I have been reading Jerry Bridges’ excellent book Transforming Grace. It’s an absolute must read if you haven’t already read it. And if you have, I encourage you to re-read it. As is the case with everything Jerry writes, it is delectably deep and down to earth. I read these sentences last night once again and they really reminded me of just how easily I can drift into a performance driven relationship with God. He writes:
My observation of Christendom is that most of us tend to base our relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace. If we’ve performed well–whatever “well” is on our opinion–then we expect God to bless us. If we haven’t done so well, our expectations are reduced accordingly. In this sense, we live by works rather than by grace. We are saved by grace, but we are living by the “sweat” of our own performance.
Moreover, we are always challenging ourselves and one another to “try harder.” We seem to believe success in the Christian life (however we define success) is basically up to us: our commitment, our discipline, and our zeal, with some help from God along the way. We give lip service to the attitude of the Apostle Paul, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10), but our unspoken motto is, “God helps those who help themselves.”
The realization that my daily relationship with God is based on the infinite merit of Christ instead of my own performance is a very freeing and joyous experience.
As I said in my sermon last week, the difference between living for God and living for anything else is that when we live for anything else we do so to gain acceptance. When we live for God we do so because we are already accepted. Real freedom (the freedom that only the Gospel grants) is living for something because we already have favor instead of living for something in order to gain favor.