When we embrace the gospel message of Jesus Christ, one of the changes we experience, whether rapidly or gradually, is that we are no longer motivated by selfish ambition, by “what’s in it for me.” We have a new motivation for our actions.
In the first chapter of I Peter, the apostle goes to great length to explain our inheritance in Christ. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Pet 1:3-4).
Peter continues in this chapter with two actions that should naturally follow when we recognize the spectactularness of our salvation. Obedience and love. “Therefore [based on what I just said about so great a salvation]…as obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” (I Pet 1:14-15). And, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart” (I Pet 1:22). Obedience and love.
It is interesting that Peter follows verse 22 with the reason we are even able to love. “For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God” (I Pet 1:23). God’s imperishable seed inside empowers us to love fervently.
If our goal for living the Christian life is to keep a set of rules or attain a certain level of character qualities, the road will grow stale and the motivation will fade away. If, on the other hand, our goal is to love from a pure heart, our motivation and enthusiasm will grow as our love grows.
Think about this progression with me and the verses that go with it.
- My ultimate goal, the greatest commandment in the New Testament, is to love one another. (See Jn 13:34, Jn 15:12, Jn 15:17, Rom 12:10, Rom 13:8, I Thess 3:12, I Thess 4:9, II Thess 1:3, I Pet 1:22, I Pet 4:8, I Jn 3:11, I Jn 3:23, I Jn 4:7, I Jn 4:11, I Jn 4:12, II Jn 1:5.)
- I love others by serving them. “Through love, serve one another” (Gal 5:13).
- A clean vessel is a vessel fit for service. “Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from these things [the bad stuff], he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (II Tim 2:21).
- I cleanse myself by obeying God’s commands, an obedience that comes from my love motivation. “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love” (Jn 15:10).
- Love is our motivation to do the right thing.
The apostle Paul adds an additional dimension to our love motivation in II Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ controls us.” The idea of being “controlled” or “constrained” (KJV) by love is more than just being motivated by it. As my friend Greg Despres points out, the word picture in this verse is like a rushing river being controlled or constrained by its banks. Its the idea of being controlled or constrained by a crowd as we all press into an arena for a sporting event. Faced with this “control”, it only makes sense to go with the flow. Our love is going with the flow of who Christ indwells us to be. Let your pride and selfish ambition fall to the wayside and go with the flow of Christ’s love filling you and overflowing in service to others. Go with the flow!