June 4, 2013

Motivated by grace

Why do people do what they do? A benevolent lady once told me that she did charity work “because it makes me feel so good.” The Bible indicates that behind all acts of the ordinary human soul lies the question, “What’s in it for me?”

This is definitely true of my sinful self. Apart from Christ, life and decisions are all about me, even if it doesn’t look like it to others. My classic illustration is the taking of a pie to a new neighbor. I could be welcoming them to the neighborhood in a sacrificial act that took time and effort. Or I could be trying to impress them with my pie-making skills (ha!).

When Jesus came into my life, that sacrificial motivation showed up along with Him. I found myself wanting to do things for others for their sake, even if it cost me something. I’m still amazed when this happens for I know how self-centered I can be.

… Our great God and Savior Jesus Christ… gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:13–14)

 Jesus Christ gave Himself to redeem me from the bonds of sin, that “what is in it for me” attitude. He died that my sins might die, that every self-centered thought, word and deed could be washed out of my heart and life. He died that I might belong to Him and live for Him.

Belonging to Jesus Christ is an amazing joy! He cares for me as His child, values me as His inheritance, engraves His name on my heart. He takes me from sin that destroys and freely grants me life and righteousness. Those who think being a Christian is too restrictive have no idea what it is like to be set free from sin which is the real bondage.

He also makes His people “zealous for good works.” Whatever motivated me before does not approach “zealous.” This word describes a person who will die for what they believe. By implication, this means I would rather die than not do the good that God has arranged for me to do.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

Zealous also means more than a nod of approval. It is being “red-hot” to do the will of God, to be involved in all that is right and true. Zealous goes beyond being quiet and inoffensive, of doing our part toward a good cause. It is about being ardent, fervent, filled with zest for the will of God in my own life and the lives of others.

I cannot be like this by my own effort. My selfish motivations might kindle lavish energy, but only the grace of God can make that energy pure and unselfish, as Spurgeon says, “a fountainhead of holy impulse.” My part is to renounce “me, me, me” and let Him do His redemptive work, obeying this impulses from His heart in loving service to others. 

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