I don't know why, but I felt really compelled to write about this. I've already written about this before, but again - I just really feel led to write about it.
Our Christian identity is not built upon our achievements.
I think it's common for Christians to believe either one of two things: 1. We're saved, we've got God, so why do any work for Him? or 2. sure, we've asked God into our hearts, but there's no way He'll be pleased with us, unless we do this, and that, and this and that and...
I've already written semi-recently about lukewarmness. I'm going to address the second group of people, because
1) it's on my heart tonight,
2) I know many people deal with feeling like God's Love is based on their performance, and
3) I know I used to be one of those people.
I truly can't tell you how many nights I spent, weeping and writing my prayers to God, filling the pages with things like "What's wrong with my method of earning salvation?", "Why can't I ever be good enough for You?", or "If I do [insert accomplishment], then will You Love me?"
And then it infiltrated my relationship with other believers. I tried to drop my "Christian" accomplishments into random conversations so that they'd see what a great person I was.
That one time, when I led my best friend to Christ...
Oh, that reminds me of this time I was working in an orphanage in Mexico!...
This morning, when I got up at six o'clock to do my devotions...
The list goes on and on.
The frustrating thing was, whenever I'd accomplish some great deed that I'd thought would finally find favor with God, I'd end up even more empty-handed than before. It didn't matter that I'd driven four hours total to visit a friend who needed my help; what mattered was that I didn't drive to see her more often. It didn't matter that I'd spoken words of encouragement to those around me; what mattered was that I'd made that disrespectful comment to my dad the week before (even though I'd already apologized and been forgiven for it). It didn't matter that I had spent several backbreaking hours that morning, mixing concrete to build a new house for orphans; what mattered was that I'd let my joyful attitude slip for just a moment. I wasn't good enough. No matter what I did, I wasn't good enough. With every accomplishment I completed, I felt as though I'd fallen further from the throne of God. I'd bring Him every little good deed, but instead of receiving the favor I thought I'd finally earned, I came away empty-handed. I couldn't earn God's approval. I couldn't let myself believe He was pleased with me.
Eventually, as you might know, it got to the point where I went to dangerous measures to try to please God. The day I decided I needed to change was the last day I ever self-harmed. I had self-harmed in some crazy attempt to show God how sorry I was that I couldn't be good enough. Yet as soon as I'd finished the act, I was instantly disgusted with myself. Stupid, stupid, stupid! You know better than this! You didn't please God when you hurt yourself - you only did something that you'll have to make up for in the future!
I realized I was fighting a losing battle. Because the truth is: I'll never be good enough for God. Ever. The sins I commit are proof of that. I. Can't. Be. Good. Enough. And no matter how many friends come to know God after seeing the way I live - no matter how much work I do for God - no matter how much time I spend with Him - I can't earn His favor.
I can't earn His favor, because I already have it. Jesus paid the price necessary for me to gain favor with God. It's all because of Jesus that I am pleasing in God's eyes.
Yeah, yeah, of course. But no. Really. I mean it. Let that sink in for a sec. I know; it feels blasphemous. I remember how uncomfortable I felt when I first allowed myself to even consider the possibility that I didn't have to work to earn God's approval. But think back to that story we all know about Mary and Martha. Out of the two of them, who found favor in Jesus' eyes? The one who was working her butt off and not taking time for Him, or the one who sat at His feet, listening to Him and Loving Him? Or, even more radically, the thief on the cross. Guys, Jesus saved the thief right before he died. That criminal had absolutely nothing to offer Jesus. There was no way he could perform any good deeds for Christ. And yet...Jesus wanted to save Him.
And when you trust that you're beloved in God's eyes, you find that you can trust other people's love for you, too. When I finally found that God's favor had been mine for the taking, I realized...there are some people out there who actually kind of like me. Not for specific things I've done, but because they actually kind of value the person I am. I didn't have to list my Christian accomplishments.
And...side note. I found that when I accepted God's Love, that was when I started doing things that mattered. Focusing on earning God's favor doesn't help you to do good works; it only slows you down and steals the joy of doing what God asks of you. When I was grounded in the knowledge that I already matter to God, I started having more of an impact on my world.
Everything about laboring for the sake of finally pleasing God is a lie.
He is pleased with you.
I mean it.