Radio Broadcast

Motivation - How to Do What's Best When You Feel Like it the Least, Part 1

Scripture: James 3:1 - 3:18

Do you long to change but just can’t seem to get started? Do you find yourself yearning to take steps to know God but sink into self -loathing, every time you fail and you don’t do what you said you would do? If you want to learn how to do what’s best even when you feel like it the least, join Chip as he shares some very helpful insight from God's Word.

Message Notes more broadcasts from this series


We are going to talk about how to do what is best for you when you feel like it the least.

Or another way to put that, why is it so hard to get started on what you really know is right and almost impossible to keep going? Now, before we go there, do you have your notes out? Don’t turn the page because I want to talk about something about motivation. I want to give you the two ways that we tend to get motivated that do not work. And then I want to give you a biblical alternative that we are going to look at, from James chapter 3, that will work.

Mode number one. We are just doing a little study, a little thinking out loud about motivation. Mode number one is what I call “Motivation by way of guilty feelings.” This is the ought/should. You start to get motivated when you feel so much, someone in your family says, “You ought to do this. You should do this. You ought, you should, you ought, you should.”

And so finally you say, “Okay, I ought to quit smoking or I ought to quit drinking or I ought to cut down watching so much TV or I ought to get in shape or I ought to spend more time with my family or I ought to go to church more or I ought to start reading my Bible or I ought to start praying.”

And it’s, “Ought, ought, ought, ought, should, should, should,” and you have guilty feelings. And now the guilty feelings build up to a level that you are sick of the guilty feelings and so here is the motivation: I want to get rid of the guilty feelings. So I join the spa, get a patch to stop smoking, join a little group, take some initial steps. Six weeks later I don’t change. You know why? Because the motivation was to get rid of the guilty feelings, the motivation was not, Oh! When my life operates like this, it is unloving to my family, I am not reaching my potential for God, and He wants to do a magnificent work in and through me.

It is not a conviction from objective guilt where I repent and say, Oh, God! I don’t want to be this kind of person. I have offended You, I am hurting others, will You change me? See, that will produce some long-term change. Guilty feelings, guilt, by the way, it’s kind of like a car battery. It can get you started. But you know what? Don’t try driving a car very long if it doesn’t have an alternator.

Some of you know I’m not very good with cars. I can tell you, at least with the model I have, how long a battery will go. You can drive on one of the cars I have owned for two and half days with a battery where the alternator doesn’t work.

That’s a lot like a lot of our lives. Tried, quit. Tried, quit. Tried, quit. Tried, quit. Because you feel guilty.

Second mode that is ineffective for long-term change is the mode of selfish desires. The Bible calls it lust. Here is the idea. You want to change because there is this belief system that is tied into bigger, better, sexier, more acceptable, more successful.

And the goal of change is not an inward movement of the Spirit of God to be more pleasing to Him. The goal of change is, If I change then I will be happy. If I quit smoking my girlfriend will say my breath isn’t so bad. If I quit drinking, I’ll get to work on time and then I’ll get a better job and things will work out better. If I start working out I’ll look in the mirror and I will like that guy I see! You know? If I start doing this, doing that, if I am kinder to my wife and start doing this intimacy stuff. I’ll go to a couple of those deals and read a book with her. Well, then this side of our marriage, I’m a little disappointed on, maybe she’ll start coming through. Just a thought.

See, if you’re motivated by guilty feelings or if you are motivated primarily for personal gratification, they are both short-term, neither of them, by the way, every advertisement in a magazine and on TV is geared around – what? Self and selfish desires. You can have a break today! You deserve a break today! You can have it all. Drink this, drive that, wear that, smell like this, and then you can be happy.

Now, think this through. Do a little logical thinking. We are outside of the media just for this brief moment. If you do what they say, then they will come out with something new that will tell you that what you have doesn’t work and you have to have it.

Did you notice, every year, this phenomenon? They change the model of the cars. Why do they do that? Why do they do that? Every year the skirts, this is in. The next year they are in here. You know why they do that? To tell you that what you have doesn’t really match and you need to buy something new. And like fish – hook, line, and sinker – we think, If I do that…

But guilty feelings and selfish ambition, in fact, the Bible warns against selfish ambition as a motive. The Bible says when we ask for things for selfish motives, God doesn’t hear our prayers, James chapter 4.

Now, open the notes, if you will with me, and let me give you an alternative. A biblical alternative to guilty feelings as a means of motivation, and a biblical alternative to just selfish gratification.

Because it doesn’t work. If it worked, it would not be a multi-billion dollar industry. See, if it worked then you would try it and it would work and then you wouldn’t need them anymore.

