Today was different. I participated in my favorite Sunday routine: helping with setup for the church, serving as a greeter, and enjoying an awesome service. I'm probably the least helpful person if you ask for a critique. I always leave church thinking, "That was awesome, I don't how next week could get better!" Next week rolls around and I say the same thing.
This afternoon I sat alone in my deserted office struggling to come up with anything to say, yet again. I had about three hours until my small group was supposed to meet and I had nothing. To be completely honest, my Sunday routine has started to include feeling completely inadequate right before I'm supposed to lead a group! If you've had the chance to know me at all or even read half the stuff I put on my blog, you've probably figured out that I don't have it all figured out!
As desperation started to creep in, I started looking for wisdom. One of my friends, who really meant well, simply said, "Pray about it and go with your gut." Oh yeah! Somehow that suggestion always makes me feel really dumb. Aren't I supposed to know that's what I'm supposed to do?
So I started praying and pretty much begging God for some direction. One idea from the day's sermon had really stuck with me: We take our eye's off Jesus when we believe in performance based affection. In other words, we believe that God's love for us is dependent on what we do or how we behave.
I'm guilty of this.
The thing is, I know the church answer. I know that God loved me even while I was still a sinner and that he sees me as a new creation. I know that I could never work my way to heaven! No matter how much I can repeat the church answers, there are still times where the root of my frustration comes from "trying harder."
I'm the girl that gets down on herself when she messes up. I say things like, "I really need to work harder to stop...." Or "If I only spent more time...." All of which center around making sure that I'm doing "my part" in the God relationship or at least fulfilling expectations (usually my own).
That was exactly what I needed to share with my small group. I know I can't possibly be the only one who struggles with that (usually when things are mentioned in a sermon, you can pretty much figure at least one other person does). I could fill up an entire blog with why this is an issue for me. I will spare you from that and instead share some things God spoke to me about through from the book of Philippians.
Check out chapter 2:12-18. My favorite part is how Paul points out that "it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."
God changes our actions and our desires through the power of the Holy Spirit to make us more like Christ and reflect his glory.
Now flip over a little and look at chapter 3:7-10. Paul just got finished listing out his religious accomplishments. His resume is quite impressive, but he says he sees everything as rubbish (or poo) "in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith"
Paul recognized that his righteousness or the "good stuff" about him had nothing to do with him! In fact everything about him he counted a rubbish in order that he may gain Christ and the righteousness that comes through him! Don't miss that--> in order for us to really experience the righteousness that comes simply from knowing Christ, we have to get to a place where we recognize that everything "good" we've done (i.e, following the law) is completely worthless!
Before you start getting too depressed, just think a minute. In a world where we're constantly told to "try harder," God simply wants us to accept his free gift- an abundant life that is free from guilt of not measuring up and trying to make it on your own.
Last thing, look at chapter 3:12-16. Paul ends this thought so beautifully. Just when you're starting to think, "Gosh, I wish I could be like him and have it all together," He reminds us that he's not perfect either. God really reminded me of something tonight when I read verses 13 and 14:
Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
I love this. As someone who can reflect back with the best of them, I need to take these verses to heart. I can forget the mistakes of the past; those little sins that drive me crazy and cause me to give myself a guilt trip! Instead, we press on. We repent, and call on Jesus again. The thing we have to remember is that this is not us working harder the next time. This is us remembering that the Spirit of God lives in us and (back to chapter 2) is working in us to change our desires and our actions.
Are you staying in close contact with God? How does that affect the way you view sin in your life? What does it really mean for your righteousness to come through faith in Jesus? How can you remind yourself of this when you get back to the "try harder mentality?