When a leader talks of self-sacrifice, it makes all the difference if we know whether he gives it, or expects others to give it. Jesus is one of the few who lead by example.
This leads us to a great division between two motives for living as a Christian. Some rely on the fact that the Christian faith is true, that Jesus has the authority of God, and that the promise of heaven and threat of judgement need to be taken seriously. There is not a lot wrong with that, except that as motivation, it needs a very high level of self-discipline to keep going, and can be a bit – miserable?
I think there is a stronger motive, though I struggle to describe it without using cliches. The motive is Jesus, who is worth following just because of who he is. It comes out in John 10:11-18, where he uses the language of shepherding a flock to explain his ministry. He is true – not because he talks about truth, but by his actions. He is both justice and mercy, and at the same time. He is not caught off balance, even when tired or threatened. I hesitate to use the word love, because it is so often misused, but he defines it. He gives, but gives only what is good; he never forces, never manipulates. His love pays the cost, without whining, without announcing the fact or making demands.
You may be a Christian because you hold the faith to be true and accurate and offers the only sure way to heaven, and I shall have no complaint. But I shall follow Jesus as much for what he is, for the way he gives our salvation, and invites our partnership.
If that provides a great motivation, I am afraid it is not well understood. It worries me that I meet people who are not ready to serve. Somehow they haven’t understood that to follow such a Lord comes before all sorts of other (good) things, like family, career, friends and lifestyle choices . . . Odd! and sad.