Summary: Discerning your reasoning for being a Christian.
What is your motivation with Jesus?
Have you ever noticed some things in the world look the same? Have you watched the winter Olympics? On the downhill slope ski slope all participants look exactly the same. They will each ware a white helmet, blue uniform and a white vest that said Vancouver. Alligators and crocodiles look a lot alike. There are even citrus trees that produce sweet and sour oranges. And they also look alike.
But on each of these I mentioned, there is something that sets them apart. Each of them is distinctive in some way you just have to know what to look for. The sweet and sour oranges even though they look alike have different peels and leaves. The alligator and a crocodile their differences are in their teeth and snout. Even the winter Olympic participants had distinguished markings on their uniform to let you know what country they represent.
As church members to the outside world we all look the same. But the truth is when looked at closely we’re all different. I believe we can discern the difference of churchgoers by asking one simple question, “If hell didn’t exist, would I follow Jesus?”
John writes in chapter four starting in verse 16b through 18, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in Him. 17 in this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment, because in this world we are like Him. 18 there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. Though one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
We could ask the question this morning in a different way. Instead of if hell didn’t exist, would I follow Jesus to; what is my motivation for following Christ. Is it only to avoid hell or do I have other reasons? I believe that the majority of us will identify with one of the two categories this morning. Maybe, even both of these are motivators for you to follow Christ.
Motivation #1: Very simply, we don’t want to go to hell. We believe what the bible says about sin. We have all sinned and fall short of God’s Glory. And the result of our sin is that we are separated from God, and the ultimate consequence of that separation is hell. The solution is to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died to reconnect us with God so that we do not go to hell when we die. Does any of that sound familiar to you today? Are you afraid of hell? I certainly am, and many times it is a motivating factor in my life.
But what are the results of living this way, motivated to follow Christ because of fear? I want to share some of the results that I saw in my own life as long as avoiding hell was my motivation for following Christ. I think we can best compare this type of living to the way that we drive on our roads. We know there is a speed limit, and we sure don’t want to get a ticket. So for the most part we try to follow the speed limit. But what that really means is that we go by the 5 over rule. If it is a 25 area, we can go 30. Or if it is the highway, we go by the 5 to 10 over rule. Or if we are on a long trip, and we want to save time, we go by the 10-15 over rule. You see we still want to drive as fast as possible, yet we take some steps to avoid getting a ticket.
As humans who don’t want to go to hell, so we become Christians who follow Jesus just enough. Just like we follow the speed limits just enough not to get a ticket. We end up doing just the minimum that is required to avoid hell because that is our only motivation.
So what is wrong with that? The first thing that makes me nervous is that I don’t see a list anywhere in the Bible that is titled “The Minimum Requirements.” I see the Ten Commandments, but not a list of the minimum requirements that we try to get away with. Secondly, allow me to illustrate the concept this way. Does Jesus enjoy being followed only because we don’t like the other option? What if your spouse told you they married you because they didn’t have any better options? You came along and weren’t exactly what they wanted, but their clock was ticking, and so they said, ok, I never know if anything better will come along. Tee if that is why you married me, I don’t want to know the truth.