There have been moments where all the doing, the following, the learning seems to be getting me somewhere in this journey of faith. I think I see glimpses of progress, forward movement. And then there are other times where it feels like I’m an old chevy pick up truck, crankin’ my rusty gears and bald tires in a slick mud pit. Those are the times I ask myself: “Who is it I am really aiming to please?” “What is this really all for?”
By the time I’m trying to get out of the mud, I’ve usually been in a slow slide for a while. You know the kind. It starts out with the best of intentions, it starts with a we. We were talking. We were dreaming. We started planning. We went…. And then it merges a bit to, “Well, they do. They have. They are. They …. And before you know it, the mud has sucked the wheel in by at least six inches.
“No Human being can please God by self-improvement.” Galatians 2:15
Oh, I know. I have a but for that one too.
Then I met the Galatian people and I’m pretty sure they were my people. I get it. They were a church founded on the message of the cross, but they got a little twisted in the “pleasing of man”. The best of intentions executed in all the wrong ways. And it all started with a rule.
As a Christ-follower you had to ______.
It’s slick; rules, expectations, rote behaviors turn into measuring sticks. By themselves, they quickly become a list of things that qualify or disqualify us. This is really comparison and it draws our eyes away from Christ to a linear level where we begin aiming to please man.
Turning Christ’s sacrificial love into man’s conditional love.
And that’s not how faith works.
“I do no set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:21
And there it is. If Righteousness was earned by keeping the conditions of the law, Christ died for nothing. His torturing, brutal beating, horrible death was for nothing. If we could earn a place in heaven through our behavior, why send Jesus? We cannot do enough self-improvement to earn God’s holy and sacrificial love. We needed Jesus, we still need Jesus.
I came across this quote the other day that sums it up perfectly, from Kris Vallotton in his book, “Fashioned to Reign”.
“When the Serpent came to tempt Eve, “the serpent was tempting them to preform so they could be like God. He told Eve that on the day they ate the fruit (performed), their eyes would be opened and they would be like God. The truth is, Adam and Eve were already like God because they were created in His image and likeness. The serpent was trying to get them to perform for what they already had! …men and women began measuring their relationship with God by their disciplines instead of by their passions.”
Behavior won’t earn us grace. But grace will radically change your behavior.
As we stand there at the feet of Jesus on the cross, accepting his unconditional love for us we give up the measuring stick. We give up conditions for qualifications and we receive love, sacrificial, unconditional love.
That is living free. That is abundant life. That is what this living by faith is all about.