Now, what you see in front of you probably looks like a mess, right? What is this? On the left hand side is the entire book of James chapter 3. On the right hand side is the structure of the book of James. And you say, The structure of the book of James? This looks really wacky, Chip. Well, let me explain.

Different cultures think different ways and organize material in different ways to make a point. If you had a little bit more time with me, what I would say to you is that the theme of the book of James is integration. That your behavior should match your beliefs.

And I would start in chapter 1 and talk about when you go through suffering, endure it so that you can be perfect and complete. It means “Christlikeness.” And I would drop down to verse 18 and talk about how you are born again of the truth in order that you can live in a righteous way. And then the three problems with integration. At the end, people hear God’s Word but they are not doers of the Word. No integration.

And then chapter 2 opens up and they know how they should treat one another but they treat the rich people well and the poor people badly. No integration. And then it goes to the end and chapter 2:14 through the end, it will talk about how the demons actually intellectually believe what is true, but they don’t have a relationship with God.

All through the book it is your mind, your heart, it knows these things but your lifestyle is this way. So chapter 3 opens up, basically, with a question unspoken: how do you change for the better? How do you change? How do you get where your walk and your talk tell the same story? Significantly. Not perfectly. It’ll never be perfect until Jesus comes or until you go see Him.

Now, here’s where it gets a little tricky. And if you’ll hang with me for about five or six minutes, we will learn something and it will get clearer.

When we want to give out information, we usually give a major premise. Like, Roman numeral one, and then our points under it. A, B, C, D, right? Okay? That’s how we are taught to do it.

In Hebrew literature, they do it that way sometimes. But sometimes they use a different literary device. It’s called a chiastic structure. No big deal unless you’re in Bible school, go tell your prof and impress him.

And what that is is that the main point is not at the top. The main point is at the very center of the literature. And then on each side of the main point is information that builds into the main point and then on the far ends, is information that builds off the main point as well. And that is how chapter 3 is.

Let me give you one picture and you’ll get it, at least for all the ladies. In my house, we have a fireplace. And over the fireplace we have a mantle. Are you ready for this? It’s a chiastic structure.

My wife wants to make a point. And so she has graduation pictures of one of my kids here, another of my kids here, like bookends. You got it? And then she has some ceramic thing here and another ceramic thing here. You get it? And then there is a family picture, or it used to be a clock, right in the center. What is the focal point? What is the main point? It’s the family, it’s what’s in the center.

What James has done, inspired by the Holy Spirit is right in the center of the passage is his main point. And so the way you would outline this, it goes A, B, C, B, A.

And so as you look at it, let me read the main point and then I’ll show you how the others fit together. Follow along in verses 9 to 12. It says, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.”

Literally, it ought not to be. It’s only used here in the New Testament. It’s inconceivable, is the idea. Now, are you getting the theme? What is the theme of the book? Integration. Does your belief and behavior match? And what is he saying? Out of the same source, your mouth, over here you are saying, Oh, praise God, praise God, praise God. And over here you’re saying, Why, you son of a…! You get the idea.

And he is saying, “That’s inconsistent.” If you’re really a believer you can’t use your tongue to praise God and then curse people.

Now, notice, he’s going to picture it more. He says, “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” Kind of a picture from nature. A spring is the source, what is underground. You can’t have fresh water and salt water come from the same spring. It’s inconceivable in nature and his point is, it’s inconceivable for God’s children.

Notice the next picture. He says, “My brothers,” notice there is a little kindness, a little love here. This is written to Christians. “My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives?” No. “Or a grapevine bear figs?” No. “Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Now, over on the side where it says, “The problem,” here is the main point. The main point of chapter 3 is this. You can fill it in with me. He identifies the problem; the problem is duplicity. If integrity is things that fit together; your behavior and your beliefs match up; you live the same way on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday as when you are in here and we sang that last song, “Beautiful Savior,” Oh, I love you, I care, God. Then when you show up at work and when you talk with your kids and when you handle your money and when you make out your schedule, same thing. Beautiful Savior. It’s reflected in all of your life.

He is saying to this church, their problem is duplicity. They live one way on Sunday, completely differently outside of there. Now he is going to go on and he says, “Well, what is the root of it? What is the problem?” It’s the heart. It’s the inner life. Notice he uses this imagery of the spring or that which is underground.

And he is going to say, “What is the fruit of it?” The fruit is the behavior. Now, notice very, very carefully. The main point is the Roman numeral “C,” it is duplicity. Then the “B” above it, we talk about the tongue. Below it we talk about wisdom. And if you study those carefully, we will next week; he is giving us symptoms and tools to correct a lack of integrity.

