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Preacher Charles Spurgeon has an old sermon anecdote that goes like this:
There was a king who ruled over everything in a land. One day there was a gardener who grew an enormous carrot.
He took it to his king and said, “My lord, this is the greatest carrot I’ve ever grown or ever will grow; therefore, I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.”
The king was touched and discerned the man’s heart, so as he turned to go, the king said, “Wait! You are clearly a good steward of the earth. I want to give a plot of land to you freely as a gift, so you can garden it all.” The gardener was amazed and went home rejoicing. But there was a nobleman at the king’s court who overheard all this, and said, “My! If that is what you get for a carrot, what if you gave the king something better?”
The next day the nobleman came before the king while leading a handsome black stallion. He bowed and said, “My lord, I breed horses, and this is the greatest horse I’ve ever bred or ever will; therefore, I want to present it to you as a token of my love and respect for you.” But the king discerned his heart and said, “Thank you,” and took the horse and dismissed him. The nobleman was perplexed, so the king said, “Let me explain. That gardener was giving me the carrot, but you were giving yourself the horse.”
What is the moral of the story? Although it is possible to have the right method, the LORD is more concerned with the right motive.
Hosea 6:6 declares the LORD desires mercy, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. This means people can do the right things and be the wrong person. What distinguishes someone as right or wrong has nothing to do with methods and everything to do with motive.
It is no mistake Jesus preaches not everyone will enter the Kingdom of heaven, “but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”
He declares He will tell many, “I never knew you, depart from Me”—the loss of enteral life. In John 17 He defines eternal life—“know God, the one true God, and His Son whom He sent.”
Salvation is to know Jesus. This is not merely doing something under God, for many people have brought burnt offerings when the LORD really wanted knowledge of Him. This is not merely being with God, for Judas was around Jesus yet not a part of Jesus, and the devil was kicked out of Heaven because he was filled with hell. Salvation is being for God.
This is the Apostle Paul declaring his ambition of pulpits is to “preach Jesus.” This is Joshua declaring to a nation how his house will be governed, “we will serve the Lord.” This is David in earnest desire of purity asking God, “search my heart, oh God, to see there is no evil within me.”
The people that please God, the runners who finish the race, the ones who enter through the narrow gate, bear the good fruit, and build a house upon solid rock are not the ones with right methods; they are the people with unchanging, right motive.
Motive determines our rightness with God, and motive can best be defined as, “Why do you do the things you do and who do you do them for?”