It may seem strange but a good quality or behavior can actually become a means of leaving God out of our lives. We have recognized that in ourselves.
I, Kathy, love being seen as dependable. Early in life, to try to protect me from some painful things, I decided, “I will never be seen as a liar, so I will be dependable. I’ll protect my image.” Did I say those actual words? No, but that was the motive of my heart and my behavior followed suite. Many years later as a Christian, I would sacrifice obeying God if it meant appearing undependable to others.
I, Larry, had my own self-protective plan of being seen as knowledgeable. Could be a good idea except that my motive was to appear persuasive because then I seemed powerful. I tried to prevent anyone seeing me as weak because I appeared weak as a teenager. But making sure I’m seen as knowledgable doesn’t look to God to provide my value. It disregards my inheritance in Christ and tries to control other people’s opinions of me.
Here are some other examples of mixed motives. Someone might turn generosity into a self-protective strategy to earn the applause from others—rather than God. Another person could love to give compliments (which seems positive) but she turns it into a sinful strategy because in her heart of hearts she wants to hear a compliment about herself.
Only God knows a person’s heart. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). That’s also why we can’t judge another person’s behavior. We don’t know their heart condition and motive. And we must seek the Spirit’s enlightenment to recognize our own motives.
To get to the core of what motivates us, we must recognize the way each behavior choice diminishes—or even destroys—our dependence upon God. Then we can get to the root of our own sinful plans and turn to God. Paul warns the Corinthians believers, “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Cor. 2:11). The NASB even uses the word “schemes” for the word “designs.” We must heed the Apostle Paul’s warning in order to strengthen our hearts to recognize the ways we are deceived by Satan’s schemes.
How about you? Can you see any way that what you value about yourself is actually a means to receive what you believe you need? And as a result, you don’t look to God to provide or protect you?
God wants to be your everything. Ask Him to reveal anything that isn’t as pure as you think. Your heart will feel like a fresh breeze has swept through it cleansing and purifying.
(This is an excerpt from our book Never Ever Be the Same: A New You Starts Today