In my therapy sessions earlier this year, my performance based relationship with God was the focus of quite a few conversations with my therapist. As a result, she recommended that I read the book “The Discipline of Grace” by Jerry Bridges.
I bought the book back in July and have been slow to get very far in reading it. For some reason I can only read a few pages at a time with books like these. I’m still only in Chapter 1 even though there have been some really insightful nuggets so far such as this from the very first page:
“We try to change ourselves. We take what we think are the tools of spirtual transformation into our own hands and try to sculpt ourselves into robust Christlike specimens.”
And this, a little farther into Chapter 1 that just about jumped off the page and knocked me to the floor when I read it:
“Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the REACH of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the NEED of God’s grace.”
This morning I picked up the book to read a couple of pages and this really stood out to me:
“The one word that describes what we must continue to hear is gospel. We need to continue to hear the gospel every day of our Christian lives. Only a continuous reminder of the gospel of God’s grace through Christ will keep us from falling into good-day-bad-day thinking, wherein we think our daily relationship with God is based on how good we’ve been. It is only the joy of hearing the gospel and being reminded that our sins are forgiven in Christ that will keep the demands of discipleship from becoming drudgery. It is only gratitude and love to God that comes from knowing that He no longer counts our sins against us (Romans 4:8) that provides the proper motive for responding to the claims of discipleship.”
My first thought after reading this was: “Did I get saved because of the gospel or out of guilt?”
I was only 8 when I accepted Jesus so the ability to grasp the depths of salvation was obviously limited but I don’t remember feeling joy.
I only remember guilt.
I felt desperate to be right with God because it was the right thing to do. And it’s what all the church kids were expected to do, right?
I’m sure that’s a pretty common experience for most kids growing up in the church. We were so saturated in the plan of salvation that it only made sense to team up with Jesus.
Somewhere along the way, I would’ve thought that the “gospel of guilt” message I picked up as an 8 year old might have been replaced with the joy of knowing Jesus but that has not been my experience.
I have had moments of joy sprinkled along the way but mostly I have been motivated by a perfectionist, performance driven mindset which only feeds the guilt. And in case you haven’t seen it in your own life, guilt has a way of infiltrating and infecting anything it touches.
I’ve spent my whole life with guilt festering inside of me for all the ways I needed to be better or stronger, and all the things I needed to do more of that I kept doing not enough of, or the things I needed to do less of that I kept doing too much of. I started equating all of that to being not enough and too much all at the same time. And that must be how God views me since that’s how I see myself. So more guilt gets added in to keep the cycle spiraling out of control.
Is it just me who struggles with this vicious cycle or can anyone else relate?
How do I stop feeling guilty? How do I love Jesus without feeling like I have to earn His love in return? How do I spend time with God without feeling obligated to just check another thing off the daily To Do list?
Hopefully I’ll find an answer as I continue reading “The Discipline of Grace” because the gospel message of guilt that I’ve been preaching to myself is not what I want to follow anymore.
I need to hear the true gospel message full of grace and truth spoken in love every day. Not just that Jesus died on the cross for all the sins of the world but also the gospel that looks more like come to Me if you’re weary so I can give you rest. Instead of a gospel that says keep pushing yourself til you break under the weight of your own expectations.
I need the gospel that leads me back to the only One who can be my strong tower in the battle, protecting me and fighting for me.
The gospel that reminds me I can find shelter under the wings of a compassionate God who longs to carry me when the journey is hard. A gentle God who knows this isn’t a character flaw of weakness but an act of worship to trust and rest in His care.
This is the gospel message I need every day. A message of truth, protection and love. Filled with more joy and less guilt.
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