Right Motives, Wrong Motives

By Hank Blok

Honestly ask yourself this question, “Am I a real disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ?” There are a number of motives for being His disciple, and the signs of a sincere devotee will be very different from the individuals with ambitions that lead ultimately to a disappointed soul. Are you enjoying walking with the Lord now, or are you simply facing disappointment? 

Right Motives
Some important qualities will be seen in a true follower having correct incentives:

  1. There will be an attraction to Him as the One who first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19).
  2. There will be a continuance in His fellowship, driven by the fact that the Lord Jesus Himself is precious to us individually (1 Pet. 2:7).
  3. There will be a following of His teachings and commandments because of our love for Him (Jn. 14:15) and because we have believed that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn. 14:6).
  4. There will be, when tempted to forsake Him and follow something or someone else, a realization that we have an anchor: “To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (see John 6:66-68 KJV).

These are the characteristics of a genuine disciple, a loving follower of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Wrong Motives 
There are many wrong motives for acting the “Christian” way. A person may be following Jesus Christ* for what they think they can get: a special family (the family of God), a “prestigious” job (such as a position within the local church), improved health or gaining wealth. These improper motives, even evident in the days of the Lord, have formed false disciples throughout Church history. Many who followed Jesus Christ wanted to make Him king – not because of His preciousness, but for what they thought they could get from Him (see John 2:23-25, 6:14-15).

Consider Judas Iscariot. What was his motive for following the Master? Was it money? He was a thief who held the moneybag and helped himself to what was inside (Jn. 12:6). Or was it power and popularity that he sought? Judas, after all, was numbered among the Lord’s twelve disciples who were sent forth to preach, heal sicknesses and cast out demons (Mk. 3:14-15). Whatever his motives, we can certainly say that Judas was not a true disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who knows the heart made a condemning statement about this imposter: “But there are some of you that believe not.” Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not and who it was that would betray Him (Jn. 6:64).

One of the Twelve and others in the early church professed that they knew God, but in their works they denied Him – “being abominable [detestable], and disobedient, and unto every good work, reprobate [worthless]” (Ti. 1:16). Is it any different today? Of course not! There are “Christians” who think they are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ but their obvious intentions suggest otherwise.

Consider those who follow the “prosperity gospel” – a “believe it/receive it” theology. Such a message must be feared as this so-called gospel is really only a means to an end: to gain the blessings of health and material goods. This teaching prevents the person from making Him Lord and from being the object of one’s affections as He becomes simply the means of, or way to, prosperity. Being a disciple of this philosophy may have its perceived rewards today even as it did in the days of the Exodus, as noted in Psalm 106:14-15: Then the Israelites “lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert, and He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.” Anyone following the person and teaching of Christ for what he can “get out of it” is certainly not a true disciple; he is spiritually famished.

There are other ways someone may follow in the Christian pathway and not be a true disciple of the Lord Jesus. Here are a few possible motives out of many:

  • It is done to please parents, friends or associates.
  • It has become a habit.
  • It provides a social network and sense of belonging.
  • It offers some prestige.

A Serious Consideration 
Whatever one’s purpose may be in following Christ, if it is not out of a pure attraction to the person, work and teaching of the Lord Jesus, it is a false motivation. That man or woman, boy or girl is not a true disciple.

The Lord Jesus set out a number of requirements for a genuine and satisfying discipleship:

  1. “If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Lk. 14:26). To understand this statement the meaning of the Greek word translated “hate” must be examined. The original Greek word is miseo, meaning “to love less” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). Therefore, our Lord is saying that anyone following Him, making a commitment to the Christian way of life, must love Him more than family and friends, and even life itself. Natural ties should not hinder or affect absolute devotion to our Savior and Lord.
  2. “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple” (v.27). It may not be an easy matter in this world to follow the rejected Christ, but it is well worth it to have Him as our soul’s delight. All other things, including hardship and material loss, can then be endured for His glory.
  3. “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be My disciple” (v.33). The Lord Jesus deserves, and should have, the preeminent place in our hearts. Material wealth can be a great obstacle to an undivided motive (see Matthew 19:16-23). 
  4. “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:31-32). Continuance is the sign of a true disciple. Where this is not seen in one’s life, that person’s salvation may even be questioned – “Was it an actual conversion or simply an empty profession?” It must be noted, however, that a true Christian cannot lose their salvation (Jn. 10:28-30; Rom. 8:28-39).

But how can people tell if someone is a believer? The Bible says that they judge us by our fruit (Mt. 7:15-23). Where there is no fruit in a person’s life, that individual must examine himself or herself in humble confession, either toward restored discipleship or to salvation through repentance and receiving Christ Jesus as Lord.

A Heart Check 
Let us take a moment to examine ourselves, checking our motives for being a disciple of the Lord Jesus. Do we have:

  • A real attachment to the person of our Lord and Savior for who He is in Himself? This would be the number one reason for any and all of the following actions.
  • A constant communion with Him in prayer, along with personal and group Bible study?
  • A desire, willingness and courage to do His will?
  • A seeking of direction from above, committing each day and action to Him? Much of the direction for happy Christian living will be found from our daily times of prayer and Bible study.
  • A manner of life that brings glory to the Lord Jesus Christ? This will be an automatic result when occupied in doing the other items listed above through His power.

Oh, might we be genuine devotees indeed!

A Personal Experience 
When I was a young child I came to the Savior for what I could get from Him. He was my “fire escape from hell”! At that time He became my Savior, but I did not become a conscientious disciple until some time later. Thankfully, through the years He has become precious to me. I now know that I love Him and seek to follow Him for who He is. May the Lord Jesus Himself and all He has done continually be my reason to love Him. My desire is that He would be the attraction of your heart as well – being a sincere disciple of the “altogether lovely” One (Song 5:16). He, Himself, will then be the motive to observe His teachings and follow in the whole doctrine of the Christ as recorded throughout the Scriptures. 

A final encouragement for a disciple of the Lord Jesus comes directly from the Word of God. The Bible speaks to each of us individually when it says, “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Ps. 37:4). Don’t be surprised that when we truly delight in Him He will give us the gift of Himself, and He – the Lord Jesus Christ – will be that delight of our hearts. He is the greatest reward of genuine discipleship (Gen. 15:1)!

* The title “Lord Jesus Christ” is not used here, as a false disciple has not made Him “Lord” in their hearts.