Thursday, October 6, 2016

Freedom From the Performance Treadmill

Freedom From the 

Performance Treadmill

“When we learn to rest in this truth,
feelings of acceptance by
God will follow.”

In 1994, I was given Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges. Immediately, I read the first few 
chapters and set it aside for no memorable reason (Providence had another plan to use it 
later). There it sat until 2006 when I sensed a particular working of the Spirit in my life 
bringing me to a deeper understanding of God’s grace.

I had been finding myself constantly frustrated and, at times, depressed. I thought of myself 
only as a constant failure who could never measure up to my perfectionist expectations and,
 therefore, did not feel fully accepted by God. Oh, I knew I was born again. There was no
 question in my mind about that. But I found it almost impossible to simply rest in my 
acceptance with God. So, He sent Jerry Bridges to me as a faithful counselor to help me
 see the cause of my frustration: I had shifted the basis of my acceptance with God from 
His grace alone to His grace plus my daily performance for Him. Jerry exposed my wrong

My observation of Christendom is that most of us tend to base our personal relationship 
with God on our performance instead of on His grace. If we’ve performed well—whatever
 “well” is in our opinion—then we expect God to bless us. If we haven’t done so well, our 
expectations are reduced accordingly. In this sense, we live by works rather than grace. 
We are saved by grace, but we are living by the “sweat” of our own performance. (p. 1l, 12)

Can you relate? Even though you know in your head that your salvation was accomplished 
solely by the grace of God apart from your own works, do you sometimes wonder if God 
really accepts you? If you do not always “feel” accepted, it may be you have exchanged 
the security of your standing in Christ with the uncertainty of what Bridges calls
 “the performance treadmill” and, therefore, are not truly living by grace. 

Here’s how he describes it:

Living by grace instead of by works means you are free from the performance treadmill.
 It means God has already given you an “A” when you deserved an “F.” He has already 
given you a full day’s pay even though you may have worked for only one hour. It means
 you don’t have to perform certain spiritual disciplines to earn God’s approval. Jesus Christ
 has already done that for you. You are loved and accepted by God through the merit of
 Jesus, and you are blessed by God through the merit of Jesus. Nothing you ever do will
 cause Him to love you any more or any less. He loves you strictly by His grace given to 
you through Jesus. (p. 73)

At the same time, through a Sunday School lesson, God directed me to meditate on
 Ephesians 1:6. The apostle’s point in the passage is that salvation is totally “to the praise
 of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.” 
The teacher then said, “God does not bless me according to my performance. 
Instead, I am already blessed in Christ.” I knew that! I’d probably even said something
 at least remotely like it at one time or another, but I needed to hear it said in exactly
 that way for it to sink in—another affirmation of the Spirit of God renewing my mind.

 Bridges said it this way:

To live by grace is to live solely by the merit of Jesus Christ. To live by grace is to base 
my entire relationship with God, including my acceptance and standing with Him, on my
 union with Christ. It is to recognize that in myself I bring nothing of worth to my relationship
 with God, because even my righteous acts are like filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6).
 Even my best works are stained with motives and imperfect performance. I never truly
 love God with all my heart, and I never truly love my neighbor with the degree or 
consistency with which I love myself. (p. 101)

Therefore, if we base our favor with God on our performance, we will never truly think
 we are accepted, because all our past and present performances are flawed by our sin 
and the stubbornness of our depravity, and there will always be another performance 
ahead—a performance we might just fail. Instead, we must meditate on key passages
 of Scripture that assure us of our standing in grace:
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord 
Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which 
we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1, 2)

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone
 would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while
 we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6–8).

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of
 adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with 
our spirit that we are children of God. (Romans 8:15, 16)

As we meditate on truths like these, our minds are renewed and freed from enslavement
 to performance. Focusing on the truth that our acceptance with God is purely because
 of His grace toward us in Christ will keep us humble and dependent on the Spirit of God.

 Bridges ends his chapter on “The Performance Treadmill” with an illustration of 
Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan (2 Samuel 9), in which he likens the lame man’s
 ever-helpless physical condition to our spiritual need of grace and makes this
 application: “Mephibosheth never got over his crippled condition. He never got
 to the place where he could leave the king’s  table and make it on his own.
 And neither do we” (p. 24).

That is the key! We must never lose sight of our helpless condition and desperate 
need of grace. As we make progress in the Christian life, we must guard against 
the pride that too often grows from valuing our performance above His grace. 
True acceptance is based solely on God’s gracious work in Jesus. When we learn
 to rest in this truth, feelings of acceptance by God will follow.

This article originally appeared here.

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