I spent a lot of time this summer reading and re-reading some important books on the gospel. One that I especially commend to you is Jerry Bridges' excellent book Transforming Grace. As is the case with everything Jerry writes, it is delectably deep and down to earth. I read these sentences again this morning 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 many of you have heard me say many times, 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.
With this same theme of self-centered, enslaving performance in mind, my friend Kevin DeYoung wrote these singing and stinging words on his blog this morning:
No doubt some Christians need to be shaken out of their lethargy. I try to do that every Sunday morning and evening. But there are also a whole bunch of Christians who need to be set free from their performance-minded, law-keeping, world-changing, participate-with-God-in-recreating-the-cosmos shackles. I promise you, some of the best people in your churches are getting tired. They don't need another rah-rah pep talk. They don't need to hear more statistics and more stories Sunday after Sunday about how bad everything is in the world. They need to hear about Christ's death and resurrection. They need to hear how we are justified by faith apart from works of the law. They need to hear the old, old story once more. Because the secret of the gospel is that we actually do more when we hear less about all we need to do for God and hear more about all that God has already done for us.
I LOVE THE GOSPEL!
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