￼The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?
Your state of mind, your very thoughts, and the motives behind your actions are as important as your actions themselves. Remember, the word of God tells us that who we are is determined by what we continually think:
Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee. (Proverbs 23:6-7)
Who we are always influences what we do, and what we produce. Whales don’t climb trees, and lions don’t give birth to grasshoppers. The thoughts of our heart, the deeper counsel of our mind, is where our true motives lie. One prominent business leader once said that people usually have two reasons for what they do: the real reason, and one that sounds good. This may sound cynical, but an unfortunate reality is that many do not have the purest motives, and many among us have often deceived ourselves into believing the reason that sounds good.
Contemporary society constantly urges people to “follow your heart,” and yet here we can see that doing so is an unwise choice. Indeed, for those of us who serve in leadership, following the heart can be disastrous. Never forget what happened when Saul chose to follow his own reasoning rather than to obey the Word of the Lord.
And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. ( 1 Samuel 15:22-23)
Saul felt he had accomplished he desired result: the conquest of the Amalekites, and the destruction of their cities, and like Saul, many of us can often lose God’s true direction because of results which appear to be good, or even are good. However, motives are most often revealed in the process, and not in the result. Saul had claimed that the best of the goods of the Amalekites had been kept to sacrifice to God -- a reason that sounds good. He had even taken the King of the Amalekites captive, which would seem a sure sign of a victorious military campaign. However, Saul then admits that he had made this decision to please the people-- the real reason. In the end, it not only cost Saul his crown and his life, but it also placed the nation itself in danger some time. It was an Amalekite who claimed to have slain Saul and who brought Saul’s crown and bracelet to David (2 Samuel 1: 1-13).
Apparently, in the midst of gathering spoil and capturing Agag, Saul and his army had missed at least one Amalekite. When we move according to motives that are not directed by God, we may very well overlook things that will become a danger to us or to God’s people. Over 500 years later, Haman, a descendant of Agag (Esther 3:1) attempted to have all of the Jews slain throughout the Persian empire. The disobedience that inevitably arises from wrong motives can create long-term problems indeed!
We can avoid such disastrous disobedience by being accountable to God by measuring everything we do by His Word, which will come not only through careful, Spirit-directed study of the Bible, but also by adhering to it. Leaders throughout history have surrounded themselves with yes-men who will agree with them and support them even when they are wrong, and some among us even create an atmosphere in which anyone questioning us is sternly rebuked, marginalized, or even driven away by a variety of means. Now, there is no place for rebellion in the house of God, but we need to know the difference between a rebel and someone who loves us and our vision enough to tell us that we are wrong. After all, the Bible tells us that there is safety in the multitude of counsellors, not yes-men.
A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength. For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety. (Proverbs 24:5-6)
In all our decisions, it is vital that we examine ourselves and know that we are acting according to God’s direction. Our most certain litmus test for our motives is the word of God:
Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:11-12)
How often do we ask ourselves the question, “Will this decision labor to enter into the rest of God?” Is it conducive to His purposes? The Word of God needs to be the defining standard for our every thought and deed. If it is not, we will soon find ourselves falling pray to our own inadequacies, personal agendas, and worse, and in many cases we will find ourselves doing the work of the Lord for the wrong reasons, which will lead to an alienation from the Lord of the work.
If we understand the patterns of Scripture, we will also know that God does all things by His Word and by His Spirit. Therefore we must take heed to both if we are to rightly discern our own heart. Over the years, I have seen many a leader make terrible mistakes because he or she felt they had heard from “the Spirit” but had never measured what the thought they heard by the Word. The Holy Spirit will never contradict the Bible, and if we bear that in mind, we will be far less easily swayed by “good ideas” which seek to take the place of God ideas. It is also important to remember that the very source of our authority is our relationship to God, and the degree to which we have surrendered to Him is the degree to which we will be able to exercise genuine authority. There is he authority we have because of our call, and then there is the authority that comes from faithfulness in that call. Well-executed sermons, ministry networks, and a calendar full of speaking engagements are all fine, but they do not heal the sick, raise the dead, or cast out devils.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (Romans 8:14)
The hallmark of our sonship is in our obedience to the direction of the Holy Spirit. When it is His Spirit we follow, we can overcome our own human frailties and move according to God’s motives and not our own. As mentioned before, some have difficulty in distinguishing the voice of the Holy Spirit from so many other voices which strive for the attention of one’s soul. In recent years there have been “moves of God” so called by those who led them, but these “moves” often were clouded by controversies of greed, sexual sin, false prophecies, and the like. Rather than repent and seek after God’s way, many of us choose instead to believe the preposterous notion that “revival is messy,” or in what some call “holy chaos.”
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (1 Corinthians 14:33)
Confusion is NOT supposed to be part of revival! God is the author of peace, in all the churches of the saints. If there is disorder of any kind, we would do well to investigate its causes and deal with it thoroughly, because whatever we allow as leaders may be perceived as “approved” by God by those whom we lead, and that can give rise to all manner of problems, some of which can be very costly to the body as a whole. Think of the testimony that is borne to the lost by a revival in which there is adultery in the leadership, and once revealed, the adulterer abandons his wife and marries the mistress. How does this testify for the ministry of reconciliation?
Indeed, among the distinguishing characteristics of a genuine move of God is that God establishes order. Whether it was the issuing of the Law, the building of the Tabernacle and later the Temple, or the ministry of Jesus, chaos had no place in God’s doings with His people. However, when there are motives involved that are not of the Lord, there will be confusion, there will be chaos, and sin will rise to the surface, sooner or later, for the Bible tells us:
Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:13-15)
A persons own lust, their desire, be it sexual or otherwise, is what will draw them away from God and His direction. Once the wrong motives have been entertained and the decision is made to follow them, sin is the result, and sin leads only to death. How many ministries have met their spiritual death through impure motives? However, the greater danger does not lie in the “falling apart” of a ministry, but rather the ministry which continues to apparently flourish while pursuing motives that are not of God presents the greater peril. Particularly in the western world, where “success” has been elevated to that status of godhood, continued acceptance and popularity can turn a potentially world-changing ministry into a formidable tool of the enemy through watered-down doctrine and the evil influences upon the people that come from corrupted vessels.
When one’s motives do not stem from Godly character and the righteousness of God, corruption will take root, and infiltration by the enemy is an inevitable result. Before Judas ever thought to betray Jesus, he was corrupt. He expressed outrage at the ointment poured on Jesus not being sold to give to the poor (a reason that sounds good), but in truth he was a thief, and also happened to be the one who carried the money (John 12:4-6). Eventually, Satan enters into Judas, and he betrays the Savior for a mere 30 pieces of silver. In the end, any motives we have apart from the Holy Spirit’s direction, no matter what the apparent result of their pursuit, will be equally trifling in value compared to what God desires for us.