"Motive/Intent of the Heart" – Basic Building Block #8

Date: Feb 03, 2009    Posted By: Rick Warzywak



Observation:  The motives and intents of the heart regarding the choices we make must be clearly understood. We can easily deceive ourselves and live our lives in selfish pursuits while thinking we are serving the Lord. We must examine ourselves and ask why we are doing what we are doing. We must question the true purpose of our existence. So again, what is the real reason behind what we choose to do in life?

HEART:  This word in the New Testament has five meanings: the ability to choose; the ability to know what to choose; the seat of our affections and desires; our purpose in life; and finally, the literal physical heart in our human body.

MOTIVE: That which incites to action; that which determines the choice or moves the will.

INTENT: The stretching of the mind towards an object; design or purpose; ultimate end or aim.

CONDUCT: General behavior, course of action, act, or process of carrying on.

Scripture Study Reference #1

"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12)."

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24)."

Key Application Point:  The Word of God gives us a moral cardiogram of our heart!

    What is the reason for our existence?  Why do you occupy a space on planet Earth?  What is the purpose of life as you live each day?  Are you serving yourself and being governed by your appetites and affections, or are you living to serve God and others instead?  These can be very difficult areas to deal with as they can prick our conscience very deeply.  Jesus said to deny ourselves and pick up the cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24).  Jesus said to love God and our fellow man (Matthew 22:36-40) first and foremost.  The Word of God states to put others' interests ahead of our own (Philippians 2:3-5). We must allow the great physician, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit to search our hearts.

Point to Ponder:  Deception results from a lack of understanding of who Christ is and how He thinks. When we see and understand our present level of deception it brings humility, and that will result in us receiving grace from God.

    Jesus' word is like a mirror to our hearts (James 1:22-25).  Why do we look or gaze into mirrors? The reflection reveals flaws in our outward appearance.  We then proceed to comb our hair, put on our makeup, make sure our clothes look right, or whatever else.  The Bible reflects the deep, inner recesses of man's heart.  Every hidden part is opened and our motives and intents are exposed. This examination process can bring conviction of conscience, which may make us feel very uncomfortable, but is the pathway to true freedom.

Point to Ponder:  If you do not live what you preach to others you disqualify yourself from the high calling of God. You can only do His work when you are doing it with God, and not just for Him.



I was open-air preaching at Central Michigan University and many students were getting agitated by my presence. No matter how many "love" scriptures I would recite, they would seem to only hear the ones regarding the severity of God. Obviously, their consciences were being stirred. I received taunts and finger gestures, along with various obscenities cast my way. One young man was bold enough to pull down his pants in front of a large group of students and shake his shiny, white buttocks towards me. He had no shame, and was very angry at me. The party like mentality and carefree living were being challenged. The youthfulness these students possessed deceived them into thinking they were immortal.

I began to exhort, "What is the reason for your existence today? What are you truly living for? Why are you occupying space on planet Earth?" I knew these words were sinking deep into their spirits. These questions were provoking enough for them to question their existence, as I observed a change of demeanor in their faces. I asked, "What are you going to school for? You may say it is to graduate and find a good job. Then what? An answer may be to live the American dream, make good money, own your own home and marry and have children, while living life to the fullest. Then what? You may say you will retire. Then what? You will spend the money you have accumulated and travel the world. You will eat in fine restaurants and lay on sugar sand beaches. Then what? The final answer is that you will die. Then what? The Bible says you will face judgment. So why are you living and existing on this earth? Isn't there more to life than living for selfish purposes? What does God want and what does He require of you? What if it's true that you are accountable to Him, and the reason why and how you lived will be weighed?"

I have used this method of reasoning on every campus that I have set foot on. It brings forth a reality check on why we are living the way we are living. A seared conscience will ignore those words, but a heart that is willing to open up to the truth of God's Word will be affected.



"But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7)."

"I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings (Jeremiah 17:10-11)."

"As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever (1 Chronicles 28:9)."

KEY APPLICATION POINT: God looks at the heart and not the outward appearance!

    Holiness and moral character can only be determined by observing the motive or intent of the heart. Actions many times will not give us a true picture! Many have heard the story of Corrie Tenboom.  It was about a family who hid Jews from the Nazis so the Jews wouldn't be taken to concentration camps. This family was lying to the authorities and hiding Jews, which was against the law declared by the Nazis.  While the conduct was wrong (according to the existing law) their motive and intent were right, as they loved people and wanted to save the Jews.  Examine the same scenario and hypothetically say the Tenbooms were lying to the Nazis because the Jews they were hiding were very wealthy, and by hiding them they would receive a handsome monetary reward.  Then you would have wrong action coupled with a wrong motive.

