Guest Author: Lydia Mammen
Do you ever feel like you have to win God’s approval? Like there’s this overwhelming pressure to be perfect? Or maybe, you’re scared you might lose God’s favor? Like your bad deeds or struggle with sin will cause Him to walk away and leave you?
This is exactly where I was. Days later, and I’m still here.
Someone once asked me, “Do you view your relationship with God as a business deal?” My answer to that was an emphatic NO! But after some digging, I found that there might be some truth to that for me. Some of us might see God this way. We might view our “relationship” as a simple equation: doing “good” = finding God’s favor. Which must mean the opposite is true too: doing “bad” = losing God’s favor.
I’ll let you in on a secret: I’m not good with grace. See, equations like the ones above make sense. But grace? Grace just leaves me dumbfounded. In my moments of failure it is hard to receive grace because I don’t deserve it. So when I mess up, things usually look a little like this:
I see my sin, or failure. Then I see Jesus. And I see a huge gap in between. I see just how much I fall short. THIS FRUSTRATES ME. So what do I do in response?
I try to fill this gap. I try to make amends. I try to clean myself up and do better. I promise the Lord that “I will do better next time.” I tell Him that I know I’ve let Him down, but that I’ll fix this and make it all better.
There’s a problem with this mentality. It is infatuated with self and mounted on self-effort.
The Lord wants us to learn that we really aren’t self-sufficient people. We are bankrupt, lost people in dire need of a Shepherd, a Savior. So He comes for us. To be our Savior. To stand in our place. Christ assures us a victorious life. But the victorious life He promises us is found in Him and His life through us. It comes through death to self – and that includes self-effort to appease God.
In my effort to live up to my promise to God and to “try to do better,” I end up coming face to face with the reality of my condition. There is simply nothing I can do. My good deeds are actually just filthy rags. Rags that tear, rags that stain. Rags that try to cover, hide, and clean, but, in reality, are just filthy. And filthy rags cannot clean themselves. They must be put in the wash and met with a tough stain-fighter. See, when we try to cover our sin and try to do better we forget what has already been done.
We cannot cover the guilt that He has already washed away.
In these moments of obsessing over pleasing God, I fail to realize that my Father doesn’t seek perfection. He seeks relation. I fail to realize that I already have His favor in Christ.
So for all you perfectionist, bad-with-grace, people like me, this is the Good News. News we probably already know, but news we’ve refused to let set us free from the chains of earning favor. The Good News is that Jesus Christ came and paid fully for our sins. There is no debt to owe or to repay. There is no winning favor because Jesus has already done that for us. And even more, there is no losing favor with God because of the finished work of the Cross. God is fully satisfied with the work of Jesus.
So for you busy workmen who still try to earn favor:
Take a breath.
And rest in the finished work of Christ.
We are free! He has freed us! Free from sin and shame. Free from hurt and pain. And yes, free from trying so hard to find favor. Friends, let the grace of the Lord Jesus bring You close to Him. Let it free you.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. | Galatians 5:1