the field carrying a limp body in his arms.

Jim's commanding officer upbraided him, shouting that it was a foolish waste of time and an outrageous risk. "Your friend is dead," he added, "and there was nothing you could do."

"No sir, you're wrong," Jim replied. "I got there just in time. Before he died, his last words were 'I knew you would come.'"

à        Citation: John C. Maxwell and Dan Reiland, The Treasure of a Friend (J. Countryman Books, 1999), pp. 27–28

          D.      Application

What is the overriding force that compels your life?

IV.    Cycle Four


          A.      Narrative (v. 16)

          B.      Implication

We can use heaven comparatively.

          C.      Illustration

We should regard the things of this life with a worldly view no longer.


Eternal Life: The Next Great Chapter

Death; Eternal Life; Eternal Perspective; Future; Heaven; Hope; Kingdom of God; Paradise

Romans 8:18; 1 Corinthians 2:9; Revelation 21; Revelation 22

On the final page of the final book of The Chronicles of Narnia, some of the children who have been to Narnia lament that they once again must return to their homeland—the Shadow-Lands. But Aslan (the lion who represents Jesus) has the best news of all for them:

[Aslan spoke to the children,] "You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be."

Lucy said, "We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often."

"No fear of that," said Aslan. "Have you not guessed?"

Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.

"There was a real railway accident," said Aslan softly. "Your father and mother and all of you are—as you used to call it in the Shadow-Lands—dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream has ended; this is morning."

And as he spoke he no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

à        Citation: C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle (Thorndike Press, 2001); submitted by Eugene Maddox, Interlachen, Florida

          D.      Application

Do you have a heavenly point of view?

V.      Cycle Five

          A.      Narrative (v. 17)

          B.      Implication

We can use godliness creatively.

          C.      Illustration

Knowing God in Christ makes of us new creatures, like being released from the prison of our slavery to sin.

New Life

Frederick Douglass on Escaping Slavery

Deliverance; Freedom; New Life; Redemption; Sin; Slavery

Matthew 19:29; Romans 6:1-18

Frederick Douglass grew up as a slave in Maryland in the early nineteenth century and experienced slavery's every brutality. He was taken from his mother when he was only an infant. For years as a child, all he had to eat was runny corn meal dumped in a trough that kids fought to scoop out with oyster shells. He worked in the hot fields from before sunup until after sundown. He was whipped many times with a cowhide whip until blood ran down his back, kicked and beaten by his master until he almost died, and attacked with a spike by a gang of whites.

But even so, when Frederick considered trying to escape to freedom, he struggled with the decision. He writes in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave that he had two great fears.

The first was leaving behind his friends:

I had a number of warm-hearted friends in Baltimore—friends that I loved almost as I did my life—and the thought of being separated from them forever was painful beyond expression. It is my opinion that thousands would escape from slavery, who now remain, but for the strong cords of affection that bind them to their friends.

His second fear was this: "If I failed in this attempt, my case would be a hopeless one—it would seal my fate as a slave forever."

Today, people who find themselves in slavery to sin, and who think about escaping to freedom in Christ, may have similar fears. They may fear leaving behind friends. They may fear they'll fail in their attempt to break from sin and live free for God. They should take heart from Douglass's experience. On September 3, 1838, he remembers:

I left my chains, and succeeded in reaching New York without the slightest interruption of any kind. . . . I have been frequently asked how I felt when I found myself in a free State. . . . It was a moment of the highest excitement I ever experienced. . . . I felt like one who had escaped a den of hungry lions.

à        Citation: Kevin A. Miller, editor and author, Wheaton, Illinois

          D.      Application

VI.    Cycle Six

          A.      Narrative (vv. 18-21)

          B.      Implication

We can use friendship sacrificially.

          C.      Illustration

Friendship may require, indeed it is proven by, sacrifice.


