January 14, 2022
So Much for Good Intentions
by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman
“There is no more powerful motivation for holiness than loving God in response to the revelation of his redeeming character and eternal promises.” Bryan Chapell, Christ Centered Preaching
How are you at keeping resolutions? I am the world’s worst. Mind you, I am full of good intentions. I will keep a cleaner and more organized home. I will lose weight. I will get serious about an exercise program. At the start, keeping a resolution is a breeze. Why did I live like I did before turning over this new leaf? Life is so much better this way! I will never go back. Sometimes I even try to convert others to my cause. How could they not follow in my steps? This way is infinitely better.
But it’s not long before I begin to wobble. This is too hard. I miss the convenience of doing things the old way. It wasn’t so bad before. And before long I have fallen back into my old ways once again.
Living for Jesus can fall along similar lines. We read or hear something that convicts us. So we resolve to act on that conviction. We will be more diligent about reading our Bible. Pray more. Get control of our tongue.
But soon the enthusiasm wanes. The high priorities of yesterday diminish in light of the new urgencies of today. And the resolution dies a quiet death.
Where can we find motivation that will last longer than our good intentions?
Guilt is usually my chief motivation, a powerful force in my life. I attempt to change something because I foolishly think that God will somehow love me more if I can get a handle on this thing in my life. This, of course, is a very faulty assumption. He knew every selfish act I would commit before I was even born. But He chose to love me anyway. My relationship with God is based on grace. So trying to earn love or acceptance from God really is flawed thinking.
In the end, anyway, guilt fails to produce a lasting result. As soon as I have worked long enough at change to ease my guilty conscience, the motivation is at an end. And I regress.
But what if, instead, I acted in response to the unconditional love and grace God has lavished on me? Donald Miller, in Blue Like Jazz, suggested that if an ordinarily lazy man were to fall in love, he could swim the English Channel for the sake of his beloved. Love is a huge motivator.
Our greatest incentive for change comes as a response to the grace and love the Father has already poured out on us. “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all…that those who live should no longer lives for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NIV). The greater our understanding of who God is and what He has done for us, the greater our motivation to love and serve him in return.
So rather than focus on my behavior and what I need to accomplish, I will choose to focus on the God that I serve. I will focus on His great love for me and on His perfect character. And my behaviors and attitudes, the ones which so desperately need to change, will suddenly be revealed for the dark, damaging habits they are, inappropriately existing in a life which has already been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.
The stronger my love for Him, the stronger my motivation. Less of me, more of Him.
“For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for he Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” Romans 14:7-8 NASB
About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women, was published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.
Join the conversation: What have you resolved to do in the coming year?