Our culture in America predominantly teaches us to live a performance-oriented life. We are rewarded for doing right and punished for doing wrong from the time that we start scooting around on the floor on our own . We enter school and the first thing we are handed is the school manual, which lays out all of the rules that we must abide by. We enter the working world and get promoted for performing well and reprimanded for performing poorly.
I’m a retired Army guy so I understand rules and performing to a given standard. In fact, I do well in a structured environment where the standards are clear. I’m not against rules or the expectation that we should live our lives as law-abiding citizens and serve with excellence by doing our best. There is certainly nothing wrong with performing at our best. Performance itself is not the matter in question, but the motive of the heart behind the performance.
I think one of the most difficult theological concepts to live out in our lives is God’s grace. It’s not necessarily that we lack understanding of God’s grace as much as we lack the application of His grace upon our lives. Most people who have genuinely put their faith in Christ know what it means to receive unmerited favor from God. I hear people say all the time, “I just don’t feel like I deserve the love and forgiveness that God has shown me.” I often respond, “you don’t, neither do I and that’s the point.”
The point of God’s grace is that we do not have to earn His favor!
In my work as a pastor, I often see an underlying motive resident in the hearts of Christians who have turned to God and put their faith in Christ. The underlying motive is that they must somehow live their lives in such a way that God will be pleased with them and bestow His favor upon them. In other words, many people receive salvation, but deep down they still don’t believe that they are 100% accepted and approved by God.
I read about this very same issue in the book of Galatians. They had begun to go back to the religious rituals (like circumcision and festivals) that they were bound to before they received Christ. The Apostle Paul addresses this issue head-on: “but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?” (Gal 4:9).
We grow up living our lives in a way that will bring favor upon us by people in our world. The motive of our hearts is to earn favor, to be pleasing, and to be accepted. It’s not surprising that we carry this idea into our relationship with God. Don’t get me wrong, God does want our obedience and expects us to live a life of faith based on the principles in his word. However, he is not watching over your every move waiting to punish you for doing wrong or reward you for doing something great. He loves you and accepts you not because of what you do or don’t do, but because of what Jesus did and did not do. Let’s run it down:
1. Jesus lived as a man tempted in every way.
2. Jesus did not sin.
3. Jesus shed his innocent blood for the remission of our sins.
4. Jesus rose from the grave.
You and I can rest in the fact that we are accepted and loved because we were chosen by his grace and justified by his son. Now we are sons and daughters adopted into God’s family as children of his own. There is no need to turn back to the principle of this world that says performance = acceptance. Rest in his grace and enjoy your journey!