We (Americans especially) are driven by performance. We constantly want to be better, faster, stronger. We make decisions everyday that are based upon climbing up the ladder of success (whatever success is defined as by us).
Christians are no exception. We strive to build bigger churches, have better music or preaching, children’s ministry, bigger budgets, more baptisms and decisions than other churches. We climb the ladder of obedience and performancism, striving to be better Christians and performing for God to receive more “crowns in heaven.”
Yet when we read the Bible, we come to find out God isn’t concerned with our performance or “living for Jesus.” You see, there is no such thing as a good Christian. Those crowns in heaven aren’t achieved on our success meter. They’re on God’s; and God’s success meter measures one thing, perfection, which are incapable of accomplishing with our performance or obedience. Oh and not it’s not just perfection with our actions, but perfect motives behind our perfect actions. And well, that’s bad news, because we can’t hit that mark. We have failed. We continue to fail. We are continual failures before a perfect and holy God.
(This is when it gets good and personal!)
The scandalous, glorious good news is this, Jesus lived that perfect life and satisfied God’s eternal, perfect requirement perfectly in your place.
The good news is that your right standing (righteousness), approval, and adoption before God has nothing to do with you! You bring your sin and wickedness and Jesus grants your eternal perfection before God!! You are infinitely worse than you could ever imagine and God is infinitely better than you could ever comprehend.
Oh my friend, if you could only recognize how incapable you are before God and stop trying to please Him, and trust that Jesus really has completely purchased and adopted your righteousness you would experience eternal freedom.
Freedom from having to live up to some impossible expectation you and others have placed on yourself.
Freedom to love and serve others without needing to gain approval or one up your coworker or gain more money, power, control, social standing or influence. Freedom to let your past failures go and rest in the perfection and adoption of Jesus. After all, He chose you!
Jesus is better than all of that stuff. What you think you need for this life, Jesus is better.
Being a good Christian or good conservative or good employee or good husband or mother or any of that is not what matters to God.
He didn’t say “they will know you are my disciples by your morality” or by being a good (fill in the blank).
Jesus said “they will know you are my disciples if you have love one for another.”
How can you love people who you are constantly trying to win their approval and they’re trying to gain yours? You can’t. That’s not love, that’s performancism.
Love comes from someone who is willing to forgo their interests for the interests of another. Jesus exemplified this for us as Paul describes. “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8 ESV)
Rest in the grace, approval, acceptance, and love that God grants you now solely because of Jesus.
When you trust this is true by faith, you are free to show others the kindness of God. We don’t obey FOR God’s approval. No we obey FROM God’s approval! It is finished! Done. Over. For the one whom the Holy Spirit has given faith and repentance, you are now covered 100% in Christ’s righteousness. Adopted, forever.
Stop working for God’s approval, to be seen by others as being good. You’re not. Jesus is. And that’s exactly why Jesus died in your place and offers you rest and peace in his grace.
What is good news about having to live up to a list of rules and law? That’s awful news because you’ll never be able to do it. This isn’t “give God your best and He’ll do the rest,” this is HE DID IT ALL!! This isn’t “if I obey, you’ll bless me.” EVERYTHING you need for life and godliness has been given you in Jesus. His entire kingdom for your entire failures, because you are a joint heir with Jesus Christ. You don’t obey to get things from God, that’s not grace. It’s performancism. Obedience isn’t about God loving you more or blessing you more, it’s about other people seeing the kindness of The Lord and it bringing them to repentance.
Your constant striving for spiritual discipline isn’t about climbing a mountain to reach the top of Christian growth. It’s falling deeper and deeper into a cave of self forgetfulness and the light of God’s law illuminating your great desperation and dependency upon his grace. Your past bad decisions, current bad decisions and future bad decisions, God has used them all in His sovereignty (big word for God is in complete control) to bring about His purpose! Yes, even redeeming you from yourself.
This is all GOOD NEWS!!
Some of you have never heard this before and are reading the Gospel for the first time. You’ve heard lots of religion and law and rules thrown at you and people telling you that God expects you to obey them. Well that’s half right. He does expect you to obey them. All of them. Perfectly. But God knew you were incapable because of your rebellious heart so Jesus did it in your place. Are you willing to trust that? Are you recognizing your wickedness and dark heart? Do you believe and trust by faith that above everything else Jesus is best? There is nothing else that can satisfy you completely, outside of Jesus? That’s what we call being drawn by the Holy Spirit. Respond to that call. Repent of your wickedness. By faith trust Jesus to satisfy you completely.
Others are reading this and being challenged in what you’ve heard taught and preached your entire life. “Yea but Zach this means it isn’t up to me and I don’t have anything to do to get God to love me or save me. I can’t be a good Christian? I can’t be better before God?” PRECISELY! Let this marinate in you for a while. Read the full counsel of God’s word and don’t allow people to take scripture out of context and use it as motivational words of better performance. For you too, there’s grace! Repent of perpetual failure and trust Jesus to satisfy you completely and trust that God loves you 100% forever more and never is disappointed in you because it’s not about you, it’s all Jesus. There is no rededication, just constant repentance and trusting Jesus is better than that sin you thought would satisfy you more than Jesus.
Others read this, turn your nose up, scoff and walk away from it going deeper into the slavery of performancism, religion and self righteousness. I pray God will break your hard heart and give you faith and repentance. That God will illuminate the deep crevasses of your wickedness, bring you to desperation and that you would experience the life giving, freeing, scandalous good news of God’s grace.
This isn’t my gospel, or something I made up. This is the blessed glorious gospel of Jesus from the Bible.
When you recognize that the Gospel really is good news for the sinner, it no longer becomes church consumerism and “what can I get out of this” religiosity. It flips everything on it’s head. No more striving to be great or strong. It’s all about serving, not caring about recognition, losing yourself. It is a choice that others become more important than yourself. You do have free will. God gives free will to choose serving others or serving ourself, to love others and put people above being right or winning an argument, or choosing to be right and constantly correct others so you can feel justified about yourself.
There is no good Christian. You either are one or you aren’t. There are bad people and a Great King who offers us life, abundant.
Finally, I leave you with this story. A young slave girl was brought to auction for sale. She had endured years of slavery. It was all she had ever known. She was born into slavery and had been enslaved to several masters already. A man came to the auction that day and happened to be drawn specifically to this young girl. When she was put on the block he purchased her. When they returned back to his home, he brought her in. He told her that she was free. She asked “I’m free? Free to go wherever I want? Do whatever I want? Say whatever I want?” The man responded “Yes, you are free to go where you want, do what you want, and say what you please.” The girl responded, “Then I will stay with you.”
AMAZING GRACE!!! May you see the beauty of grace in this story and in your own life. That Jesus would purchase your freedom and adopt you, a slave to many masters, as his child. Glory be to God!