Are You Trying to Earn God’s Love?
“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness ..."
I am a very goal-oriented person. When there is something I need to accomplish, I often set a timetable and backwards-plan so that each week I complete a task which contributes to the overall goal. (Disgusting, right?)
Sadly, even though I accepted Christ when I was seven years old, I spent over two decades trying to win God’s approval, as if it were a goal I could cross off my list. Evidently, I had heard this message from the conservative church which my family attended during my youth: be as perfect as you can, and God will like—and reward—you more.
As a good Christian girl, I also tried to witness to unbelievers, sometimes with tragi-comic results (i.e., the one teenager who literally ran away from me after I handed him a religious tract, yet again). I went on mission trips, attended church often, helped with children’s choir, and had a daily “quiet time.” I did all of that out of love for Jesus, but also because I feared God and didn’t want him to be disappointed in me. But even though I knew God had forgiven me my sins, I felt as if a grey cloud of guilt constantly hung over my head.
The harder I tried to be perfect, the more miserable I became. It took me almost having a nervous breakdown before I internalized the gospel truth that Jesus saves me by his grace—period. How emancipating to realize that I couldn’t be good enough for him to love me more, or bad enough for him to love me less!
Gradually, I learned to love Jesus freely and accept his ludicrously lavish love. Instead of being bound to a list of do’s and don’ts, I began to serve God out of gratitude for all he accomplished on the cross.
As author and teacher Robert Mulholland said recently at Laity Lodge, “The cross isn’t just something God did. The cross is the very essence of who God is.” When you and I understand how much God loves us, and the depths to which he went to rescue us, we will desire to make him the priority. We will count everything else as “loss,” like Paul did, in order to get closer to the Lover of our Souls.
As He fills us with His gifts, the humility, joy, and peace which crown our lives will attract people to us…and to Him.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you tried to earn God’s approval? How? What do you think Paul meant by counting things as “garbage”? Is it hard to accept that Jesus’ love for you is infinite and not based on your actions? Why or why not?
PRAYER: Jesus, thank you for giving of yourself so that I could be freed from the bonds of sin and death. I can’t even put into words how grateful I am for your sacrifice on the cross. Forgive me for trying to win your approval by my works. I know now that I can do nothing to earn my own righteousness.
Give me daily doses of grace, Lord. Help me recognize temptations as garbage, and grant me the strength to leave them behind—so I can make more room for you. I long to know you more intimately, worship you more consistently, and share you more freely. Show me how to depend on you, instead of myself, in all things. In your holy, righteous name, Amen.