When I was a kid, we went to church on Sunday nights. (Does anyone do that anymore?)
This Sunday night thing was called Training Union, and it was sort of like the evening equivalent of Sunday school. (I didn’t make up the terminology, people.)
Two explicit memories I have of my childhood church are the yellowish orange carpet and the two attendance boards that were prominently displayed on the wall behind the pulpit.
Sort of like this one:
The Training Union attendance board included a section called Daily Bible Readers, which, true to its name, recorded the number of attendees who professed to read their Bible every day. (True story.)
We had a Training Union Secretary who went from class to class to take attendance and account for the number of Daily Bible Readers. From as early as I can remember, I proudly raised my hand in answer to that question. And on those weeks when the adults and kids remained in one group, I relished the approving looks the adults would give such a dedicated 9-year old performer.
So much so, that there may or may not have been times that I only “claimed” to be a Daily Bible Reader. (Probably a lot of times, but we won’t dwell on that.)
I hadn’t thought about that Training Union scoreboard in years, until it recently came to mind as I thought about my tendency to think I have to earn God’s approval.
For years and years I followed some kind of wonky Christian scoreboard system, until I finally realized the one reason I continually fail at DIY Christianity: because it’s not even possible!
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not a do-it-yourself project.
The Gospel is not a Cross + My Efforts = Righteousness kind of equation.
We know the churches in Galatia struggled with this same issue because the Apostle Paul’s letter to this group addressed it head-on. After Paul had introduced the Gospel of Christ to the Galatians, a group of religious rule-followers came in and put a different spin on the message. They insisted that adhering to traditional religious standards was necessary in order to be considered righteous.
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7)
Paul makes it clear that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not a man-made tradition; and it’s not a club that demands an entry price of good behavior. The gospel of Jesus Christ is this: we are saved because of God’s sheer generosity towards us in Christ. Period.
There is no good behavior addendum; and there is no fine print requiring extra holy points. But I still want to check boxes and keep score with some kind of divine stat tracker.
When I approach the Jesus life from this angle, the gospel gets twisted into my performance-driven formula:
DIY Christianity: Jesus + Good behavior = Righteousness.
(For the record that is an incorrect calculation.)
If I don’t intentionally live (daily!) in view of God’s grace, then my “religious” activity like studying, teaching, serving, and church attendance can easily slip into performance mode.
That kind of thinking ultimately translates to God is happy with me as long as I’m performing well. If any area falls below the bar, then I basically fail at righteousness altogether.
Thank God that grace tells a completely different story. Because here’s the truth: any man, method, or measure of salvation apart from Jesus Christ is false. You and I can be done with chasing Good Enough…because we already are.
The work of the cross is finished.
This means you and I can quit trying to earn it. (Which is a good thing because I’m not a great rule-follower, so basically I could never be a good Christian without Jesus.)
And frankly, that’s the point.
Join us on the bleachers!
This is where you sign up for your own special seat on the bleachers.
You'll get every new blog post hand-delivered to your inbox, and you'll also get the *cool, free stuff* reserved only for subscribers.
(It's sort of like VIP, club-level tickets.) (Except totally free.)