The Right Motive

If we believe that God looks on the heart rather than on the outward appearance, it is vitally important that our service should be inspired by right motives. The wealthy donors in the temple treasury with their apparently generous gifts excited the interest of the onlookers. But the Lord Jesus was not impressed by the men of wealth, for he was watching a poor widow whose two cents meant infinitely more to God than the ostentatious giving of the Pharisees. It was not the size of the gift that counted, but rather the attitude of love which inspired it. Crossing the ocean to take the gospel to other lands does not automatically indicate a life that is wholly consecrated and pleasing to God. There may indeed be many different considerations which have prompted such action. Only God who examines the innermost thoughts knows whether or not the service springs from pure motives. What then is the supreme motive that should move Christians to give their lives to preach the gospel?<

All for the glory of God

To discover the answer we must turn to the One of whom the Father said, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." It was His last night on earth and as He prayed with His disciples He laid bare the deepest desires of His heart: "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do" (John 17:4). In these words our Lord revealed the passions of His life: that God might be glorified. How He hated the hypocrisy of those who piously expressed concern for God's glory even to the extent of traveling over "sea and land to make one proselyte," (Matt 23:15) when in reality they sought only to enhance their own reputation! Again and again He spoke to His disciples of the Father's glory. "Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matt 5:16). "This is to my Father's glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples" (John 15:8). It was this same burning desire that God should be exalted and given His rightful place among His people that prompted the Lord Jesus to drive out the money changers and merchants who were desecrating the House of Prayer with their fraudulent business. His disciples watched in awe and were reminded of the psalm, "Zeal for you house consumes me" (Psalm 69:9). As Paul waited at Athens his spirit was stirred when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. "Although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him...They...worshipped and served created things more than the Creator" (Romans 1:21,25). Many missionaries have felt like Paul as they have watched the devotees of some heathen religion prostrate themselves before idols. Other missionaries are just as outraged as they mingle with those who have cast God out of their thinking and worship only human achievement. A supreme desire for the exaltation of Christ manifested itself in all the preaching of the early disciples. They rejoiced exceedingly in the knowledge that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God and the Savior of all mankind. The majority of the people, however, only knew Him as the man of Galilee who had been despised and rejected, and crucified in weakness as a sinner. The disciples longed to defend His honor and vindicate His claims. And so with every opportunity they proclaimed the fact that "God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). Today we "see Jesus, crowned with glory." But by the multitudes whose minds have been blinded by the god of this world, Christ is still hated, despised or ignored. If our spirits are not stirred like Paul's with the passion that Christ be exalted, it is surely because of a lack of true spiritual loyalty on our part. It is tragically true that the consideration of the unevangelized millions does not create a sense of shame in the hearts of Christians today. Christ is not exalted in the dark places of the earth because we have failed to make Him known. If Christians throughout the world would say from the depths of their hearts, "be thou exalted," and then go forth with the good tidings, the task of world evangelization would soon be completed.

Our motive is love

Closely allied to this desire to see our Lord honored and glorified throughout the world is the motive of love. The first great commandment is that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind. This does not refer to a purely sentimental type of love; rather it refers to a willingness to give ourselves entirely to the One who "loved me and gave Himself for me." It involves a great desire to do His will and to satisfy Him. Such a love naturally leads to a consideration of His commandments and a set purpose to obey. F.B. Meyer tells of a conversation with C.T. Studd who went to China with the Cambridge Seven, that group of men whose departure for the mission field created such a stir at the end of the nineteenth century throughout England. One day before breakfast Meyer entered Studd's room and found Studd reading his Bible with the candles burning low the following conversation took place: "You have been up early, " I said to Charley Studd. "Yes," said he, "I got up at four o'clock this morning. Christ always knows when I have had sleep enough, and He wakes me to have a good time with Him." I asked him what he had been doing that morning and he replied, "You know the Lord says, 'If you love me, keep my commandments,' and I was just looking through all the commandments that I could find that the Lord gave and putting a tick against them if I had kept them, because I do love Him." Obedience is always the evidence of true love for God. This is clearly seen in the life of our Lord. He prayed, "not my will, but yours, be done." And He was obedient to death, "even death on a cross." What made Paul a missionary? Years after his conversion, he described how God had commanded him to go to the Gentiles; then he added, "I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision." The Acts of the Apostles is one long record of obedient witness. What caused Philip to leave the successful work in Samaria? "An angel of the Lord said to Philip, 'Go' and he went." How was Peter persuaded to overcome his Jewish prejudices and go to the home of a Gentile? "The Spirit said unto him, 'Behold, three men seek thee. Arise and go with them.'" And he went. Thus we see that the primary motive in missionary service is not a consciousness of a great need, but rather a sense of commision- Love manifesting itself through practical obedience.

