God’s grace is a healing balm for my shame, broken heart, insecurity, jealousy, religiosity, judgmental thoughts, need to achieve, and fear. Knowing that I don’t have to earn God’s love relaxes my shoulders, slows my breathing, inspires my thinking, and makes me grateful.
In this world, most systems are about earning acceptance, proving value, and getting approval. The game is on as soon as I perform to a standard, and I’m determined to win. The one place I don’t want to compete is in my relationship with God. But sometimes, church cultures can unintentionally encourage pride and create anxiety to perform by praising those who achieve the standard of discipleship and looking down on those who don’t.
But Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I can choose to be yoked to the law and try to perform to it, or I can choose to be yoked to Jesus who satisfied the law for me. The first yoke depends on me and the second on Christ. The yoke of Christ requires me to surrender to his lead and the more I do, the work becomes easier.
Grace healed me when my core foundation of what I believed about salvation changed from performance-based to gift-based. Once I understood that my faith was to be centered on the work of Christ on my behalf rather than on my ability to obey God's commands, freedom flooded my soul.
Recently I had a conversation with a friend. She explained practicing Christian disciplines can be compared to bookends that hold together our Christian life. However, what the bookends hold up in the middle dramatically determines a Christian’s quality of life.
We thought about what the bookshelf would look like if the core motivation to do these disciplines were God’s grace and faith in the work of Christ. I created the image in Powerpoint.
When the core or middle of the bookends is a gift-based relationship with God, my motivation stems from knowing who I am in Christ, not by what I have done, but by who he says I am because of his love. With my decision to accept this gift from God, the need for validation gets pushed farther to the edges, away from my heart.
I spent decades in a performance-based church that taught me how to practice Christian disciplines. These practices benefited me in some ways but also created shame and discouragement. I learned to deny myself and serve others, practice hospitality, enjoy fellowship with others, have daily quiet times, etc. However, my bookends were holding up a faulty core, a misunderstanding of the grace of God.
The image below shows what my bookends were holding up. The shelf is unsteady; my core reason is missing the gospel message. The church of my youth emphasized steps to perform to be saved, and I had to depend on others to know when I was ready to receive the forgiveness of sins. This faulty beginning in my Christian life kept me focused on how well I performed rather than placing my faith in the righteousness of Jesus.
The Bible says my response to the gospel of Jesus is to repent by changing my mind about who I am. Without Christ – I cannot please God. So I put my complete faith in the righteousness of Christ. My discipleship is the outcome of my love for Christ rather than a requirement.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10
I only recently learned to look through a “grace-grid.” Jeff VanVonderen says the following in the book Tired of Trying to Measure Up.
“By learning to look through a grace-grid, we’ll learn how to fight a different kind of battle than the one we’ve been trying to win through our own self-effort.”
My battle is no longer to produce better behavior but to believe what is true about me because of what Christ has done. It is a fight to decide to live in a manner that is consistent with this message. My life will produce the fruits of the spirit when I believe in who I am in Christ. My behavior flows from paying attention to the Holy Spirit rather than my agenda.
How do you know if you need to be healed by grace? In the book, Tired of Trying to Measure up, the author provides a list of ways we think and feel when God’s grace is misunderstood.
- You have a “SHAME-BASED” Identity.
- You are highly PERFORMANCE-CONSCIOUS
- You don’t know yourself very well.
- You are FREQUENTLY UNAWARE of your own feelings.
- You have a TENDENCY TO BE IDOLATROUS (basing your sense of life, value, and acceptance on something other than God).
- You have a HIGH LEVEL of anxiety.
- You are WOUNDED.
- You are TIRED.
- You are UNAWARE of personal boundaries.
- You feel like you don’t belong.
- You can’t tell what normal is.
- You have a difficult time TRUSTING People.
- You are afraid of being DESERTED.
- You suffer a lot of STRESS-RELATED illnesses.
I struggled with everything listed above until I renounced the need to perform and accepted God’s grace. Gradually, God is healing me in these areas and helping me become the opposite of those things.
2022 was the year the Holy Spirit called me out of my legalistic misery, and now I praise God for his indescribable gift of grace!!
If you would like to receive my blog posts in an email as soon as I publish, go to the menu bar at the top of the post and click on FOLLOW ME, and enter your email.