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Motives Matter

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

Many of us already live in ways that do not conform to the pattern of this world, making alternative choices about work, education, family life or civic life in response to God’s call as we have discerned it. It is vitally important for us to put our faith into practice in these ways. The practices of homeschooling, homesteading, living more by gift and less by money, and making time to be a good neighbor have transformed my life and sometimes been of service to my neighbors as well. The outward actions are important; I think I’ve always known that. Lately I have also begun to understand that they are not enough. Transformation, the renewing of our minds, requires us to examine our motives as well as our actions.

I may help my neighbors because I love and am concerned for them, or because this is what God calls me to do, or because I want to please and impress the people around me. If I do it for the latter reason, then when people reject my help, or take it and then are unkind to me, or think I should have been doing something more impressive with my life, I become embittered and am strongly tempted to stop caring. If I am acting out of love for God and my neighbors I may still feel frustrated, but I won’t stop doing what I need to do.

I can learn to do more basic sustenance work in solidarity with my neighbors, or in an attempt to live with integrity, or with the assumption that I can somehow keep myself and my loved ones safe in my own strength if I just learn the right skill set. In the latter case, I will be devastated when I make a mistake, or when things turn out wrong in spite of my best efforts, because I have put my faith in myself and been let down. In the former case, my faith remains in God, not in myself, and I can bear my failures and shortcomings and keep on working as well as I know how to, knowing the result is in God’s hands.

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Today in Christian History

June 16th

1539 – German Reformer Martin Luther declared: ‘Faith justifies not as a work, nor as a quality, nor as knowledge, but as assent of the will and firm confidence in the mercy of God.’

1654 – Queen Christina, a convert to Roman Catholicism, abdicated her Swedish throne to devote the remainder of her life to religion and art.

1752 – Death of Joseph Butler, Anglican theologian. His 1736 ‘Analogy of Religion’ demonstrated the strong probability for the existence of a caring God over against that of a disinterested Creator Deity.

1804 – Anglican missionary to Persia, Henry Martyn wrote in his journal: ‘My soul, alas, needs these uneasinesses in outward things, to be driven to take refuge in God.’

1833 – Anglican-turned-Catholic Cardinal John Henry Newman, while traveling on a ship from Italy to France, penned the words to the hymn, ‘Lead, Kindly Light, Amid the Encircling Gloom.’

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Source for Today in Christian History: www.studylight.org

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