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Are You Doing the Right Things but for All the Wrong Reasons?

Just the other day she said to me, “I can’t believe how much you’ve grown when it comes to dealing with customer service people.”

But I knew she was just admiring the glossy exterior. I confessed, “No. I’ve just become a better manipulator. You see, I realized that being cruel and unkempt toward people doesn’t really help you much. If you’re kind, if you’re courteous, if you care about them, it’s far easier to get them to do what you want—

and quicker too.”

It was a sobering confession.

I haven’t changed much.

Once again, just like not jay walking, I’m doing the right thing but for the wrong reasons.

It makes me wonder how often we may truncate our relationship with God because we settle for this pseudo-goodness. We look in a carnival-like mirror that presents a false image of who we really are. But in this instance, we prefer what it shows us. But if we look at our motivations, if we have a clear reflection of what really drives us, what would we see? Our relentless desire to advance in our career? Our drive to maintain appearances? Our fear of doing the wrong thing? The guilt or shame or fear of failure that drives us?

I once heard Tim Keller say something along these lines, “If you feel like hitting someone in the head with a rock, do whatever it takes to stop yourself from doing that. Tell yourself ‘I’ll go to jail’ or tell yourself ‘it’s wrong.’ Whatever it takes, don’t do it! But don’t ultimately settle for these false-motivations. You may need to use them, but they can never replace the fact that your heart needs to be addressed and healed.”

St. Paul encourages us with these words, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). Any good and right thing we do is supposed to be done in response to who Jesus is. It’s supposed to flow out of our hearts. It’s the difference between buying your wife flowers out of duty or buying them in response to your love for her.

If we can admit that we do the right things, but driven by all the wrong reasons, we’re actually doing something right. We’re opening ourselves up to God in a vulnerable, needy way. We’re making a true assessment of ourselves before him. Encountering his profound acceptance and goodness in our messy hearts is the only thing that will heal our broken motivations. Truly experiencing God’s grace ultimately drives us to do the right things for the right reasons.

Only through an experience of God’s grace—an encounter of it over and over and over again—will we finally do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus. Everything we do, the rules we keep, abstaining from wrong, seeking what is right, doing good—it is only pleasing to God when it’s done for God, because we love God for who he is and what he has done in Christ Jesus. As Paul concludes in Colossians 3:17, we “give thanks to God the Father through him.” 

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alastairsterne@churchleaders.com'
Alastair was born and raised in Victoria, BC. He spent seven years in design and advertising, his work has been featured in magazines such as HOW, CMYK, Applied Arts, and Graphix. After a dramatic calling to missional living, he began and completed his Masters of Arts in Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Orlando, while working as a minister at Summit Church. After three years of prayer and preparing their hearts, Alastair and his wife, Julia, were formally assessed for church planting by The Grace Network and Church Planting BC in Vancouver, BC. They were given a full recommendation to begin church planting and partnered with Church Planting BC as their regional network. They now live in Vancouver and are at work fulfilling God's call for them there. They blog together at St. Peters Fireside.