I believe it was Jonathan Edwards who said the two great motivators for humans are fear and pride. When we are motivated by pride, we do what we do so people will see us do it, and they will be happy, proud, or more impressed with us. When we are motivated by fear, we are worried about what people will think if we don’t do something or don’t live up to their expectations. Over the past couple months the Spirit has been continually working in my heart is that people are motivated best when they are motivated not out of who we aren’t but who we are.
Many times even in the Christian world we use these two harmful motivators, to move people to doing stuff. Often a plea will come from the pulpit for workers in an area within the church and the way we promote it is not pray about if God is leading you to do this. Usually it is more like, ‘if no one signs up, then we will not be able to continue doing _____ anymore.’ See the difference. We can also use fear and pride to cause people to practice their spiritual disciplines. Sometime this is unintentional, yet it is still a reality. Telling people that, ‘if they don’t read the Bible, then____ will happen’ induces fear.
It should not be this way. As Christians we have the privilege to be able to daily live out of the motivation of who we are not what we do or do not do. When we are motivated by who we are, we put to death both pride and fear as a motivating factor.
Who Are We -
The Bible says much about who we are. We are broken sinners (Rom. 5.8). We are abandoned orphans (Gal. 4.1-7). We are helpless children (Eph.4.14). We are wanders (1 Pet. 2.11). We are dead with no hope (Eph. 2.1-3). We were slaves (Gal.4.7). Yet in the midst of all of these negative adjectives, we have been met with good news. The good news is not simply that we can try harder to not be broken or an orphan. No, the good news is that there is One who came to fix us, One who came to live the perfect life that we could not live, all so He may die the death that we were unworthy to die. This good news is the gospel. It is that Jesus was all that we could not be! All so we could become what we were meant to be.
For those of us who have been clothed in Christ’s righteousness (Phil. 3.9), we have a new identity. When we talk about our identity in Jesus, it is who we are. It is a truth about us, not something we seek after or attempt to be. Because of what Jesus did for us on the cross and the empty grave, we are now new creation (2 Cor. 5.17). Again, this is not something we strive after, it is something that is imparted unto us, a gift that we simply receive and can call our own (Eph.2.8-9). This new identity will change us and make us new.
Since we have been given this new identity by Jesus, our whole life has changed. This means that we don’t simply live like we used to. Now we live out of the new standing we have, our new identity. Those who were abandoned orphans are now children of God. We now, because of our new identity, are also able to live in relationship with our perfect heavenly Father. We can now cry out to our heavenly Father, “daddy I need you!” when life is hard, money is tight, or sin is overcoming us. The reason is not because we have become good people in ourselves, but because in Christ, our perfect elder brother, we can be adopted into the family of God.
New Motivation -
Because of our new identity, we no longer need to rely on the motivation of fear or pride. If we are truly living out of our new identity, fear and pride should no longer be part of our motivational toolbox. Reading our Bible can be often be a chore. One we will do, but we do it because we know it is what a good Christian does, not because we really want to. We are motivated by fear of a couple of things. It may be that we feel like if we don’t read the Bible, God will be upset with us. Or that if the people in our church family were to find out they would think less of us. Both of these ways of thinking will cause us to read our Bible, but the outcome will be a lackluster devotional life that looks more like a roller-coaster than a steady ship. However, when we start to understand that God is our Father, and the Spirit empowers us to love and know our Father better, over time the Bible become more like sitting down and having a cup of coffee with a good friend, not going to the dentist to get a tooth pulled.
When we start to understand that our motivation must be who we are not what we do or do not do (fear and pride), then and only then will we start to live in step with the gospel (Gal.2.14). Only when I understand I am no longer an orphan can I start to live like a child of God. This is freeing because if I am working out of fear, I will do everything a child of God should do, because I don’t want God the Father to think I am not a good child. Yet, if I am honest I am not doing these things because I deeply love my Father, I am doing them because I fear Him. Understating who I am in Christ frees me just be a child of God.