GUEST POST: Four Motivations for Obedience August 8, 2023

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Dr. Charles Keen has served as a faithful pastor, Bible teacher, author, Bible publisher, and missionary statesman. We are happy to call him a friend. This good man has been a constant encourager to those who are engaged in the work of the gospel. This article from his pen will be a challenge all of those who desire to obey the Lord Jesus more faithfully…

As we study the Scriptures, we note an ascending order of motivations behind obedience. Our motive for obedience escalates as our love for Jesus increases.

The first and lowest motivation, for obedience, is the fear of consequences. This level of obedience is for the immature (we use this level with our small children). There is some fruit from it, but little joy and an element of resentment. Most enter the Christian life at this level of obedience, but it produces neither satisfaction nor longevity. I do not think we ever totally escape the fear of consequences as a motivation for obedience, but it should not be the dominating reason in the Christian life to obey Christ.

The second motivation for obedience is the desire for reward. This level, as in the first, is a motivation rooted in selfishness. This reason for doing right is not altogether wrong, for Jesus did promise crowns and rewards, but it is wrong if it remains our major motivation in service. This motivation should be to have crowns to cast at Jesus’ feet and not for self-consumption (Revelation 4:10-11).

The third motivation for obedience is the good of others. Though this is not the highest of motivations for obedience, it is certainly above the fear of consequences or the desire for reward. Jesus often used our relationship with others as an indicator of godliness – for example, the Good Samaritan. The danger in this approach is that if we are not careful, we are giving in to a social gospel. We can begin dealing only with man’s cultural and physical needs which are real but are neither his total nor greatest need.

The fourth motivation for obedience is the glory of God. This is the level at which Jesus operated, as did Paul who said, “…do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31). When we are obedient for the glory of God, we are willing to pay any price necessary to accomplish His desire in our lives because He is worthy. We are willing to do it without recognition or results. In Romans 8:36, “… For thy sake we are killed all the day long…”

God, in His grace, will often honor the obedience we offer with weak and even faulty motivation behind it. I am sure we have all done right things with low motivation that God honored, and I am sure the higher our motivation behind doing right the more God blesses. I believe one of the hardest things to do is to correctly assess our motives. When a motive adjustment is necessary, the foot of the cross is where we should cast ourselves. There is nothing as powerful in the Christian life as a right thing done – energized by a high, God-honoring motive.

– Dr. Charles Keen

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