Hidden motives mar Christian character. God purges and purifies our motives through a process. Motives are inner drives or impulses that cause us to act in a certain way. We do the things we do, and say what we say because of the motive within. Our choices and decisions translate into actions, but the source is motive. The result is the forming of character, the essence of who we are.
God is working a work within His people. His Holy Spirit within each believer uses every circumstance as building blocks to form the character of Christ within. David understood that these inner drives were significant for he wrote:
“You desire truth in the inward parts and in the hidden parts You shall make me to know wisdom.” (Psalm 51:6)
If we indeed pay attention to this very serious arena of our spiritual lives, our motives, we will experience phenomenal spiritual growth and insight. In the first half of Matthew, chapter six, Jesus dealt with three areas: Giving alms, prayer, and fasting. These are the three areas in which we generally need a purging of our motives. It is easy to give, to pray, or even to fast when we are recognized for it in some way. But performance is not the Holy Spirit’s goal. It is the motive beneath the action.
In addressing these issues, Jesus prefaced His dissertation with, “take heed.” These words can be translated, “take pains.” In other words, what He was about to say was of the utmost importance. He said, otherwise you have no reward of your Father, which is in heaven (see Matthew 6:1). Notice a brief observation for each of the three areas mentioned above:
- Giving alms. “When you do alms” – notice, not if. To do alms, is to practice giving of your substance. The Greek word for alms can translate, acts of mercy, compassion, pity, or charity. The motivation is mercy to whoever is in need. It is not about money alone. Read about Biblical giving here.
- Prayer. “When you pray” – again, not if. So when you pray, Jesus said, don’t show off, don’t mimic, don’t be hypocritical. Then Jesus gave the model, which we call the Lord’s Prayer. The motivation is relationship, not a formula. Read about the Christian practice of prayer here.
- Fasting. “Moreover, when you fast” – not optional, but neither should it be prescribed. The motive is in the intent, which should be to loose the bands of wickedness in our lives and the lives of others (see Isaiah, chapter 58). Read about principles of fasting here.
These three areas dig deeply into the motives of our hearts. The Holy Spirit works within us to bring us to a place of transparency. We are being conformed to the image of Christ, being changed from glory to glory. Sometimes it is in the darkness of our spiritual walk that we are changed the most. In a time of deep darkness, if it seems that God is hiding, check your motives. In those times, when He steps into the shadows, perhaps it is your turn to seek. When we continue to persevere in our quest for pure motives, God will lead us into light.
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