Wednesday, November 23, 2011


This continues the last sermon: written but "unpreached."  You can read the first part here.

...And Jesus says motives determine movement!  In other words, simply engaging in faith practices does not move you in a Godward direction, because if it was simply about your actions both groups that Jesus addressed would be headed in the same direction.  It is the motivation behind the faith practices that determines the movement.  The Pharisees, or hypocrites as Jesus calls them, are motivated by the applause of men, by recognition.  Even though they engaged fully in faith practices, a spiritual exercise, they were not moving toward God; they were moving toward selfishness, toward self-righteousness and away from dependence upon God and intimacy with God.  Their motivation determines their movement.
On the other hand, Jesus uses language about not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing, about praying in your closet, about cleaning yourself up when you fast to say, "Unlike the Pharisees, this group is motivated by their love for God."  The motivation of "love" will move them toward God, into greater intimacy, into a richer understanding of the Creator! Because motives determine movement. 

I think about it this way.  When I was in high school 80% of my friends were girls but 0% of them were girlfriends.  I was the "nice guy."  Nice guys were the ones you wanted to be your friend.  Jerks were the guys you wanted to date.  I had several girls tell me, as they talked about their boyfriend troubles, "You are the kind of guy to marry." ????? I still don't get that one.  I was like any other boy in school - crazy about girls, but I didn't act like I was.  I knew if I were to impress and attract women I would have to be a "different kind of guy" - the "antiguy."  So, I built a reputation of treating girls the right way, of taking the stereotypical guy and turning it on its head.  I wanted to appeal to something deeper than physical attraction.  I had to! Now, I wish I could say my motivation was all good, but it wasn't.  My motivation was to get girls to like me and so although everything I did was good: being sensitive, sweet, and kind- my motivation was really moving me toward selfishness.  It was about ME and not about the girls!  It was about me trying to be attractive and desirable and so it moved me toward self-centeredness.

Years later I'm married to the beautiful Mary Beth and I still want to be sensitive, kind, and sweet. [NOTE: this part is difficult to post considering all that has happened, but it was in the original manuscript and it is what I still desire].   I still want to be the "antiguy."  But this time it's not because I want to make her attracted to me - too late for her; she already committed... But this time it is because I love her, because I want to know her more intimately, and although I do many of the same things I did in High School, my motives move me away from the self and move me into a more intimate and deeper relationship with Mary Beth.  Because your motives, as much as your action, determines your inward movement.  Motivation shapes your character.

In this passage, Jesus speaks specifically about faith practices.  He differentiates between two motives - a self-seeking motive and a God-seeking motive.  When you assess your motives you ask the question "Why?"  And so when it comes to our faith practices, we need to ask ourselves, "Why?" Why DO you go to church?  Why DO you give?  Why DO you read your Bible?  Why DO you pray?  WHY?  Using the two motives Jesus highlights in this passage, let's look at two truth's regarding faith practices.

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