Friday, May 1, 2015

The Heart of the Matter

All these blog posts....What are they all for? Why do we publish them?

The motivation behind Faith Actually's mission to uphold absolute truth in an era of relativism isn't fueled by the desire to "be right" or to win an argument. It isn't in order to vent, to criticize, to be judgmental, or to polarize. It's not even to just waffle on, though it might appear so! Nor is it primarily an effort to help preserve the Christian foundations of American culture. Or to achieve precise theological accuracy. Or even to promote a biblical worldview or contribute to apologetics. While some of these things are good things, maybe even crucial things, if they become ultimate things, then we are missing the mark.

In truth, Faith Actually is motivated by a desire to glorify Godto know Him and to make Him known. For to truly know God is to love Him and to seek His glory above all else. Promoting a biblical worldview, guarding the gospel, holding to sound theology, building up the Church, loving our neighbors, making disciples, etc., will be positive externalities of this. Indeed, they serve to glorify God. But they are not in-and-of-themselves the end goal.

Ultimately, it's a matter of the heart. "The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (1 Tim 1:5). We endeavor—by His graceto live not as "people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart." (Eph 6:6).

A servant of Christ, then, might take pause from time-to-time to ask himself: what is the heart-motivation for what I am doing? This has certainly been an ongoing question in my mind as I write for Faith Actually and serve in other areas of Christian ministry.

Simply put, seeking self-glory is always a bad motiveas a Brief History of Bad Ideas attempts to illustrate. But authentically, submissively seeking God's glory is always a good motive. It's a black-and-white matter of the heart.

While it's impossible for any of us to consistently maintain pure motives, it is important that we pray for God to purify our hearts nonetheless. For seeking God's glory is what separates sound judgment from judgmentalism and discernment from negativity. It is what sets apart obedience from legalism. It is what distinguishes God-honoring love for our neighbors from people-pleasing. It is what centers us on Christ and not on ourselves. It is what causes us to live out our faith with reverence. In actuality, seeking God's glory is a necessary outworking of our faith.

For when writing starts to become writing for the sake of writing, there is a problem. When ministry starts to become ministry for the sake of ministry, things get slippery. When Christian living starts to become living well for the sake of living well, we're in treacherous waters. When we start to place our identity in ourselves, rather than in Christ, we're in crisis.

Because if it's no longer in Him, through Him, and for Him, then it's no longer of Him. And if it's not of Him—whether it's something "Christian" or notit's of the enemy.


It's easy to say, but it's oh so easy to forget; I certainly catch myself forgetting it at times and too often find myself drowning in self-absorption. But it's a seriously slippery slope. I'm sure we've all known of Christian leaders who've fallen into deep, deep sin because their motivation for their ministry ultimately became self-glory and their identity ended up taking root in self—no longer in Christ alone...Their sense of validation, rather than being anchored in the righteousness they have in Christ, was sought instead in how many people were filling the pews on Sunday, how many likes they had on Facebook, how many Christian books they authored, how many followers they had on Twitter, how hip and relevant they were. But Paul warned against egotists in the Church: "We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." (2 Cor 10:12).

I painfully watched a personal acquaintance and a well-renowned leader of an internationally respected Christian organization fall into a deadly pattern of power-grabbing sin. Even worse, he was recently found guilty of scandalous acts of sexual abuse in a court of law. It was a devastating tragedy for the organization and indeed the Church at large. In his case, as in the cases of many, his spiritual decline happened inch-by-inch, little-by-little. It happened because his heart-motivation gradually became self-glory. He remains unrepentant to this day.

It is an old, old story—a story that began in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve made that first, fatal grasp for self-empowerment at Satan's beckoning. And it's a story that was pre-echoed by Satan himself in the prideful power-grab that led to his downfall, and the fall of his legions, from Paradise even before the world's creation. As Scripture tells us, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." (Prov 16:18). And it is when we are puffed up with conceit that we can fall into the condemnation of the devil (1 Tim 3:6). What easier way for Satan to wreak havoc in the world than to tempt man with the promise of his own glory?

The default setting of the fallen human heart is self-worship. The heart is deceitful above all things because it is plagued by pride, an inherent tendency to love and serve oneself in God's place, which stems from the chronic heart-condition of Original Sin. Satan prays on this desire, tempting us into sin, which eventually leads to our separation from God. In James, we read that "each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death." (Jas 1:14-15).

The Apostle Paul, perhaps the most significant and certainly the most famous missionary of all time, understood the serious danger of self-aggrandizement. He repeatedly deflected attention from himself and towards the Christ of whom he considered himself a slave. He was all too aware of the trappings of pride as he candidly demonstrated in his letter to the Corinthians, stating: "To keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited." (2 Cor 12:7). 

Rather than being prideful, Paul exemplified authentic humility: "I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of His power." He understood that Christian service is a gift from God, not a gift to God. Because as soon as we start to make it all about us, things start to unravel and the ever-popular lie is fueled: God needs me. God has called me and He needs me to do His work. Who will do it, if I don't? In essence then, It's all about me...

No. God needs no one. He is omnipotent. God may use us to do specific things in the work of the Kingdom. But this is a privilege, not a purpose. Our purpose is singular: it is to glorify God. I say this despite hearing the contrary from best-selling Christian authors, leading mega-pastors, and inspirational speakers. I understand that it's not a popular thing to say these days. But I say it because when we die to self, our purpose becomes Him. And that is enough.

Our prayer is that we remain motivated by a desire to glorify God. There is nothing better, nothing more purposeful, nothing more worthwhile.
For it is from Him that all good things come. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (Jas 1:17).
To God be the glory. 

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