Motives for Christian living

Jesus said: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

John 14:15.

The Lord Jesus Christ tells us that “If anyone loves Me he will keep My words, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our abode with him” Jn 14:23.

Experiencing the love of God is a strong motive to Christian living. God the Father notices those who love Jesus and who treasure His words.


The primary motive for Christian living is love to God, followed closely by love to one’s neighbour. This is intimately associated with loving oneself “for no man ever yet hated his own flesh” Eph 5:29.


The reason for this love is gratitude to God for giving me my being and for loving me as a sinner in such a way as to give His only begotten Son to save me from my sins Jn 3:16, to reconcile me to His fellowship, to give me eternal life and reserve a place in heaven for me 1Pe 1:4.

“We love Him because He first loved us.”

1John 4:19

Fear of offending

Love is a great incentive to Christian behaviour. A young man in love with a young woman wants to please her and not to do anything to offend her. He is afraid of offending her. This is the concept in godly fear. It goes beyond reverence.


A child wants to please its parents. The biblical concept of fearing God is like the reverence a person should show to one’s father, as well as the love to one’s mother, not wishing to shame them, nor to disappoint them, but to respect and honour them. “Honour thy father and thy mother” Ex 20:12, the first commandment with a promise Eph 6:2.

However, there are multiple factors in life competing for one’s affections and it is a grief to the godly when they backslide, that they have allowed other factors to take priority in their affections. Therefore, there are other motives to Christian behaviour.

Fatherly teaching

The book of Proverbs is full of fatherly advice from wise king Solomon, especially to young people. He warns them not to neglect parental advice and to seek the spiritual wisdom that comes from God’s Holy Spirit through the Bible. It has been often noted that there are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs and one can read a chapter for each day of the month. Jesus used this book, and its teaching can be seen in His teaching.

Fatherly chastisement

The book of Proverbs reminds us of the concept of fatherly chastisement, expanded by the apostle Paul in Heb 12:5-12. This teaches that the Lord chastises His own children, which questions the spiritual condition of those who are not learning from His Word and Providence. Those who do not learn, who are not corrected, are manifesting that they are not his children, because God corrects every one of them Heb 12:8.

Usefulness in Christian service

Christian usefulness is a powerful motive for Christian living. It deserves a separate blogpost, but here I simply mention it. The Lord wants fruitful branches in His Vine Jn 15:1-8. Backsliding Christians need to attend to themselves before they can be much use to others. Backsliding and Christian usefulness are inversely related to each other.

The rewards for Christian service are literally “out of this world”, although sometimes there are copious rewards even in this life. There are definite rewards for all the godly, “having promise of the present life, as well as that which is to come” 1Tim 4:8. This is a powerful motive to Christian living.

Loss of usefulness is a painful thing for Christians to bear, but it has often been the experience of even godly prophets Ezk 2:5 and Ezk 33:33. Even Jesus had to experience it Isa 49:3-5 and Mk 6:4, although this earthly experience does not take away from the heavenly reward. The Christian evangelist is not the loser, but those who did not respond to the Gospel are the losers.

Biblical passages to consider

Tit 2:11-14 and 2Pe 1:4-11 may spur you on to Christian service but there are many more biblical passages to consider, such as the familiar but poorly understood Lord’s Prayer, which I hope to explain sometime. There are so many useful passages that Scripture guides us to read and study a portion of it each day Ps 1:2.

Christian brethren

We should encourage each other and be encouraged by faithful Christian examples. Peter asked Jesus about the apostle John: “What shall this man do?” Jesus replied: “What is that to thee? Follow thou Me!” Jn 21:21-23. Let us learn from Jesus.

“Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works.”

Hebrews 10:24

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