What’s the motivation to live for Jesus?
It’s only through Christ’s finished work of redemption on the cross that we have anything worth living for.
What’s our motivation to live for Jesus? Why do we do it? Why do we do what we do? Why make the sacrifice? Why make the effort? Why go to a building every weekend and do this thing called “church” with people who are, most of the time, just putting up religious fronts anyway? Why do we, as the rest of the world most likely think, waste our time gathering together and talking about some historical figure and mystical religion? Why do we do this? Why do we persist in living for Jesus when it continues to be an uphill battle and an upstream swim? What’s our motivation? Why should we want to serve God with our lives?
These questions are persistent for a lot of believers (I know they are for me, at times), and they continue to drag Christians down when not handled or responded to accordingly. So much of who and what we are is driven by our “self-esteem-ingratiated” conditional culture that postulates that whatever you get in life is correspondent to that which you’ve given. Our society is like that. We live in a “this for that” world, what you give is what you’ll receive, so if you want good things just “be good.” And though many wouldn’t come right out and say it, there’s an odor of karma in everything we do. The idea that what goes around comes around is so mainstay that we don’t even question it nowadays.
But even more dangerous, though, we’ve applied this same sort of conditional reality to our service to God. In a world where what we want to get out of life is seen in proportion to that which we give of ourselves, it’s only natural for us to assume this is how God works, right? After all, doesn’t it say in the Bible that “whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7)? This train of thought has led some to believe that in order to get good things from God — that is, mercy, grace, justification, pardon, salvation, etc. — we have to “be” good and “live” good. But this isn’t how our God works. He’s not conditional, he doesn’t deal with us in a “this for that” reality. Much of what God does to us, in us, and through us, is very supra-rational — it goes beyond what we can think or imagine.
So, what, then is our motivation? Why should we yearn to give our lives to God? Our answer lies in 2 Corinthians. The apostle Paul’s writing has become so influential on me and I can’t escape his affinity for the gospel and its transforming power. In 2 Corinthians 5:14, he states: “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead.” The word, “constraineth,” literally means “controls” or “compels.” It’s the force that moves and motivates us to do what we do and persist in that “doing.” And what’s that force? It’s the love of Christ. It’s that which holds us together; that which is our everything. Without the love and grace of Jesus shed so freely and abundantly on us, we’d certainly be nothing and have nothing. It’s only through Christ’s finished work of redemption on the cross that we have anything worth living for.
The love of God displayed to us through his only begotten Son is what should control us, and motivate us. And what does that mean, exactly, to let something or someone have control? It’s the hardest thing to do — let someone have control — but it’s also the most beneficial for us when that control is given to God. We like the illusion of control that we’ve built for ourselves. We like thinking that we’re in command of things. But when we’re truly compelled to live for Jesus, it’s because we’ve let our hearts be gripped and captivated by the love that he showed to us and showered on us on the cross.
When you think of control, you might think of submission to authority. That’s one way to let someone have control over you: yielding your desires and your plans for those of another. Certainly, this has direct applications for us, for it is God that we must continually and constantly be yielding to. But when I think of the word “control,” and really ponder something totally and completely controlling you and all your facets, the first thing I think of is an addict. Someone who’s a drug addict or alcohol addict is completely controlled, constrained, and compelled to do what he does by the effects of his addiction. He can’t go one day, let alone a few hours, without having to slake his need for the effects of his addiction. And each time he gives in to that need, it grows and grows and becomes more than just a part of his life, it is his life.
Perhaps, you, however, are an addict. Hopefully not to drugs or alcohol, but there are many different types of “drugs” that we all become slaves to. Boyfriends, girlfriends, careers, hobbies, power, parental acceptance, peers’ approval, etc., the list could go on and on of things that become our motivation and driving force behind our lives. I’d like, though, to take that idea of addiction and control and put a positive flip on it. In the same way, a drug addict has to have that substance in his system in order to function, we should all have that same need within us for God and his Word. The gospel of grace should be like a drug to us, something that fills our hearts and minds and totally and completely controls us — our thoughts, our words, our actions, our desires, everything. The love of Jesus should be the motivation and driving force behind all that we do.
We need to seriously consider and contemplate God’s love for us — daily, hourly. When was the last time you sat down and really pondered the love of God and its enormity? Yesterday, last week, last month, last year? Think about it. Think about the amazingness of God’s grace and the weightiness of his love for us. His love is so strong and so vast that even if you were the only sinner in the world today, Jesus would still have come down to earth to die for you! It’s his mission to seek and save those who are lost (Luke 19:10), and even if that were only you, he’d still go to the cross. He’d still take your sins and wear the thorns. He’d still suffer all the pain and all the anguish of Calvary for you, for me, even if we were the only sinners in the world.
Each one of us is like that lost sheep whom the Shepherd earnestly searches for (Luke 15:3–7). We’re all prodigals (Luke 15:11–32) who’ve run away from home and yet are met, instantly, with indelible love and inexhaustible grace. That’s what motivates us. That’s what keeps us and holds us together. It’s the love of Jesus that compels us, and his love alone. “Everyone that truly considers and ponders that wonderful love, which Christ has manifested towards us by his death, becomes, as it were, bound to him,” notes John Calvin, “and constrained by the closest tie, and devotes himself wholly to his service.” When we truly understand and contemplate the gravity of the cross and the magnitude of grace, we’ll be compelled and constrained to live for Jesus. When we live under the constant awareness of what we’ve been forgiven of, there will be no response other than humility, gratitude, and service. When we live in the “right-now” power of the gospel — the present experience of being perfectly loved and forgiven by God despite and despite us — that same love will pour out of you. Just like a glass that sits under a running faucet, if you let the love of Christ control you, and your life, that same love and grace will be overflowing from you and spilling onto others!
I have to remind myself of this all the time. I’m no better than you. I forget. I neglect to continually live in grace and under the gospel. I fail. I fall. I get depressed. I get de-motivated. And all that begins when I get my eyes off Jesus and onto myself. We must never forget the greatness of the gospel and the amazingness of God’s grace — a grace so transforming, delivering, and empowering that it takes us from a deplorable, wretched, wicked state and changes us into a child of God. Those of us who’ve been redeemed are now his heirs, partakers of grace, and called out to live for him. And it’s his unfailing, one-way love that drives us.
We need to contemplate the love Christ has for us, a love that’s in the continual present. He’s always loved us and he will always love us, regardless of who we become or don’t become, of what we do or don’t do. His love stays the same, it remains forever. This love, this grace, must control us. It should become our addiction, affecting everything we are and everything we do. Therefore I ask again, what are you motivated by? God’s love, or something else? Jesus’s matchless grace, or someone else? What are you driven by? Who’s controlling you?