To know whether our behavior is God-honoring or not, we must distinguish between our actions and *motive.
We could also call this the "what" and "why" of our actions; what we do and why do we do it.
All believers agree that prayer is good. Yet Christ said do not pray like the Pharisees prayed. Why? Because they prayed for the wrong reason, i.e. to be seen of men.
In order for good motives to lead to good conduct/deeds, those deeds must be guided by **truth. We must therefore ***confide in God - our Creator/Designer - to know what good conduct is. Who would know better what is best for us, if not our Creator and Designer? He tells us our overarching **design or chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. In so doing, we find our greatest fulfillment and joy.
The good news is right motive ultimately leads to right conduct e.g. When you Love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength you will love your neighbor as yourselves. When we are "plugged in" to God we become like him i.e. loving like God loves as He designed us to.
The ordo salutis of good actions.
For conduct to be good, the honor and Glory of God must be our aim i.e. that which moves us to action; our motivation; the means and end of all we do.
The honor and glory of God will not be our aim until we understand the depth, height, and width of God's love for us.
We will not see the depth and breadth of God's love until we understand what Christ did for us and why it was necessary. Understanding what Christ did tells us all we need to know about God and ourselves; His infinite love and our infinite need for it.
We can never fully plumb the depths of the riches to be found in the work of Christ. We must constantly explore it. This is why Paul prayed the following for the believers in Ephesus.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Awareness of the true motives behind our conduct only comes with time, humility, and maturity. It comes as we see what great lengths God went to, through Christ to restore us to Himself.
Often we think we act (the what) for good reasons (our why) when our actions (the what) are designed to maintain our independence from God (our why).
For a discussion on how glorifying God is the basis for morality, click here.
For a discussion on the harm of living independent of God click here
For a discussion on what Christ did for us click here.
* Distinguishing actions from motive was the key underlying truth Christ communicated in the beatitudes and other passages... You say if a man does ______ he is wrong, But I say if a man in his heart does... it is wrong.
**But how do we determine truth. One way is good-appropriate behavior. Appropriate behavior is determined by our design i.e. God created things to operate a certain way. When they do, they operate according to what or who they are; i.e. according to reality, truth.
***The primary way we confide in God is studying his promises given in and through Christ in scripture i.e. His word (s) of promise.
****I put "good things" in quotes because we are told whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, do all of it to the glory of God. This implies we can do these same actions NOT for the glory of God. In fact, we usually do.