Point to Ponder:  The only way we are able to walk in the light and truth is through exposure. When we allow our heart to be exposed, then fellowship with God will manifest.

    What if one was to steal food for a starving family member?  God must be the judge!  If I walked into a bar or strip club, what would be my motive?  It may be to enjoy the sinful pleasures of the flesh.  Or could it possibly be to witness the Gospel, or pull someone I knew away from destructive behavior. These are matters of the heart that only God knows.

    So actions and conduct, and motive and intent of the heart can be confusing to Christians.  Although intentions and motives appear to be right at times, we can often see perceived errors in conduct or actions.  Usually this is due to ignorance, or lack of knowledge and instruction.  I have been misunderstood numerous times by various actions I had carried out, when in fact I was trying to look out for the greater good of a person or situation.  It is not to say, though, that the Holy Spirit hasn't convicted me to examine why I was doing what I was doing.

    We also cannot judge people by how they look, as God only sees the inner workings of a man's heart. I have encountered numerous people with the roughest looking exteriors (tattoos, unorthodox clothes, coarse language), but their hearts were truly caring and they existed to serve God and their fellow man. God will use the foolish things of the world to confound the wise! A sin in the church is accusation and judgment.

    Religion links holiness with conduct rather than with motive and intention of the heart (Isaiah.29:13). This is why many Christians believe that holiness is a state which can never be realized. The scriptures state this much differently: We can become a holy people, because the motive and intention of our hearts are pure (Hebrews 12:14; Ephesians 1:4; 5:27; 1 Peter 1:15-16). The Lord, Jesus Christ, can change our motive of heart (Philippians 4:13). As we are presented with truth, we are able to conform to it through prayer because of divine strength and His grace.

    Understanding the relationship between motive of heart and conduct (outward appearance) will greatly assist us in growing toward the Lord. The following chart will provide a further understanding of the association between motive and conduct.

Motive and Conduct Combinations


Combinations Is it possible? Explanation
1. Right Motive
Right Conduct
Yes This is Holiness!
(1 Peter 1:15-16)
2. Right Motive
Wrong Conduct
Yes This is Holiness! Error
in conduct due to lack of
knowledge (James.4:17).
3. Wrong Motive
Wrong Conduct
Yes This is a life of selfishness.
4. Wrong Motive
Right Conduct
Yes This is a life of selfishness
even though conduct
appears to be good
(1 Samuel 16:7).
5. Right Motive
Wrong Motive
No This is impossible as no
one can serve two masters
appears to be good
(Matthew 6:24).



I was open-air preaching at Eastern Michigan University and a student approached me to go and have a cup of coffee with him. I usually accept these invitations because I am ministering to one person. He began to ask me a number of questions about my background and why I was doing what I was doing. Then he began to share with me that he was a law enforcement major, but also a drug dealer. He said he made large sums of money and liked to contribute to various people who were doing the work of the church. He said he would like to send me $10,000. After this announcement, I began to question him on why he chose this route, and I explained the devastation of drugs upon our society. He listened and I firmly believed he thought he was doing the right thing. I told him the end (serving God in his present state of mind) does not justify the means (present actions) when you fully understand that you are breaking the law and destroying lives.

He told me he supported a number of evangelists. I then asked him if he was trying to appease his conscience for willful wrongdoing. Thats when he again said he thought he was doing the right thing. I told him I had to question whether I could accept this sum of money because of the way it was obtained. I thoroughly explained to him the concept of motive and intent of the heart. He walked away in disbelief, with a look of confusion, and I never did receive the money or see him again.

NOTE: The example above is a good case study of motive and conduct! Searching our heart in why we do what we do is very critical.


Scripture Study Reference #3

"For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God (1 Corinthians 4:4-5)."

"The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the inner depths of his heart (Proverbs 20:27)."

Key Application Point:  God will use a search light to check our motives! I'm very thankful that we serve a God of mercy. Many times we act without ever questioning why we act as we do. We have a tendency to look at people and form opinions based on what we observe. Then new information comes forth, where that individual was exposed due to moral failure. We see many scandals surfacing in the church and business realms, as well as in the political arena. Let's take a closer look at a few examples that show why we must be careful when we assess or carelessly judge other people. As you review these examples, the various motives will be explained - whether the individuals are acting out of love or selfishness.  Remember, our motives can reflect holiness or sin.

