Duty Is Not the Opposite of Love

In preaching, teaching and writing, our good intentions are often defeated by an avoidable poor choice of words. Sometimes these inapt wordings gain popularity among Christians and become proverbial. Without thinking, we repeat them for the amens.

One example is the popular habit of speaking of duty and love as though they’re two competing and incompatible dynamics in the Christian life.

I can’t be the only one who has heard this, over and over, and wondered, over and over, what Bible people are reading. Consider Jesus’ state of mind and heart as He approached the cross.

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame (Heb 12:2)

And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:35–36)

There is clearly love here. And there is clearly duty. Jesus isn’t “happy” to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He was aware of the coming beating, mockery, and death (Mark 10:33-34). He wanted to go through with it (Gal 2:20), and he didn’t want to go through with it (“not what I will”).

So, if we ask, “Was it love or was it duty?” The question appears to be nonsense.

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When Working for God Becomes the Goal

Reposted from Rooted Thinking.

Even though I had my struggles as a teen, God had my heart. I wanted to serve Him. When I heard appeals from pastors or missionaries about being willing to give ourselves fully to Christ in full-time Christian service, my heart sang, “Let me!”

I remember one sermon where there was an appeal to young people. We were urged to have a heart that desired “to be somebody for God.” That spoke to me; I greatly desired to make a difference for eternity. God used appeals like this to move me on to Bible college to prepare to become a pastor, which later meant cross-cultural missions. I wanted to preach the Gospel and lead people to Christ, especially where He was little known. I wanted to do something hard for God. God gave that opportunity.

Could my motives have been colored by a desire to make my life important?

Striving for Significance

I grew up a with an old-school middle-class American Protestant work ethic. There are wonderful benefits to this work ethic on which I was raised, but there are some serious potential downsides as well.

For example, I am a self-motivated “go-getter” (type A personality) who is sorely tempted to find my worth and significance in what I can accomplish. If I don’t meet my expectations for myself, I am easily discouraged. Frustration over unmet personal goals or achievements constantly threatens me, though I am growing in grace. My struggle is a very common one, especially for others with a similar background to mine.

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Degrees of Reward: Part 2 – Living for Payday

Reposted with permission from the Cripplegate. Read Part 1.

Previously I wrote a response to Dr Wellum’s video in which he expressed doubt about the existence of degrees of rewards in heaven. In addition, he stated the following: “We are not to be people who are living our lives thinking that ‘Oh I’m doing this or living the Christian life in order to gain closer position to the Lord, or you know, on the streets of gold or something or a greater mansion or a greater privilege.’ All of that is quite wrong thinking in terms of Scripture, right?”

In contrast with Wellum I would argue that the Bible does indeed teach us to strive for eternal rewards and that we are clearly encouraged to expect greater privilege and responsibility, which may also involve more interaction with (or reporting to, or consulting with) the Lord, as we rule and reign alongside him in varying spheres of responsibility and diverse capacities of service.

For a full and in-depth treatment of this astounding and motivating doctrine, see the book, The Preacher’s Payday.

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Degrees of Reward: Part 1 - A Treasury of Evidence

Reposted with permission from the Cripplegate.

On January 12 I did what all evangelicals with a twitter account do, we decide which items to sample off the A La Carte menu curated by Tim Challies. When I saw the tantalizing topic of “Degrees of Rewards” I was overjoyed. This is a subject I feel is grossly misunderstood and underappreciated by the contemporary evangelical church. Christians throughout the ages have been galvanized to action by their trust in the biblical teaching that there are degrees of reward in heaven as an incentive and an inspiration to sacrifice comfort, security, finances, and earthly esteem in exchange for a guaranteed return on investment beyond all comparison.

George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, David Brainerd, William Carey, John Newton, William Wilberforce, CT Studd, Jim Elliot, Hudson Taylor, George Müller, and Charles Spurgeon, to list a smattering of our pastor and missionary luminaries, openly expressed that their motives to serve God were fueled by this glorious doctrine that peppers the New Testament.

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Should We Use Reward Motivation?

Reward-based motivational methods have been around for a long time. Whether patches and bars for children who learn verses or plaques and certificates for hard-working adults, we line people up and applaud them. But some believers are uncomfortable with these traditions. Shouldn’t we serve the Lord out of love? Doesn’t the applause of men rob God of His gods_desire.jpgglory and encourage pride?

Though the reward method of motivation is not without risks, it is not a method we should reject. Here’s why.

1. God uses reward motivation all the time.

Throughout the pages of Scripture, God appeals to our desire to enjoy reward and to avoid suffering in order to motivate us to do what He desires. Jesus used this type of motivation in the Sermon on the Mount. Urging a joyful response to persecution, He said, “Great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:12. Scripture quotations are from The New King James Version, Thomas Nelson, 1982). Later, He warned His hearers not to serve merely in order to be seen because the result would be “no reward” from the Father (Matt. 6:1). But, of humble good works, He said “your Father … will Himself reward you openly” (6:4). Jesus clearly appealed to the desire for reward as a reason to do right.

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