Felt needs, pride, fear, & love are all base motivations for our actions & they reveal our heart’s true inclinations.
Faith, worship & service to the Lord sourced from a felt need (sickness & strife) or a fear of an alternative consequence (Hell) betrays a lesser motivation, lesser maturity, & a lesser faith. The Apostles acknowledged their lack of faith as Luke 17:5 declare; verses 6-10 are the Lord’s response. By His response, it would seem that pride was the stumbling block within their hearts. The twelve needed to return to the mindset of simple service to a greater authority & pride was their impediment.
But even pride, though the worst of all motivations, can be used by God’s Spirit to drive the unbeliever to open his mind to Christ’s ministry; as Paul puts forward in Romans 11:11-22:
So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. Romans 11:11-22
Note that this passage indicates a lowly human trait & a derivative of pride- jealousy- being used to draw some people to Christ, but then it conversely warns others who are already in Christ that unrestrained pride could lead to their destruction. Gentile believers who consider themselves more deserving of salvation than Jews are ignorant of God's Word, for He teaches in His Word that mankind, of itself, is universally unworthy of God's salvation:
"Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned." Romans 5:12
Believers with any haughty confidence in the flesh are in danger of suffering God's stiff rebuke.
Nevertheless, the elect are the elect, & certainly not often "good" (even by man's standards) before they come into His Kingdom, so God uses many different means to call them.
“…that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Phil. 3:11
We see that man calls upon God for many reasons, but fear, felt needs, & certainly pride all fall short of our Savior’s example & His instruction as detailed in His “Sermon on the Mount”-
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matt. 5:43-48
Indeed, the Father, Son, & Spirit are all perfect in love as they call us towards comparable perfection.
Jesus exemplified His perfect love on many occasions-
1. He withheld immediate judgment for His accusers. (Matt.12:32, 26:53)
2. He prayed for His enemies (Luke 23:34)
3. He extended understanding & patience to those from the camp of His enemies. (John 3:10)
4. He extended grace to the worst of His enemies. (Acts 9:5)
5. He blessed & accepted the company of His betrayer into His innermost fold. (Luke 22:47)
6. He did not eat for forty days & then suffered every temptation by Satan. (Luke 4:13)
7. He grieved with men. (John 11:35)
8. He healed those He knew would not love Him even after they were healed. (Matt. 17:17)
9. He washed His disciples’ feet, a job normally reserved for the lowliest of servants. (John 13)
10. He came to save sinners. (Mark 2:17)
11. He loved the unlovable.
But, while in all of these He demonstrates His preeminent love, none approach the Scriptural standard & very definition of love- His willing acceptance of suffering & death on a cross in our stead- while we yet still sinners. We did not repent before He took our punishment; no, He accepted the cross while we were yet sinners.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom 5:6-8
Along these lines, imagine you saw the most vile person you know crossing the road about to get hit by a speeding car. Would you surrender your life in that instant to save his? Maybe your love is such that you would give up your life for your wife or children or maybe even a good friend at that moment but for a repugnant stranger?
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Titus 3:5
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” 1 John 3:16
Readers of the KJV will note it reads “By this we know the love of God…” These last two words are in italics in the KJV because the translators added them in an attempt to give greater understanding to this text; but in fact these words steal meaning from this verse. "By this know love" conveys the idea that love cannot be fully defined nor understood apart from the cross of Jesus Christ. John wanted to tell us that for us to truly comprehend the depths of love, we must ponder the Christ & His cross, for all other definitions of love, especially those referencing human traits, pale in comparison. Indeed, Noah Webster, in his 1828 dictionary, actually refers the reader to 1 John 4 for a fuller definition of the term “love.”
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, (cause) we also ought to love one another (effect). No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John 4:7-21
Faith, worship, & service founded upon anything less than pure love for God & His Kingdom is indicative of an individual not yet fully Christ-like in nature. Note, as Christ’s love, witnessed to the believer by God’s Spirit, Scripture, & other Christians takes root within our souls, lesser motives are automatically “cast out.” Love for God & His Kingdom becomes more & more our motivation.
But don’t put the cart before the horse & cast out the God-given fear that sustains us in Christ before the time of your perfection in love. Until that day comes (Heaven, in my opinion) when we become “perfected in love,” we should readily accept fear (of punishment) as a necessary supplement to our sin-tainted imperfect love.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Cor. 13
Love is the greatest because faith & hope have their foundation in Christ’s perfect love given to sinful men.
Love is the greatest because the invisible qualities of faith & hope find their manifestation & purpose in the visible realm of love.
He loved the unlovable….
I end this post with a inquiry for your soul & mine alike:
Are you a stubborn mule as you walk with the Lord, constantly necessitating His painful discipline, coming in the form of fear & deeply felt needs, to continue in your journey?
Or have you seen & apprehended Christ’s love made manifest on the cross, thereby in fact following Him as a sheep who truly loves his Shepherd?