Study on Motive and Intent of the Heart

1. Example/Conduct: A young man is going to the seminary or Bible school.

Right Motive - He wants to serve God and his fellow man. This young man desires to fulfill the destiny that God has called him to. He desires to give God the glory and realizes that he who wins souls is wise.

Wrong Motive - He likes the attention and wants to be supported by others. This young man imagines all those faces looking at him as they wait for him to stretch forth his ?hand of power? in their direction. He likes the title of pastor and thinks it is a position of respect. He loves the idea of influencing human lives.

2. Example/Conduct: A young man attends church faithfully each week.

Right Motive - He feels assembling together with the church is critical to growth and desires to share his spiritual gifts with others. He is involved with missions and tithes regularly. His desire is to further God's kingdom in his life and impact his community.

Wrong Motive - This individual is looking for a wife as his main focus. He also tries to gain favor with leadership to secure a position in the church so he can build his self-esteem. He sells insurance and likes to influence others, and is keeping his eye open for new customers.

3. Example/Conduct: A young girl runs over her old boyfriend with a car. The question arises as to whether it was murder or manslaughter.

Right Motive - She was driving the car and the young man jumped out in her path. She swerved but could not avoid hitting him; it was purely accidental. She had no idea it was her old boyfriend and was deeply grieved. It was purely accidental.

Wrong Motive - Upset about her recent breakup, the young lady was very angry. She saw the former boyfriend and purposely swerved, intending to hit and hurt him, and he was accidentally killed. She appeared to be grieved and sorry yet held bitterness in her heart towards him.

4. Example/Conduct: A young man seeking employment obtains a job in a new, growing company.

Right Motive - This young man wanted to be what they call a marketplace minister. He felt he could be the living example of the Gospel in his workplace. If he earned the right to be heard by doing exceptional work, God would open up doors for him to share the Word with his fellow employees. He also wanted to make a good income so he could support his church and various missionaries in the field, as well as take care of his family's needs.

Wrong Motive - He wanted to climb the corporate ladder to make a good income to live out the American dream. Impressing people with his work ethic would build his self-esteem, as well as gain favor with his bosses for advancement.

Scripture Study Reference #4

"These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men (Matthew 15:8-9)."

"Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man (Matthew 15:17-20)."

"The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings (Jeremiah 17:9-10)."

Key Application Point: The heart is deceitfully wicked and we can be fooled!

    God allows us to examine and judge ourselves. The heart can be deceitfully wicked and we have a tendency to justify our actions by thinking we are okay. God desires to transform and change our hearts so our affections can change to seeking things above instead of things on this earth.

Point to Ponder:  When faced with truth, many will see what they only want to see. This is self deception. There is a way that seems right unto men but it is a way of death. . . (Proverbs 14:12).

    Before a person is saved, we are literally walking garbage cans. The outside of the can will appear to be nice, clean, and shiny. When the lid is removed, we see all the filth, waste, refuse, and stench. Many times people can appear to be very nice. But as time passes, and you get to know various individuals better, you begin to see that there is an evil heart with selfish motives behind the nice façade, or outward exterior.



One day, two students approached me as I was preaching God's Word. These two students were of Middle Eastern descent. We engaged in a conversation and they were very nice and respectful. Pleasantries were exchanged, and I explained to them the importance of having Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The "outward appearance" I observed was they were open and receptive. One of the students then asked me what I thought of Mohammed. I explained to them my opinion, and immediately I saw a radical change in their demeanor. It was as if they were about to hang me from the highest tree. The other student indicated that if I were in their country, they would have killed me. I answered that I wasn't in their country, and that we live in America. When they first approached me, it was like we were great friends. But their hearts were exposed by the words they had spoken and by their threats.

A similar situation occurred when a young man came up to me professing how he was a Christian, knew the Christian language very well, and had knowledge of many of the concepts of Christianity. He knew the Bible stories and talked about the love of God. As the conversation proceeded, I wanted to make sure of where he stood, and I asked him if Jesus is the only way unto the Father. He told me he believed there were many ways to God, and that you choose the path you want. For him, Christianity was fine, but for others, let them be what they wanted to be. I began to press in and show him how Jesus Christ was the only way, and that he was morally accountable to share the truth of the Gospel with others. He began to get very angry with me. All of a sudden, he began to scream obscenities at me and walked away. He didn't threaten to kill me, but his words could have been construed as an act of murder.