Something the Lord is still having to change my heart about in this season is why I’m doing what I’m doing.
Why am I serving the Lord? Why am I striving? Why do I try so hard? Why do I care so much about what people think? Why do I always want to be the best? Why do I worship? Why does it effect me so greatly when I fail and when I can’t invest in as much as I want? Why do I feel like this weight is on my shoulders that only I can carry?
It’s been revealed the last few weeks that I believe this lie that I don’t matter. I have been trying to prove that I do. I’ve been trying to buy blessings and acceptance. I’ve been believing that my works are what defines me — that my failures disappoint the Lord. That He is just standing ready to throw a stone at me for my sin & shortcomings. That He’s mad at me, and every time I do something “good” He is pleased with me for a split second before I’m just unproductive, sinful, or selfish in His eyes again.
Wow. Even until writing this all out I didn’t see the extent of it. How deep this lie (ultimately about God’s goodness) truly is.
If I was giving literally anyone else (besides myself) advice about this, I would say a few things (because this is what the Lord says & it’s Truth)
1. YOU DON’T WORK TO PLEASE GOD / EARN SALVATION
Let’s start with Ephesians. Lots of people know Ephesians 2:8-10, but let’s back it up some more.
“Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 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 2:3-10
That is so good. Did you miss it?
- Our nature—our works—leads to damnation. We can’t work our way to salvation. We just can’t. We are sinful and impure.
- “But because of his great love for us.” IN THE MIDDLE OF DESERVING WRATH…WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS, He had a great love for us. Before we even loved Him—before we even did a good thing for Him. We had already failed Him and He loved us (Romans 5:8).
- Rich in mercy. He is rich in a lot of things (He’s God..) but MERCY? For me?
- We are made alive with Christ—the guy who knew no sin? We get to be alive like Him? (2 Corinthians 5:21) YES
- “It is by grace you have been saved” (grace: the FREE and UNMERITED favor of God)
- GOD raised us. GOD seated us in the heavenly realms — I didn’t raise myself. I didn’t seat myself. I still haven’t done ANYTHING
- Why did He do it? SO THAT HE COULD SHOW US HIS GRACE AND KINDNESS
- Salvation is not from ourselves or our own doing. It is a gift. NOT BY WORKS
- We are God’s handiwork. God’s work created us. God’s work saved us
- There are works He’s prepared for us. But we already have favor. God’s favor comes first
The order of operations (lol math) in this scenario is God’s goodness and grace thennnnnnn we can do the good works we were designed to do
God’s goodness→ our works
The arrow doesn’t go both ways
Our works ≠ salvation
Our works ≠ God’s kindness
Our works ≠ God’s blessing
We get Jesus’ righteousness by faith. We can’t do things to become righteous like Jesus. We just are righteous.
“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”Romans 3:22-24
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus are no longer under God’s judgment. Because of what Christ Jesus has done, you are free”Romans 8:1-2
We are free–not because of what we did, but because of what Jesus has done for us.
“The Spirit you received doesn’t make you slaves. Otherwise you would live in fear again. Instead, the Holy Spirit you received made you God’s adopted child. By the Spirit’s power we call God Abba. Abba means Father… As his children, we will receive all that he has for us. We will share what Christ receives. But we must share in his sufferings if we want to share in his glory.”Romans 8:15, 17
Because of our salvation, we are God’s children; as our Father, we receive (not work for) what Christ does. Christ has eternal glory, but He also suffered.
2. BLESSINGS DON’T COME FROM OUR WORKS
The other day in Deuteronomy, the Lord just continued to press into how I think my works determine His love & blessing for me.
“Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.”Deuteronomy 9:6
Hey God, I hear you.
It’s so easy for me to think the good things in my life are God’s gift to me for being a good Christian. Hello! What? I am not righteous by my actions. The blessings in my life are a result of God’s goodness. I’m just stiff necked.
Like the Israelites, I have turned from God, followed other idols, and doubted God’s provision. I have cried out in selfishness during trials and tribulations. That’s why I needed God’s righteousness in the first place. And because of His righteousness and abounding love, His affection, His kindness and mercy, I have received salvation and other blessings this side of heaven!
