Sunday, July 10, 2016

Is Receiving Grace based on our Performance?



As a teenager, I did clown shows for children. I dressed in a silly costume, put on clown makeup, rode a unicycle, and juggled. I worked really hard on becoming a good juggler. For several hours every day I practiced. My goal was to have a perfect show without dropping a ball. But, no matter how hard I tried, and how well I did in practice, I never gave a perfect performance. A light would shine in my eyes, a crying child would distract me, a breeze would blow—and I would drop a ball. It was so frustrating to try so hard and to always fail.
Real life works the same way. Each of us is trying to keep a dozen balls up in the air. We try to look good for our audience by putting on a perfect performance. But, inevitably we make a mistake and drop the ball. The truth is that no matter how hard we try, none of us can ever be perfect.

The world puts such a high premium on performance. Almost all of human experience teaches us that performance is rewarded. From an early age we are taught that, you get what you deserve, that there is no such thing as a free lunch, that with no pain there is no gain, that the early bird gets the worm, that you earn your living, that you work hard to make it in life. In school, we learn that if we do well on a test we will get an A instead of an F. At our job, we are hired and promoted based on our performance. Even marriage often rises and falls on performance. Instinctively, we feel we must do something in order to receive something.

Humans have an innate desire to figure out how to achieve success. Self-help books give us lists of steps that will help us succeed. We think if we work hard enough, we will be successful.

That is where grace can be hard for us to mentally grasp. Grace is freely given. The whole point of grace is that we do not have to perform in order to get the reward of salvation. Jesus did the perfect performance. As soon as we try to do something to earn our place in heaven, then we make grace null and void in our lives. Grace is not based on self-help, grace is based on God’s help. Performance is all about what we achieve, but grace is about what we receive.

We often try to earn God’s blessings through our own efforts. However, there is nothing you can do to earn God’s blessing. When you become a Christian, you are made righteous. Once you become righteous, you cannot become more righteous or less righteous. Either you are in right standing with God, or you are not. Philip Yancey says, “There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we can do to make God love us less.” What you do or do not do does not influence how God sees you.

Trusting in your own performance is like running on a treadmill that keeps going faster. No matter how much you do or how fast you run, there is always more that you have to do. It’s time to get off the gerbil wheel of perfectionism, the treadmill of holiness, the merry-go-round of legalism, and the roller-coaster of sin and repentance.

The heart of all religions is performance. Our performance never impresses God. Your personal best is not good enough. It is such a temptation to fall back into legalism. Our flesh wants to do something to earn God’s attention. We have to keep dragging ourselves back to the realization that everything in God’s kingdom works by grace.

The spiritual disciplines of religion are like a great rock on your back forcing you to take every step with toil and trouble. But, once you have a revelation of grace, your walk with God becomes a stroll through the park, hand in hand with God, skipping and laughing together.

As a teenager, I did clown shows for children. I dressed in a silly costume, put on clown makeup, rode a unicycle, and juggled. I worked really hard on becoming a good juggler. For several hours every day I practiced. My goal was to have a perfect show without dropping a ball. But, no matter how hard I tried, and how well I did in practice, I never gave a perfect performance. A light would shine in my eyes, a crying child would distract me, a breeze would blow—and I would drop a ball. It was so frustrating to try so hard and to always fail.

Real life works the same way. Each of us is trying to keep a dozen balls up in the air. We try to look good for our audience by putting on a perfect performance. But, inevitably we make a mistake and drop the ball. The truth is that no matter how hard we try, none of us can ever be perfect.

The world puts such a high premium on performance. Almost all of human experience teaches us that performance is rewarded. From an early age we are taught that, you get what you deserve, that there is no such thing as a free lunch, that with no pain there is no gain, that the early bird gets the worm, that you earn your living, that you work hard to make it in life. In school, we learn that if we do well on a test we will get an A instead of an F. At our job, we are hired and promoted based on our performance. Even marriage often rises and falls on performance. Instinctively, we feel we must do something in order to receive something.

Humans have an innate desire to figure out how to achieve success. Self-help books give us lists of steps that will help us succeed. We think if we work hard enough, we will be successful.

That is where grace can be hard for us to mentally grasp. Grace is freely given. The whole point of grace is that we do not have to perform in order to get the reward of salvation. Jesus did the perfect performance. As soon as we try to do something to earn our place in heaven, then we make grace null and void in our lives. Grace is not based on self-help, grace is based on God’s help. Performance is all about what we achieve, but grace is about what we receive.

We often try to earn God’s blessings through our own efforts. However, there is nothing you can do to earn God’s blessing. When you become a Christian, you are made righteous. Once you become righteous, you cannot become more righteous or less righteous. Either you are in right standing with God, or you are not. Philip Yancey says, “There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we can do to make God love us less.”

What you do or do not do does not influence how God sees you. Trusting in your own performance is like running on a treadmill that keeps going faster. No matter how much you do or how fast you run, there is always more that you have to do. It’s time to get off the gerbil wheel of perfectionism, the treadmill of holiness, the merry-go-round of legalism, and the roller-coaster of sin and repentance.

The heart of all religions is performance. Our performance never impresses God. Your personal best is not good enough. It is such a temptation to fall back into legalism. Our flesh wants to do something to earn God’s attention. We have to keep dragging ourselves back to the realization that everything in God’s kingdom works by grace.

The spiritual disciplines of religion are like a great rock on your back forcing you to take every step with toil and trouble. But, once you have a revelation of grace, your walk with God becomes a stroll through the park, hand in hand with God, skipping and laughing together.



This is an excerpt from Daniel's book, "Grace Wins." Order your copy today by clicking HERE.