What motivates you to choose to do right when the temptation to lie, to cheat, to get angry or to be jealous is strong? What goes through your mind in those mini-seconds before you actually say hurtful or unkind words? What helps you to apologize, to confess, to speak words of kindness rather than to simply be silent? When do you experience the strength to be non-judgmental rather than the opposite?
The writers of the letters in the New Testament had some practical advice for those new believers. They often suggested that it would be “the fear of the Lord” that would motivate them, and us, to live in a way that would be honoring to Jesus. In fact, Paul said to the Corinthians, “Let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. Let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.” Surprisingly that word for “fear” is the one that means “to be afraid of or to feel terror”. There is a sense in which, while it is totally Biblical to stand in reverential awe of God, there is also the need to understand clearly that He does not take sin lightly or withhold His judgment from those who turn their back on Him. His desire for His people to live holy lives is clear. While we can never earn His love and His forgiveness, we certainly are called on to take His invitation to obey and to surrender very seriously. The fear of His displeasure can be a strong and helpful motivator!
You can’t do it on your own all the time! But you can remind yourself that in your weakness, the Holy Spirit will enable you to do what is right, to say what is good, to forgive and be forgiven, and to live out the kind of love that Jesus has given to you! The words “well done” will make it worth it all.