This is not the work of my hands. This is not my own determination. This is about God working for the good.
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him”Romans 8:28
My striving doesn’t work things for the good. Burdening myself and trying to do it all on my own doesn’t work things for good. The Lord works everything — He does the work & the results are good. The Lord is kind. We just have to love Him and live according to His purposes.
I cannot be prideful or accredit anything good to myself or my own works.
3. WE DON’T HAVE TO WORK TO KEEP SALVATION OR TO KEEP GOD PLEASED WITH US
“God did not spare his own Son. He gave him up for us all. Then won’t he also freely give us everything else?… Nothing at all can ever separate us from God’s love. That’s because of what Christ Jesus our Lord has done”Romans 8:32, 39
He has freely given, and there is even more that He wants to give us. No matter the circumstances, nothing can take us from God’s love. We don’t have to work to keep our salvation; we get it no matter what.
4. WHEN YOU HAVE FAITH, THEN YOU DO GOOD WORKS
Your faith does, however, lead you to do works for the Lord.
“But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only”James 2:20-24
Works can’t save us, but when works are done in addition to our faith, our faith is made complete. God’s goodness leads us to action.
God’s kindness leads us to repentance
“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”Romans 2:4
God’s grace leads us to stop sinning
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”Romans 6:1-2
The acknowledgement of how good God is leads us to act; it leads us to obedience; it leads us to growth, & it leads us to look more like Jesus.
Only when we experience and acknowledge God’s goodness should we act, and only then do our actions actually matter.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”2 Corinthians 9:7
Serving out of obligation or in order to win God’s approval isn’t good works. It isn’t perfecting your faith. Faith leads to good works because it’s an overflow of your worship and devotion to God.
“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs”Psalm 100:2
5. FAILING (TO DO GOOD WORKS) DOESN’T MAKE GOD MAD AT YOU
God is not disappointed in you. He is not standing over you, with a finger pointed, waiting to stone you. He is crouched down, writing in the sand, not condemning you. He invites us to sin no more. (John 8:1-11)
He is not surprised by your sin. He is not embarrassed by your sin. He intimately knows every temptation you have faced (Hebrews 4:15). And He has felt the burden of it. He has taken on our punishment. We are no longer punishable. Our guilt and shame is taken away.
There are always consequences for our actions, but God doesn’t punish us for our failures because Jesus has already experienced the punishment we deserve.
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross”Colossians 2:13-14
6. LOOK AT THE POSTURE OF YOUR HEART
Yes God created us and set up good works for us to do, but He ultimately created us to love Him.
To work for God, you have to love God. To love God, you have to love God.
So do you love God? Like do you truly love God?
Abundance and overflow are words often used in the Bible, and I truly believe an overflow of love for the Lord is what is supposed to drive you to do things for Him.
He has done EVERYTHING for you, so the desire of your heart should be to love and serve Him in return. It’s the least we can do?? No praise or action can amount to what He has done, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to dedicate my entire being to Him!
“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom”Psalm 147:3
“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you”1 Thessalonians 3:12
“Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them”John 7:38
So now that you have read what you would tell someone else but is often hard to accept for yourself, do some evaluation.
Is your faith what motivates you to do things for God?
Are you doing the good works designed for you? Are you using your spiritual gifts?
Is your faith made complete by works or are you trying to make your faith with works?
There is going to be a constant battle in your mind trying to tell you that God is only pleased when you are doing all these things and checking all these boxes (Romans 7:23). But that is not truth; lean into the Holy Spirit who will remind you of this truth whenever you need it (John 16:13).
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness”Colossians 2:6-7
This is something the Lord is still teaching me everyday. Everything is founded on a love for Him because of Him. Christ truly is the cornerstone and the Rock in which the church is built.
As always, I love you and am praying for you.
This is written out of an overflow of thankfulness that the Lord is healing my religious heart! An overflow of appreciation for Jesus’ Gospel, and a desire to bring peace to my bros and sisters in Christ.