In chapter three of Fights Clubs: Gospel-Centered Discipleship, author Jonathan Dobson (the Lead Pastor of Austin City Life Church) turns to the proper motives (motivation) for discipleship.
In the opening paragraph he writes . . .
In contrast, Jesus incessantly emphasized the importance of motives: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luk 6:45). Jesus taught his disciples, not merely to do good, but that true goodness comes from the heart. Why the heart? In Jewish theology, the heart encompassed the mind, will, and emotion. It was the motivational center for human action (cf. Gen 6:5; Deut 6:5; 1 Sam 12:8; Ps 51:7; Prov 4:23; Act 16:15; Rom 10:9; Heb 4:12). As Jesus points out, our hearts are a treasure trove of motives, whether good or evil. Therefore, if we want to bear the good fruit of Christian discipleship, it follows that we must pay attention to our heart motivations. It is here, in our motives, where following Jesus really begins. Our motives are more important than our actions. [p. 23]
In the rest of the chapter Dobson will articulate what he believes to be three proper and overlapping areas of motivations for sincere discipleship: Religious Affections, the Gospel, and the Holy Spirit.
First, building on Jonathan Edwards’ work on Religious Affections . . .
Religious affections are heart-generated appetites for the triune God. They compel us to follow Jesus, not because we have to, but because we get to. Religious affections motivate obedience to Jesus as Lord, not out of religious duty, but out of a foundational delight in Jesus. [p. 24]
What Edwards was talking about is genuine affection, sincere adoration that changes our behavior. Do you long for Christ? Do you talk to him? Do you spend time with him? Do you trust him with the outcome of your life, job, and family? God-honoring disciples are motivated by holy affection for God. [p. 25]
Second, the study and understanding of God’s Word, it’s promises and warnings – he calls this the Gospel (not in the normal understanding of the Gospel, but the Gospel in the sense that it is the entire Bible) . . .
To summarize, the motivation of the gospel is expressed through warnings and promises, which are characterized by religious affections (holy fear and Christ-centered joy), which in turn motivate repentance and faith. Keller makes this clear when he writes: “In the gospel the purpose of repentance is to repeatedly tap into the joy of union with Christ in order to weaken our need to do anything contrary to God’s heart” (emphasis added). The purpose of repentance is to lead us into true joy! This intoxicating joy of the Lord exposes our lesser joys for what they are—false and empty. Faith leads us into the reward of God’s good and true promises thereby magnifying God as our greatest good. Repentance and faith form the bridge that leads us away from union with false gods or promises and into the promise of joyful union with the one true God. This is a gospel that motivates the life of a disciple of Jesus! [p. 29]
And finally, Dobson stresses the role of the Holy Spirit, and the often neglected place He has in our understanding of discipleship . . .
But where does the power to believe God’s promises and to desire him come from? How do we get religious affection? Perhaps the most neglected motivation for Christ-imitating obedience is the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. [p. 29]
The Spirit regenerates us so that our lifeless hearts can beat for God in a life of obedient worship and adoration of the one true God in Christ. The Gospel gives us both the Son and the Spirit in order to honor the Father. In short, because the Spirit makes us new we can have affectionate faith in Jesus that is demonstrated in a life of God-honoring discipleship. [p. 31]
Are you trusting the Spirit’s leading in your current circumstances? Are you suffering in your own strength? What false promises are you being tempted to believe? What true promises has God given you to fight the fight of faith with? Without reliance on the Spirit and knowledge of God’s Word, we will be pounded in the wilderness of our temptations by the onslaught of the world, the flesh and the devil. We need the power and strength of the Holy Spirit with us and for us in the good fight of faith. God has supplied all that we need for life and godliness in his precious and magnificent promises, promises that erupt with power when we rely upon the Spirit. [p. 35]
In the book, this is the longest chapter and Dobson goes into a lengthy explanation of how the Spirit enables us to fight the battle of discipleship. He does an excellent job of illustrating how this works through showing how the Spirit empowered Jesus for ministry. I strongly recommend you go back and read this chapter carefully. You can download the entire book here >>>
3 John 8