As some may know, I walk in the morning prior to going into the office. During my walk, I try to pray, and ask the Lord for strength for the day, for each of my children, that they would understand the goodness of God, for my wife and her continued blessing to others (primarily thinking selfishly here somewhat), and for friends, siblings and those who come to mind.
Of course during this time, I confess my weakness, my failings, my sin before God and my regrets. Sometimes this becomes a focus of my time alone with Him and it becomes “all about me”. Don’t get me wrong in this, for I recognize that in our fellowship with the Lord, we must address, agree with and confess our failings, weakness and sin before Him, just to reside in truth with Him.
Yet at times I find I dwell on my own experience, my own condition, my own trials. During these times, I also tend to sense something pushing me, something that is motivating me to dwell on my sin, in some way to make up for my failings. A selfishness, even in my confession of being selfish, a sort of penitence to appease my conscience? I can’t say and I refuse to dwell on my dwelling on my failures. (See a rabbit hole starting to open up?)
This is a deadly trap in my opinion, for it can become a downward cycle for the believer. True repentance is absolutely required when sin is in the life. But repentance is a result of godly grief, and the godly grief is not an end of itself. Note that Paul, in speaking to the Corinthians, does not focus on a believer experiencing grief (or sorrow), but that the godly sorrow produces a repentance. Once repentance occurs, the grief is assumedly gone.
2 Corinthians 7:9-10
As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
So in all of my dwelling in confession and contrition, I first off need to realize that the grief is merely a vehicle taking me to a solution, an opportunity to confess sin (or to reject the false guilt!) and repent (change my mind). Upon repentance, I may experience (or I am to receive by faith) the active forgiveness the Lord provides based on His faithfulness and justice!
In all of this discussion, I have somewhat veered from the purpose of the post, for I was intending to ask my reader, as I have recently asked myself during my prayers and confessions.
What motivates me to follow Him? Why?
This question needs to be reviewed in the believers life occasionally and during my walk that one morning it seemed to be crystalized in the following thought.
Am I following Him to stay out of hell, (pushed by fear), or am I following Him to know Him, (pulled by love)?
I confess my Christian life has been primarily fueled by a fear of hell. My testimony is available to read for any who may want to understand my background. The details of hell are not the issue, for as many may know, there are multiple ways to understand hell as described in the Bible, all of which is horrible! But that is not the issue in this post. The issue is what motivates a believer to follow after Him?
Is fear a proper motivator for the mature Christian life? Let me ask a bit better question, for there is a place for the believer to walk in the “fear of the Lord”. I suppose the better, or more focused question would be – Is fear of our destiny a proper motivator for a mature Christian life?
Some corollary questions that rise from this thinking might be suggested as follows
- Does fear produce the fruits of the Spirit?
- Is a walk of fear described by Paul in his writings as the normal expectation for the believer?
- Will fear perfect the believer?
This last question hits the mark for my thinking on the subject, and as “luck” would have it, is directly discussed by the apostle the Lord loved, when he wrote his first letter.
1 John 4:16-18
16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.
18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
John begins this portion with two actions on the part of the believer – that is to know and the believe God’s love for us.
To know is to understand, perceive, to get acquainted with. This is the knowledge of experience, and not of a cold calculated factual head knowledge. This is the same “know” that is used as a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse. Very experiential. Very relationship based. This knowledge also has the implication of a time element, for experiential knowledge demands time to be developed.
To believe is synonymous with commitment. To believe God’s love is to be committed to it, to place confidence in that love, and this is a (hopefully) ongoing result of experientially knowing the love of God in your life, whether it be through blessing or suffering, for the love of God is not limited by either.
Through this experiential knowledge and commitment, through an abiding in love and of love abiding in us, we may find love being perfected in us.
Now what does “perfected” mean or imply? To be perfect in our modern thinking implies something that is absolutely without blemish, error or stain. Irreproachable, impeccable, flawless and indefectible.
Is this John’s message for us? It seems the Greek word John uses has the meaning of “finished” or that which is wanting nothing for completeness. I find it surprising that this term is used to describe some believers within the most morally corrupt church in the New Testament.
1 Corinthians 2:6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.
The mature (same Gk word as perfect in 1 John) referred to in this verse are still in need of wisdom, which Paul is describing in this passage. This maturity/perfection described here is a relative perfection. Much to be gained yet.
1 Corinthians 14:20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.
Paul speaks to the same church, and tells them not to think like children, but like mature adults.
This term also speaks of integrity and virtue. Consider Hebrews 5:14, where the apostle refers to the mature/perfect as having their powers of discernment trained by continual practice.
14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
These believers completeness is in the midst of training, or a period of growth if I understand the passage.
As John speaks of love being perfected in us, I am beginning to see that this is describing the continuing growth process of the believer, leaving behind the self absorbed life and fear driven motivation that typifies someone I know.
I realize this “Let Me Tell You a Story” post has slipped into a bit of a study, but that morning in the garage was one more time when the Lord showed me an aspect of mercy in relating to Him. My focus is not to be on me me me, but to be on Him. As I relate to Him and His absolute perfection in love, holiness and righteousness, the love that resides in my life (due to Him) will be relatively perfected, or matured as He continues to work for His will in and with me.
If you have read this and experience the same understanding, please let me know. If you understand an alternative perspective to this glorious verse, please inform. Your experience may be a blessing to those who read and will be an encouragement to myself.
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One thought on “Let Me Tell You a Story – Push or Pull”
Interesting post. When I think of the word “fear”, it is more in line with a healthy respect for the holiness of God. I see the contrast between God’s holiness and myself quite often and because of the abundant grace God so often sends my way, it grieves me when I let Him down. The pattern you originally outlined in what you pray for is similar to mine, asking for God’s blessings on those that I love and care for. At the end of my supplications, I go through the one on one aspect of being as real as I can be with God, as the needs of the day present themselves. The bottom line is my dependency and seeking to be in God’s will for that day. It’s hard to put into words but I sense that if I am as real with God as I can be, He will take care of the rest. Because I have been in His presence, and know the wonder of that reality, I need that inner communion with Him, that He and I are OK. When Jesus says that without Him we can do nothing, I am mindful of my own limited understanding and limitations. I seek that inner communion where God’s Holy Spirit witnesses to me that I am His. It’s hard to explain. The greatest gift that our heavenly Father ever gave us was sending us His Son, who personifies His love for us. And I am mindful of how my own response falls so short of what Jesus did for me. I am just one sheep among many that He carries. Hope this helps. God’s blessings to you and yours, brother.