Next week we are going to learn how your speech can be the tool to see in your heart so that your belief and behavior will line up. The week after that, we will talk about wisdom, which really is the idea of your values and your beliefs and how those match up so a pure life can come out of a pure source.

By the way, do something with me. Flip to the front and the picture. I want you to know, I didn’t make this picture up. I just didn’t get out a book and say, “Hey, there’s an iceberg picture!”

The book of James, chapters 1 and 2, talk about your behavior. Chapter 3 opens up with your speech. After our speech, under the speech it’s going to talk about our thoughts and attitudes, which always come out of our mouths. Then it’s going to talk about earthly wisdom and spiritual wisdom that has to do with your beliefs and your values.

That picture comes right out of the first three chapters of the book of James. And that’s how change occurs.

Now, here is what we are going to cover today. You guys, by the way, my six minute “hang with me” is up. You did great. You really tracked with me. Either you are really fakers or you are acting like you’re really with me, which is very encouraging for the eleven o’clock service.

Here’s what we want to cover today. The “A,” the bookends, talk about how to be motivated to live a life of integrity. That’s what it’s about. Let me highlight, read those, explain them, and then let’s develop three principles from them that will help you get beyond guilty feelings as a motivator, or lust or selfish ambition.

First of all, let’s look at the first one. It opens up, verse 1, it says, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

The grammatical construction here is really pretty interesting. It uses a Greek word in the negative with what is called an imperative. And when these two things come together, literally, it’s stop. It means something is already occurring in the Church.

What is occurring is everyone is running to the front of the line says, “I’m a teacher! I’m a teacher! I’m a teacher!” Because this is the first book written in the New Testament. And the most respected in any community was the rabbi. Well, now Jesus is the Messiah, they are in this new Church, and God is giving revelation.

And everyone wants to say, “Hey, this is how we ought to do it. This is how we ought to do it.” But apparently they weren’t doing it very accurately. Both officially or unofficially. And so he says, “Stop this mad rush to everyone wanting to be teachers.” And he says, “You want to know why? Because the promise of judgment awaits, not just teachers, but everyone. But the motivation is through accountability.”

He is saying to them, “Hey, Christians, not only is your behavior not matching up with your beliefs. But before you jump in front, living this double life, and telling other people how they ought to live, I just want you to know, a little piece of advice that’s probably pretty good to know, God is going to judge every single believer, not having to do with their sin, but with the judgment of their works. Once you trust in Jesus as your Savior, forgiven, you will be in heaven. He is in the process of changing your life.

“But from the moment you come to Christ, to the moment you stand before Him, there is a judgment in the Bible where your works, what did you do with your time? What did you do with your money? What did you do with your spiritual gift? And why did you do it? What were your motives?”

And he is referring, I’ll develop it a little bit later, he is talking about the Judgment Seat of Christ. It’s a judgment for believers, having nothing to do with their salvation, where you will give an account and I will give an account.

And so he says, “Do you want to be motivated way beyond guilty feelings? Try this one on. God may evaluate all believers on a scale of, like, seventy and above is passing. For teachers, it’s ninety and above. Do you still want to be a teacher?” The premise is accountability.

The second means of motivation is the very last verse. It says, “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” The literal translation of this would be, there is a little and that is not translated. “And the fruit, which produces righteousness,” i.e. a changed life, “is sown in peace,” the idea of integrity, wholeness by the ones that are making peace.

And here’s his point. The word peace in this early Church, especially, has all the Hebrew meaning behind it. When we think of peace, we basically think lack of conflict. But the shalom of the Old Testament wasn’t just lack of conflict. It was the blessing of God, the wholeness of God. It was the integration of His joy over you.

And so I would say, “Shalom” to someone. It’s not just, “May conflict be removed from your life.” “May the blessing of God and the wholeness of God be integrated in all you are and all you do.”

And he says, “There is a reward.” He is speaking to a group of people that are living duplicitous, double lives and he said, “You know, if you will sow the fruit in peace, living a life of integrity, over time, as you do that, you will reap this harvest of righteousness. You will have this life where you are changed, your family is changed, your friends are changed. It’ll impact your kids. It’ll impact your fellow workers. It’ll impact tons and tons of people and there will be joy, unbelievable.”

And so he says, “Two reasons, then, to make it over the long haul of living an integrated life. One is you are going to be held accountable in judgment. And, two, there is a certain future reward, not only later, but even in this life.”