Prisoner Dies for Prisoner

Brotherhood; Brotherly Love; Sacrifice

John 15:13

The men of Block 14 were digging gravel outside the Auschwitz concentration camp in July 1941. Suddenly, the sirens began to shriek. There'd been an escape. That evening their fears were confirmed: he was from their block. Next day, the block's six hundred men were forced to stand on the parade ground under the broiling sun. "At the day's end," wrote reporter Connie Lauerman, "the deputy commander, Fritsch, arrived in his crisply pressed uniform and shiny jackboots to announce the fate of the terrified men in dirty, striped prison suits. 'The fugitive hasn't been found,' barked Fritsch. 'In reprisal for your comrade's escape, ten of you will die by starvation.' "

The men slated for starvation were selected. One of them, Franciszek Gajowniczek, a Polish army sergeant, was sobbing, "My wife and my children." Then a Polish Franciscan priest, Maximillan Kolbe, pushed his way to the front as S.S. guards sighted their rifles on his chest. "Herr Kommandant," he said, "a request."

"What do you want?" barked the commandant.

"I want to die in place of this prisoner," pointing to Gajowniczek. I've no wife and no children. Besides, I'm old and not good for anything."

A stunned silence, and then "Request granted!"

à        Citation: Harold J. Sala, Heroes (Promise, 1998), pp. 274–75

          D.      Application

How far are you willing to go in your friendship with Christ, and for Christ?

VII.   Cycle Seven

          A.      Narrative  (vv. 1-2)

          B.      Implication

We can use grace urgently.

          C.      Illustration

Grace takes care of a lot of messes in life.


Leaders Mop Floors

Fatherhood; Leadership; Men; Parenting; Servanthood

Matthew 20:20-28; John 13:1-17; 1 Peter 5:3

In, Kevin Miller recalls a lesson he learned about leadership from his father:

Dad and I padded through the tall pines, our feet quiet on the carpet of brown pine needles. We had come to New Hampshire, just the two of us, something that had never happened before. I knew then that I, a full 11 years old, was becoming a man.

We placed our net, tackle boxes, and rods in the canoe, then slipped it quietly into the Ossipee River. As Dad paddled from the back, I cast my trustworthy Mepps lure near the lily pads. Father, son, canoe, water, fish, pines—this was boyhood heaven. I desperately wanted to show Dad I was worthy of the confidence he had placed in me by inviting me on this trip.

Two nights later, I awoke, painfully sick to my stomach. I feared I might throw up. I needed to get to the bathroom now. But the cabin was cold and dark, and I would have to climb out of my warm top bunk. Suddenly, I threw up over the side of the bunk.

My dad heard the awful splatter and came running in, flicked on the light, and surveyed the spreading mess. "Couldn't you have gotten to the bathroom?" he asked.

"I'm sorry," I said, knowing I deserved every angry comment that would come. I had done something foolish, messy, embarrassing—and worst of all, childish.

But my dad didn't yell. He didn't call me names. He shook his head a little, then left and came back with a bucket of sudsy hot water and a scrub brush. I watched, amazed, as he got on hands and knees and began scrubbing each pine board clean again.

When Dad died suddenly, he left me with that picture.

As Christian leaders, we face many awful and embarrassing messes. Our people may often let us down. But Jesus has already shown us what we must do in that situation: "Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet" (John 13:14 [niv]).

à        Citation: Kevin A. Miller, editor and author, Wheaton, Illinois, (April 5, 2000)

          D.      Application

Are you willing to let God’s grace take care of your mess?


Why do you do what you do for Christ’s church?

Big Answer:

What motivations do we have for ministry in light of heaven’s hope?

Do you use fear judicially.

Do you use pride appropriately.

Do you use love compellingly.

Do you use heaven comparatively.

Do you use godliness creatively.

Do you use friendship sacrificially.

Do you use grace urgently.

Timeless Truth:

Proper motive makes a difference between success and failure in ministry. (S. 6:3)

Indeed, proper motive makes a difference in all of life.

(In 6:4-13, Paul shows that he puts his money where his mouth is regarding his motives.)

What motivates your ministry? What motivates your life in Christ? Is it a healthy fear of God, mixed with God-directed pride, compelled by Christ’s love, in view of heaven’s hope, made new in Christ’s image, and basking in Christ’s sacrificial friendship through which you are enabled to proclaim the message of God’s grace with all your heart, soul, mind and strength?

With these motivations you, like Paul, will find success in all you do for Christ, and indeed in all of life. (Prov. 3:5-6)

Motive matters.

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