Are My Motives Clean?


Have you ever held back from serving the Lord because of fear that your motives weren?t pure?? Maybe you were thinking about praying out loud in a group setting, but then thought, I just want to sound good and impress people ? I shouldn?t pray with that kind of attitude. Or you were about to share an insight that came to you during a Bible study discussion. You almost opened your mouth, but then couldn?t quite bring yourself to actually speak up. It?ll sound like I?m showing off ?and it?s not that important anyway.

The examples could go on and on: sharing the gospel with your neighbor, playing on the worship team at your church, giving your testimony in public, writing that book you?ve been thinking about for years ? all of these potentially good works can, and I?m afraid often do, get put on the back shelf to die a long, slow death while we try to get our motives completely clean.

If you ever done or thought something along those lines, I have good and bad news for you. Let?s get the bad news out of the way first: your motives will never be pure. You will always be tempted in some way by pride when you step out in service or some good work for the kingdom of God. That?s the reality of being saints who simultaneously have God-given desires to bear fruit (see John 15:16, Eph. 2:10, 2 Thess. 1:11) and also remaining sin that taints our good deeds.

But here?s the good news: Jesus cleanses our acts of service. It is through Him that we offer ?spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God? (1 Peter 2:5). Listen to John Owen?s words about how Jesus purifies our spiritual offerings:

The Lord Christ first, as our high priest, bears the iniquity, the guilt, and provocation [of our best duties]; and not only so, but he washes away all their filth and defilements?Whatever is of the Spirit, of himself, of grace ? that remains; whatever is of self, flesh, unbelief? ? that he consumes, wastes, takes away?The saints? good works shall meet them one day with a changed countenance, that they shall scarce know them: that which seemed to them to be black, deformed, defiled, shall appear beautiful and glorious. (Communion with the Triune God, p. 292)

I?m convinced that Satan, the enemy of our souls who opposes every advance of God?s kingdom, rejoices at how many of us stay on the sidelines because of fear that our motives aren?t pure. Yes, we must watch our hearts and be open to the Holy Spirit?s conviction when pride becomes our dominant motive. But don?t buy the lie that one day pride will be totally dead and you can serve without any trace of self-seeking in your heart.

Here?s what I suggest. When you?re wondering whether you should step out and act but analyzing your motives, ask yourself this question: will what I?m about to do glorify God and bless others? If the answer is yes, do it ? even if your motives aren?t 99.4% Ivy soap pure. Trust the work of Jesus to cleanse your good works, take your eyes off of yourself, and then step out in faith to serve others. It?s what you were created to do!


Never Miss Any Goodness

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  • Trill N. says:

    One of the many reasons I am thankful for you Stephen!! Amen! Oh how I hope this penetrates the hearts of Christians everywhere. As well as my own heart. What a temptation we have to fear our own sinning and fear others. What freedom we have in Christ to walk out our faith trusting His finished work on the Cross and that we have forgiveness and by His grace we CAN bring him glory. He glorifies himself! I needed this (yesterday) but glad I saw it today!!

  • Courtney says:

    Ben Franklin had an autobiography where he studied the virtues and kept tabs on how he tried to live with more virtue and less vice. He pointed out that he could tip the scales towards virtue, if it were not for the pride that would well up in his heart the moment the scales tipped.

  • Stephen Altrogge says:

    Thanks Trill! Actually this post was written by my friend Josh Blount, so he's the one you should be thanking!

  • Josh says:

    That's a good example of an unbeliever well aware of the persistence of pride…thanks Courtney!

  • Rebecca says:

    Thanks Josh for an excellent post. In May of this year God placed it on my heart to read the Bible from cover to cover writing out all the verses that have the word love. I started finding verses this week and I love sharing what I have learned. I felt it might be prideful but your post reminded me I'm ok. I just finished Genesis and so far I have found 20 verses. So exciting! All on diffreant types of love. I love sharing what I have learned with my family.

  • Mike K says:

    If I could chime in with a counterpoint to this…I think this is more of a factor when one takes a more introspective view of oneself. If we continually look inward we will most certainly second guess our motives. But, if we look outward to serving others and less at ourselves, we will most likely move with the power of the Holy Spirit rather than the spirit of ourselves.

    If we continually look inward, I think we make assessing our motives a doctrine rather than a practice.

    My 2 cents!! Good day folks!!

  • Trill N. says:

    Hey Josh. Thank you for writing!! I appreciated this piece.

  • Josh says:

    You're welcome! And that sounds like a great study.

  • Josh says:


    Well said. Introspection can be a slippery slope. I think you're right about looking outwards towards others' needs rather than inward to our motives. Thanks for chiming in!


  • Josh says:


    You're welcome! Glad it was helpful!


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