I am convinced that we, as Western Christians, are not enjoying God. Notice I didn’t say “serving God” or “striving after God” or “sacrificing for God”. I said “enjoying God”. And I say this because our western world is driven by performancism, not grace; conditionality, not freedom. We somehow think (but wouldn’t admit) that we can earn more favor with God by impressing Him with endless work, tireless service, stifling legalism, and adherence to the “rules”.
(What are the rules you ask? The rules for me are: If you study your Bible and write in your journal everyday and pray for all the people in your alphabetized binder, then you will be approved by God… If you read lots of insightful books and write thoughtful blogs and never ever waste your time on things like Facebook or Pinterest, then people will think you are smart and good… If you eat healthy foods and never let yourself eat bad food, and if you work out hard every morning—no slacking—then you will never get sick and be in complete control of your life… If you make long lists, and if you cross most things off those lists by the end of each day, you have been a proper steward of your time and if nothing gets crossed off, you are lazy. I could go on and on and on.) My life operates on control. And my need for control comes from lack of trust. And my lack of trust steals my joy.
I think I have trouble enjoying God because I don’t fully trust Him. When I have rules and boundaries and checklists in place, I can keep a tally of my goodness, my acceptance, and even my “righteousness”; but, if I have to trust that God believes all those things about me, I start to feel naked without my deeds—even though I am really covered in Christ’s robe of Righteousness. God sees me as holy, righteous, and good, NOT because of anything I do or achieve, but because I am hidden in Christ. That is unconditional grace.
Now I am NOT saying deeds are bad. They aren’t. Ephesians 2:10 makes this clear when it states “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” So, as Christ-followers—God’s handiwork—we DO have deeds to do, but these deeds are not what makes God love us. Tullian Tchividjian helped me think through this conundrum in his book, One Way Love. He says, when talking about Martin Luther, “Luther asserted that our righteousness before God (coram Deo) is received and defined by faith. Our righteousness before one another (coram mundo), on the other hand, is active and defined by service. The passive righteousness of faith (vertical righteousness) is what makes us right before God—fully and finally. The active righteousness of works (horizontal righteousness) serves the well-being of creation and culture by loving and serving our neighbors. This distinction is so helpful because whenever we discuss Christian growth, the doctrine of sanctification, or the practice of godliness, the insinuation is that MY effort, MY works, MY faith, MY response, and MY obedience keep me in God’s good graces—the more I do “for God” the more He loves me.”
Guess what guys? God’s love for you is not dependent on what you do; it is dependent on what has already been done. It has nothing to do with who you are; it has everything to do with Whose you are. God actually loves us independently of what we can bring to the table. Hard to believe isn’t it? He loves us because Christ died for us.
There is no way we can pay back what God has done through Jesus. Sometimes, in our frenzy to serve God and sanctify ourselves, we wish for rules to somehow “pay down” our debt. It’s no wonder that the Jewish believers wanted to continue following the Law after Jesus came and made it obsolete with His perfect life. They wanted a measure of their worth to God. However, “when we understand that everything between God and us has been fully and finally been made right—that Christians lives their lives under a banner that reads, “It is finished”—we necessarily turn away from ourselves and turn toward our neighbors” says Tchividjian, “Forever freed FROM our need to pay God back or secure His love, we are now free TO love and serve others.”
It is because I have started to understand all of these things that I have begun to enjoy God. I can now bask in His grace to me! I can extend this grace to others because I no longer have the need to judge them on what they do. I can simply sit in His presence doing nothing at all and rejoice in His love for me. I delight in the life-giving freedom I have found in Him—freedom to rest and relax and be spontaneous and child-like—freedom to trust in a grace-filled God. I am thrilled by the way I can hide in His shadow without doubting that my performance is good enough. I love being His child because His love is not dependent on me.
His love has no conditions at all.
And His grace is inexhaustible.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings
The Gospel of Jesus Christ announces that because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak. Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose. Because Jesus was Someone, you’re free to be no one. Because Jesus was extraordinary, you’re free to be ordinary. Because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail.
~From One Way Love by Tullian Tchividjian