I Don’t Read the Bible to Please God

Motivation is odd. Something I find compelling would be a complete bore to someone else. I might say “I like to do this because …” and someone else might respond “I don’t care about either of those things.”

One person’s motivation is another person’s non-starter.

The word “motive” is from the same Latin root from which we get the word “move” and pertains to the things that move a person to action, thought, or desire:

Motive: noun

  • something that causes a person to act in a certain way, do a certain thing, etc.; incentive.
  • the goal or object of a person’s actions. (Dictionary.com.)

This got me wondering about why I do things that others might call spiritual.

  • Why do I pray?
  • Why do I read the Bible?
  • Why do I go to church?
  • Why do I spend time thinking about God?

I thought about this at length and couldn’t find a motivating factor. Or perhaps I should say I did not find a motivating factor in the usual sense.

The things I listed are what a lot of people call spiritual disciplines, or look on them as acts a follower of Jesus should do. I’ve also heard people say they seek to honor God with these actions. I agree with all of that, I suppose, but the more I thought about it the more I realized these are not the motivations behind them for me.

I’ve also heard people say that these acts lead to great benefit. I completely agree with that as well. The more time I spend in prayer, in reading the Bible, in thinking about God, in spending time with others who know him, the more my relationship with God himself develops. But while those are benefits, I can’t say those are my motives. They aren’t what I think about when I do those other things.

So what is the motivating factor? After all, I don’t do these things by accident. They aren’t purposeless.

The more I thought on it, the more I realized that the motivating factor isn’t a what. The motivating factor is a who.

Moved by the Spirit

When it comes to movement for God, the motivator is God the Holy Spirit.

‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ (Acts 17:28.)

The Spirit guides us in truth:

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. (John 16:13.)

The Spirit prays for us as he prays with us:

We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. (Romans 8:26.)

The Spirit is the one who transforms us from death to life:

He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5.)

This death to life transformation makes all the rest of it possible: prayer, gathering, praise, reading and more are all possible because of the Spirit’s movement first in us.

That’s where the motivation is. I am not motivated because of what I desire. The motivation – the movement – is the Spirit moving within me to glorify God. This is what Jesus promised his friends on his last night with them.

He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you. (John 16:14-15.)

I’ve found my motivation. The movement for all I do in my relationship with God is because of God himself moving within me to do these things.

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11 Responses to I Don’t Read the Bible to Please God

  1. FW Rez says:

    Great post, Tim. I really enjoy the way you point out several verses on a single topic, building a larger context. I am personally trying to learn to listen more to the prompting of the Holy Spirit in my life.

    Challenge question: If this post were your sermon outline for Sunday, what trinitarian hymn might you use for the invitation (if one were given)?

    • Tim says:

      I might go with Spirit of the Living God, although I’d pick the tempo up a bit from this video’s version:

      • FW Rez says:

        Great song. I wonder what the over/under line on this one is where most of the people in my congregation over that age would know it and most of the people under that age wouldn’t.

    • Jeannie Prinsen says:

      Hope you don’t mind me butting in to your comment thread, FW Rez & Tim, but I also thought of this one, which we sang recently at church: There is a Redeemer by Melody Green. Not technically a hymn I suppose, but still pretty solid! Chorus is

      Thank You, O My Father
      For giving us Your Son
      And leaving Your Spirit till
      The work on earth is done.

      • FW Rez says:

        Jeannie, I’m not familiar with this one. I’ll have to find it and listen to it. Text is particularly appropriate for an invitation.

  2. Jeannie Prinsen says:

    Tim, thanks for this post. I appreciate your reminder that God is always at work in us through His Spirit and it’s not up to us, or for us, or because of us.

  3. Muff Potter says:

    Conservative folks, please don’t be offended and don’t get me wrong.
    Insofar as holy books go, the Bible has no equal on the planet.
    But I also think that it suffers from the same two ills that plague science.
    Not giving it the credence it deserves at one extreme, and making way too much of it at the other.

  4. joepote01 says:

    Yes! The Holy Spirit is my motivator…my power…my communicator…my renewer…my transformer…my life!

    You might like my post this week on what my horse taught me about the difference between spirit-led and legalism: http://josephjpote.com/2018/06/relationship-versus-rules/

    Thank you, Tim!

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