Does the fear of hell or the threat of God's punishment motivate you to obey him?

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yoyoceramic

Puritan Board Freshman
I am trying to distill what motivates the Christian to obey God. I run with a group of believers who emphasize (correctly) that the Lord is to be feared, and his precepts are to be obeyed. He is the Lord our God! They will then go on to say that it is God's power to condemn people to hell and punish wickedness which should motivate the Christian to obey and fear God.

When I think of verses such as Romans 12:1 which inform us to sacrifice our lives in view of God's mercy, Romans 6:15-23 which make it clear that we have been set free from the slavery of sin to become slaves of obedience, and the beginning of Romans 5:9-11 which makes it clear we no longer fear the wrath of God, I am persuaded that it is grace and mercy which give move the Christian with great thankfulness and create a desire within him to please God.

Perhaps I am missing some of the argument and you can help me. How does the fear of God and his grace intersect to give the Christian (who has received the ability to worship and love Him) great desire to worship and love him? Should the fear of hell animate the Christian in any way?
 

jambo

Puritan Board Senior
Out of the love that comes from a new heart is what motivates the Christian to obey God. It is not just love but indeed all the gifts of the Holy Spirit that combine to enable us to serve. Love may be that which motivates (love for God, for his glory, for his word, his church everything about him) but it is joy which acts as oil in our service. We are reminded that mans chief end is to glorify God and to ENJOY him forever.

"If I do this then God won't punish me." Is actually a selfish love (and could it even be called love?) as we do things in order to make things easier for ourselves rather than with any love and affection. Those who think like this may think the opening answer to the shorter catechism as man's chief end is to glorify God and to ENDURE him forever. Likewise with our children, we want our own children to respect and fear us as parents but we do not want them to do things simply to avoid being punished. We want them to do things out of love and affection.

I sometimes think defective evangelism focuses on hell and God's punishment to such a degree that people try to scare others into the kingdom and to scare people in acts of obedience. This tends to lead to a dry fearful legal service instead of a loving dynamic service for him.
 

yoyoceramic

Puritan Board Freshman
Stuart, thank you very much for the time you took to give that response. The thought:
Likewise with our children, we want our own children to respect and fear us as parents but we do not want them to do things simply to avoid being punished. We want them to do things out of love and affection.
was great. Thanks
 

CharlieJ

Puritan Board Junior
We ought to regard God's chastisement and, out of love, be mortified at the prospect of displeasing him. However, one who considers himself to be in Christ ought never to obey out of fear of damnation or hell. Such a fear does not arise from Christ and is the fear of a slave, not a son. It is a striving to justify self rather than resting on Christ's righteousness. Such obedience does not proceed from faith and so cannot please God. Edward Fisher's A Marrow of Modern Divinity addresses this question at length. My advice is to buy the book (it's one of the most important theological works ever written anyway) and take it to heart.
 

yoyoceramic

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you for the book recommendation, Charlie. I notice on Google books it is in full form - I will check it out. Thanks.
 

dudley

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Out of the love that comes from a new heart is what motivates the Christian to obey God. It is not just love but indeed all the gifts of the Holy Spirit that combine to enable us to serve. Love may be that which motivates (love for God, for his glory, for his word, his church everything about him) but it is joy which acts as oil in our service. We are reminded that mans chief end is to glorify God and to ENJOY him forever.

"If I do this then God won't punish me." Is actually a selfish love (and could it even be called love?) as we do things in order to make things easier for ourselves rather than with any love and affection. Those who think like this may think the opening answer to the shorter catechism as man's chief end is to glorify God and to ENDURE him forever. Likewise with our children, we want our own children to respect and fear us as parents but we do not want them to do things simply to avoid being punished. We want them to do things out of love and affection.

I sometimes think defective evangelism focuses on hell and God's punishment to such a degree that people try to scare others into the kingdom and to scare people in acts of obedience. This tends to lead to a dry fearful legal service instead of a loving dynamic service for him.

I agree with Stuart when he said "If I do this then God won't punish me." Is actually a selfish love"...."Those who think like this may think the opening answer to the shorter catechism as man's chief end is to glorify God and to ENDURE him forever. Likewise with our children, we want our own children to respect and fear us as parents but we do not want them to do things simply to avoid being punished. We want them to do things out of love and affection."

My conversion from roman catholic to Reformed Protestant showed me that I now do good works because of my love and affection for a sovereign and loving God and His saving Son Jesus Christ. When I was a roman catholic most of the good works were done to save myself I thought and only because of the fear of Hell, not out of Love for a merciful God. Now I do good and am a Christian and live as a Christian out of love and affection for a merciful God who has saved me from hell, not out of the fear of Hell.
 

HoldFast

Puritan Board Freshman
Our (believers) position in Christ is perfect. We should not fear Hell because it has no power over God's own people. We should however fear the Lord Our God in reverence of His power and holiness.

In reverence and love of our Lord we are motivated to obey Him. It was our Lord Jesus who said if we love Him we will keep His commandments.

I do at times find myself in fear of the chastening and disciplining of God because I know what I deserve for my sin and stupidity. But our God is good and in His goodness I find strength and in our advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous, I find forgiveness. I obey God not because I fear His chastening but because I love Him for dying for my sins and delivering me out of darkness.
 
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