A few weeks ago I shared thoughts on preaching the Gospel to yourself. I find myself continually returning to this theme. Perhaps that’s because we so easily forget what is meant to be the mainspring of our lives – the relationship made possible with God through the saving work of Jesus Christ.
I’ve been thinking about where my motivation for godly living comes from. How do we remain motivated to pursue a life of holiness and fruitfulness, regardless of our circumstances?
Here’s what happens to me. I’m doing well for a season. Quiet times are going great, I’m experiencing grace in resisting temptations, and seeing some fruit in my ministry. Then something, I’m not always sure what, takes place that shakes my “firm” footing. I wake up tired. My wife points out some sin in my life. Counsel I’ve given goes unheeded. I have a “hard” day. Whatever the reason, my zeal for God wanes. I’m not as motivated to pursue the things of God, and my spiritual life could be labeled as “borderline apathetic.”
It’s during these times that I usually pursue one of two courses. The first is based on the lie that this malaise will go away if I can just prove that I’m not that bad. So I commit myself to a stricter regimen of Bible study. I react defensively to criticism and start to point out the flaws I see in everyone around me. I try to encourage myself by searching for any evidence that I’m bearing fruit somewhere in my life, and remind myself of ways God has used me in the past. While God certainly wants us to be built up by studying His Word and seeing his grace at work in our lives, this is different. It’s all a pitiful attempt to establish my own righteousness in the face of God’s clear judgment against me at the cross.
Paul had a different way of living.
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:7-11)
Paul says the primary goal of his life was to be found in Christ, boasting in the righteousness of the Savior rather than his own. It was the knowledge of this acceptance before God, obtained by faith, that motivated him to endure suffering, pursue godliness, and anticipate his own resurrection.
In his book, The Gospel for Real Life, Jerry Bridges makes this insightful comment about where we find the motivation to live for God’s glory:
“There is a direct correlation between faith in the righteousness of Christ and zeal in the cause of Christ. The more a person counts as loss his own righteousness and lays hold by faith the righteousness of Christ, the more he will be motivated to live and work for Christ. The same Christian activity can be either an expression of our own righteousness that we think earns favor with God, or it can be an expression of love and gratitude because we already have His favor through the righteousness of Christ.” (p. 124)
In other words, if I find that I’m discouraged I typically need to look no further than this: Am I trusting in my own works to encourage myself, or am I looking to and meditating on the righteousness of Christ that has been given to me as a gift in the Gospel?
And let’s not make the mistake of thinking that hearing this means we’re benefiting from it. We need to take time daily to feed Gospel truths to our souls. John Owen writes in The Glory of Christ:
"It is the neglect of meditation that keeps so many Christians in a feeble state, regardless of their privileges. They hear of these things and assent to the truth of them or at least they do not question them. But they never solemnly meditate on them." (p 34)
Take time today to meditate on the righteousness that has been given to you as a gift. This post by C.J. Mahaney, from the Together for the Gospel blog, will be a great help.