Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Service, Sacrifice and Love

There is a strain of evangelicalism that Kevin DeYoung describes as a "get radical, get crazy Christianity [that] cannot be sustained. If the message of Jesus translates into “Give more away” or “Sacrifice for the gospel” or “Get more radical” we will end up with burned out evangelicals."   Jonathan Edwards addressed a similar problem

"In March of 1792 ... Parishioners were attempting to outdo each other in enthusiasm, spreading the false impression that the more violent the emotions and the more vehement the expressions of zeal the greater the true piety.  Edwards labored vigorously to make the point, as he would throughout the awakenings, that great excitements were not essential to true spirituality—even if they were often compatible with it. ... From hard experience he had learned that revival passions were fleeting. He did not want a repetition of what had happened in the late 1730s [when] he found himself in the embarrassing position of presiding over a spiritually torpid town just as it became internationally renowned as a model of spiritual transformation."  (Jonathan Edwards: A Life By George M. Marsden)

I agree with DeYoung and Edwards, but what should both motivate and temper a life lived for Christ?

I know that at times I'm inclined to labor under wrong motivations such as the guilt of having so much while others in this world have so little. Even the good motivation of  responding to “all God’s done for me” can be mistakenly seen as a "debt I owe to God" and lead to feelings of failure because I have done so little to show my gratitude.  That's probably why I'm so moved by John Owen's assurance that The Father’s love is so full, so every-way complete and absolute, that it will not allow him to complain of anything in them whom he loves.”

Paul is right when he said in his letter to the church in Corinth that love is the best and only lasting motivation, and without it our best efforts are worthless. From personal experience I can say that it is love which fuels our care for our developmentally disabled son, Noah.  Pity, duty, guilt or even "true grit" can motivate for a while but only love can sustain us to the finish.  By itself my love for Noah isn't enough without also having God's love for me and confidence that he is at work to bring good and ultimately joy for Noah and our family.

I do best when love is my primary motivation for other acts of service toward God and those he loves. Most of the time, sacrifice doesn't feel like a burden when love is the motivation.  In fact, the word sacrifice doesn't really apply because acts motivated by love bring greater joy than what could be gained by following any other desire.

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