Is seeking eternal life a selfish motive for following God?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

Question: Isn't seeking eternal life a selfish motive for following Christianity? Wouldn't it be purer if people just tried to be right with God rather than chasing after a particular benefit?

Answer: What an insightful question! And I applaud your interest in motivations. Too many people look at Christianity with a WIIFM (what’s-in-it-for-me) attitude, and eternal life certainly qualifies as such a benefit. Before we seek purer motives, however, we should check in with God to see how he defines when (or how) a person is right with him. I agree that seeking God’s will is more honorable than seeking his benefits, but seekers show wisdom by both pursuits.

God takes the values-conflict right out of the question because a person cannot get right with God without also receiving eternal life in the process. Believing in Jesus Christ is God’s will. Eternal life is a result — one which also happens also to be a benefit.

“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:40, ESV).

I find no problem with people coming to Christ as a result of his attractive benefits. What sane person does not want peace, meaning in life, or the surety of eternity in heaven? God’s word not only tells us to remember them, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2, ESV), but also often plainly describes them. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22–23, ESV). While born-again believers should read such verses with joy, the unsaved should read them with longing.

What Bible verse is more beloved of Christians than John 3:16?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  

God states his motive plainly: “For God so loved…” and in this, we find his supreme example. Peter goes on to capture both the practical and the heavenly benefits of love. “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8, ESV).

Love should be our motivator, too. After all, it was God's! And we cannot say that we love God without obeying his clearly stated will for us: Believe on Jesus Christ. Everyone who receives Jesus Christ as Savior receives eternal life, too—that's just how it works. For that life is in Christ, and when we receive him, we also receive what's inside of him. Jesus Christ and eternal life cannot be separated. 

“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:11–13, ESV).

My suggestion is for you to put first things first, and allow God's benefits to fall into place naturally (or supernaturally, actually). Relax and enjoy your eternal life.

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