The Urgency of Love

The second great commandment involves loving our neighbor as ourselves. How conscious we are of failure in this respect! If a neighbor has an accident we do not hesitate to go to help him. But when we realize that spiritually he is in danger of eternal death, we hesitate to point the way to eternal life. If we feel little concern for those who live on the mission field all around us, it is not surprising that the vision of millions perishing without Christ in other lands is dim and unreal. Once the issue was plain and simple. It was also extremely urgent. Every minute saw thousands slipping out into a Christless eternity. They had never heard the gospel; no one had shown them the way of life. But today the emphasis has changed. Old urgencies are denied or at least ignored. The Jerusalem Conference of the International Missionary Council stated: "Our fathers were impressed with the horror that men should die without Christ; we are equally impressed with the horror that they should live without Christ." This new attitude was not a complete denial of eternal values but it did indicate a definite shift from the incentive to preach a Gospel which saves from sin and eternal separation from God to an emphasis upon transforming present day society through the abundant life of Christ. This aspect of the truth must not be lost sight of, but the abundant life is only for those who recognize that all without Christ are dead in trespasses and sins. To many it would seem out of date to talk about the multitudes without Christ as those who are perishing and desperately need the message of salvation. Even among Christians who are strongly evangelical in their belief, there are those who no longer believe that the Christless multitudes are eternally lost. Perhaps unconsciously they have been influenced by the materialistic thinking and easy tolerance of the present generation. Too often it has led them to drift away from the confusion that caused the apostle Paul to say, "If our gospel be hid, it is hid from them that are perishing." Much confused thinking is caused by a failure to understand the teaching of Scripture on this subject. Some have thought that this doctrine suggests that a God of love would condemn a man because, through no fault of his own, he has never heard the good news of salvation through Christ. This, of course, is not what the Bible teaches. God never condemns a man for a crime he has not committed or holds him guilty for the breaking of a law which he has never heard. No man will ever be able to charge God with being unjust. The clearest statement of the principle of God's judgment is contained in John 3:19 "This it the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light."

None left without light

No man is left without a single glimmer of light. "God has not left Himself without witness," says the apostle Paul. "The heavens declare the glory of God." The physical universe all around indicates the existence of a Creator. "For ever since the creation of the world, God's invisible characteristics - His eternal power and divine nature have been made intelligible and clearly visible by His words so they are without excuse because, although they once knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give Him thanks, but became silly in their senseless speculations and so their insensible hearts have been shrouded in darkness" (Romans 1:18-21). This means that judgment will be passed upon all men because they have not lived up to the light that they received. They are not condemned because they have not heard about Christ but because they have sinned against a Holy God. On the other hand we may well be judged for not taking the gospel to them. This is not to suggest that non-Christians could save themselves by an effort to keep the law. It only shows that God is not unjust in pronouncing them guilty. It is indeed true that the Lord is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." His love embraces the whole of mankind and His forgiveness is free to all. If, through the negligence of those who are commanded to take the glad tidings of salvation to them, they still remain in ignorance and darkness, the responsibility for their sad plight cannot rest with a loving God but with those who have refuse to obey His command.

The real question: Our responsibility

We don't know how God meets every sincere seeker. There is much that is not revealed in Scripture and much that we cannot understand about God's dealing with man. Certain basic truths cannot be denied, and we dare not change them in order to provide a doctrine which will be more acceptable to human reason. Any doubt concerning God's love and righteousness makes us guilty of the sin of unbelief. Any suggestion that men and women may be saved apart from faith in Christ constitutes a denial of the divine necessity of efficacy of Christ's death. We must take our stand with the apostles who said, "And salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4: 12). And indeed our Savior stated this fact most clearly in the world, "No one comes to the Father except through me." We may well say that it is not fair that some people should have every opportunity to hear the good new while others are deprived of the light-giving message. But let us not blame God for this situation. Instead of endless discussion concerning what happens to the heathen who have never heard, it would be better to discuss what happens to the Christian who is unfaithful and does not discharge his responsibility to witness. "When I say to a wicked man, 'you will surely die,' and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood" (Ezekiel 3:18). Paul was deeply conscious of this fact and sought so to labor that no one could charge him with having withheld the Gospel. "I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God" (Acts 20:26-27). May we be able to stand as innocent as Paul, having done all we can to be a part of God's rescue operation. Our action should spring from our love for Christ, a growing jealousy for His name among the nations, and an enormous compassion for those outside the saving grace of that Name above all others. In the very last picture of Paul given us by Luke at the end of Acts we see him as a prisoner preaching the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus. Until the end of his life he was proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom which Christ had commanded his disciples to preach "in the whole world as a testimony to all nations." This concern for the coming of God's Kingdom is the basic motivation for all missionary service.

By David Adeney

Written by David Adeney