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Why Motivation Matters in the Pursuit of Holiness

Yesterday morning, I was in my car driving back home, praying as I often do. I was reflecting on how I woke up way too early in a near panic about the challenges we face. While I had prayed and declared what I felt God was saying earlier, the uneasiness had returned in those moments.

I began quoting Romans 12:1 again, saying, “Father, I offer my brain to you as a living sacrifice and will not entertain hopelessness. You are transforming me by the renewal of my mind. I speak to my mind, ‘Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).’ ”

Praying prayers like this are important and valuable, but after I finished, I was aware again how much I base my value or acceptance on performance rather than who I am in Christ.

Wait, how are those thoughts connected?

Well, part of why I was praying those words (sincerely, mind you) was that I know when I feel hopeless I can fall prey to sin in other areas. It hit home even further when I read our book discussion chapter for this week where Jerry Bridges wrote,

When we commit ourselves to the pursuit of holiness, we need to ensure that our commitment is actually to God, not simply to a holy lifestyle or a set of moral values. –The Discipline of Grace

Why would we commit ourselves to morality instead of God? Because we don’t like how we feel defeated when we sin and that becomes the motivating factor. So do you want rid of the sin because it lowers your self-esteem or perceived value or do you want rid of it because it grieves the Father and He loves you so much?


I have to be honest and say that for most of my life it’s been the former because again, if my performance was sufficient I felt valuable or strong. If I failed in some area, I felt defeated and unloved. For that reason, you can commit yourself to running after holiness, but it’s empty and fruitless, far below what God wants for you.

Mr. Bridges brought out as well that while many had approached him after times of ministry asking for prayer/advice in getting rid of this or that persistent sin, no one had ever asked about how to put on Christian virtues and values.

The lesson is clear: we don’t like to feel bad so we want to get rid of what causes that; meanwhile there will never be a void. If you fail to put on and cultivate godliness in your life, you will remain at a deficit.

If you’ve read my writing over the past months, God has definitely been hitting this “performance” mentality hard for me. There are obviously parts that are still hanging on. Still, God is exposing it all because He loves me.

I enter into putting off harmful thought patterns and sinful behavior while putting on wholeness, love, and compassion–not because I want to feel better but because I want Him and nothing else.

How about you? Does this strike a chord with you? How do you respond to life’s challenges?

tdog_jbWelcome to week 9 of our book club discussion of The Discipline of Grace by Jerry BridgesWe are taking a sentence, paragraph, or passage that inspires, encourages, or challenges and writing about it. If you have a response on your blog, add your link to the widget below. Be sure to read and discuss my friend and co-facilitator, Sarah Salter’s post too. Whether you’ve read the chapter or not, please dive into the conversation!

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  1. How do you respond to life’s challenges? It depends how connected to the Father at the time, when I’m abiding in Him I realize that I can do all thing through Him. However, those times I’m distant in my heart can leave me open to doubt His goodness in times of stress. Thanks for the reminder to stay close to the greatest heart there is!
    Jay Cookingham recently posted..Why I’m Not (Still) Who I AmMy Profile

    • Oh man, that’s really all there is, right? Stay close to His heart and nothing is able to shake us. Thanks so much, Jay.

  2. Why do we always want to settle for second-best -- some cheap imitation instead of the real thing? Likely because the imitation is known and familiar, and the real thing looks downright scary. Thanks, Jason.

    • And what’s crazy is how many times we don’t understand we’re settling for second-best until God shows us. And He patiently yet persistently puts resources in our path as we pursue Him that expose the lesser so we can embrace the greater. His goodness never ceases to amaze me! Thank you, Glynn!

  3. Truly, Jason, it should never be about our “feeling good,” but about pleasing the Father. Do we always succeed? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean we don’t recommit as needed. Thank goodness we have a loving and patient God!
    Martha Orlando recently posted..Devil in DisguiseMy Profile

    • Oh I’m so thankful for that! Thank you, Martha. 🙂

  4. Before starting this book I knew I tended to be a perfectionist and had pride issues. What I hadn’t realized was how deeply ingrained I was in thinking I needed to perform. This book is hitting me hard with this concept too, Jason. It’s part of the reason why I’m reading this book so slowl…I have much to digest and repent.
    While I know none of us will perfect holiness, I want to dig deeper in my walk with God. I want my heart and motives to be pure. I don’t want “cruise control” faith.

    At the same time I’m reading this I’m also reading “Back to Joy” by Toni M. Daniels and it’s helping me see where some of my performance based mentality began in my childhood and to realize how God is working in our pain.

    • That’s interesting because I’m in a similar journey. I read a book on parenting (of all things) and began to see that the way I was raised and methods of discipline used really established the “performance is king” mentality in me. The problem is, of course, when I don’t perform as I think I should, I feel terrible (and that’s putting it mildly) which leads to other defeatist behavior. My goodness. God has a lot to work on, but I’m so thankful He faithfully commits and invites us to do the same. Thanks so much, TC.

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