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It's Not About Performance

by Aaron

We have all been programmed to be performers. — Grades in school are based on performance. Badges in scouts are based on performance. Positions in sports are based on performance. Paychecks at work are based on performance. — It is all about how good we do; how well we perform in a certain area.



Sadly, this mentality often gets carried over into the religious realm. Since we are so used to things being “performance driven” in society, we just assume that the same is true spiritually. Therefore, we develop a checklist of “do’s” and “don’ts” and gradually start to put our confidence in that checklist. We trust that those little checkmarks we are accumulating will ultimately tip the scales in our favor and merit us a home in heaven. But this is not what the Bible teaches.



The Bible teaches that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) and that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). This means we have all messed up badly and deserve to be punished. The Bible also teaches that we can never work good enough, hard enough, or long enough to repair the damage our sin has done. We are utterly incapable of fixing the problem. Our only hope of being spared is to trust in Jesus Christ and His performance, not ours.



This is not to say that obedience is unnecessary. It is very necessary. Jesus said that one must “do” the will of the Father to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21). However, our obedience is a yearning, not an earning. We are calling out, not cashing in. We should never trust in our own actions to merit salvation.



In Luke 18, Jesus told a parable about two men who went into the temple to pray — a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee put a lot of stock in his performance. He trusted that his own good works would justify him before God. In fact, his prayer is an example of the checklist mentioned above. First, he thanks God for what he “doesn’t do” (v. 11) and then he thanks God for what he “does do” (v. 12). It is clear the Pharisee thought he had enough checkmarks to impress heaven. Yet the Lord says it was the tax collector who went home justified that day!



I fear that a lot of Christians are like the Pharisee. They foolishly trust in their own performance to obtain justification before God. It is all about accumulating checkmarks! The truth is, however, we are all imperfect people who could never do enough to earn God’s approval. In fact, the very idea is insulting to Him because it undermines grace and causes man to put confidence in himself. What we need to do is be more like the lowly tax collector whose approach was mercy-based, not merit-based. And while we strive to be completely obedient in all things, that is not the source of our assurance. A Christian’s confidence is in what Christ did, not what we do!

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