Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Sanctification Gone Wild

I was reminded today of some truths that I haven't written about in a while. I was interviewed for the Theology for the Rest of Us podcast this morning and we talked at length about performance-based Christianity. Based on my own experiences, I define performance-based Christianity as sanctification gone wild. Performance-based Christianity can set in when we start believing the gospel is something that we needed at the beginning of our Christian life, but as we progress through life, we need it less and less. In performancism, we call sanctification progress and its goal is self-sufficiency. We view it as a movement away from life's messiness into some type of have-it-togetherness where God is more pleased with us than he is with poor Joe Blow who is still steeped in his messiness. Performancism views God's law as attainable because after all, we've been given a new heart so we ought to be able to pull it off.

I spent years as a Christian preoccupied with God's law and my obedience. The burning question each day was how is my obedience today. Is it better than it was yesterday? As I spent countless hours, days, months, and years muscling my way through my sanctification, certain that my obedience was THE barometer for knowing I was a believer and knowing God was pleased with me, I assumed I had a high view of God's law. After all, I was pulling it off, or so I thought. I was at least doing it better than most of those around me. Or so I thought.

But then I discovered through severe trials that a preoccupation with God's law doesn't mean one has a high view of God's law. Quite the opposite. I found out the hard way that my preoccupation with God's law actually resulted in my having a very low view of it for the simple reason that I thought I could pull it off. I thought God's holy standard was attainable by my own effort. After all, I was a new creation with a new heart and sin was no longer my master.

But then God stripped everything away from me and brought me to a place where I had nothing. Literally. Nothing but Jesus. It was there that the doing stopped. The masks I was wearing to fool others into thinking I was a Christian Superman started to crumble and the idols of my heart started being exposed, and the real me, the broken me, started to show. And there was nowhere to run to baby, nowhere to hide. By putting me in a place where I could do nothing, God started to show me that Jesus is enough. His grace is sufficient. "Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect" finds its rest in "It is finished." I'm so glad Jesus knows the real me. The ugly me. The broken me. And he loves me just as I am.

-Mike

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