Each of the last two days, I’ve mentioned that your identity in Christ is a gift and that you can’t earn it. It’s all well and good to say that, but it’s time to examine that idea in detail.
Let’s start with this: you’re nothing. I’m nothing. We’re all a whole bunch of dirt that He breathed life into and then decided for some reason to love.
Not only are you insignificant in value compared to the Creator of the entire (and unfathomably large) Universe, but you have sinned against Him as well.
Imagine a cockroach giving you attitude. Just by virtue of being a cockroach, he’s lucky if you let him live; when he starts yelling at you, it’s laughably pathetic. If it actually tried to do something you didn’t like, you might well smash him. And not many people would say you’re wrong. He was a roach, you’re a human; the difference in value is massive.
And the difference between you and God is infinitely greater.
We often forget that. We forget how easily we’re getting off because we forget how powerful and holy He is. We forget our place and, in doing so, fail to glorify Him properly in His. Even if He were spiteful or arbitrary or just distant, He would be worthy of praise because He is God. How much more so because He loves us enough to die for us?
Something else happens when we forget our proper place: we try to earn it. We try to be good enough, usually for other people or our own standards, sometimes to live up to His, but always trying to earn our place. Always trying and failing to be worthy, getting frustrated that we somehow fell short again or that our mild success didn’t last and wasn’t enough.
And it’s always one step forward, two steps back, isn’t it? Why? Because you’re not enough. You were never meant to be enough. Because He is more than enough.
It is His grace that allows you to be saved, His love that keeps you, His sacrifice that paid for your sins, and His covenant that gave you a new identity. You did nothing! You couldn’t do anything because He did it all.
I don’t mean this to tear you down and leave you a self-deprecating, sobbing mass. I mean this to be the second-best news you can ever hear: your inability to earn it means that you can stop trying. It’s a gift, willingly offered by Someone who loves you more than your spouse, children, family, or friends ever could.
If you found the perfect Christmas present for someone and were excited for the next three months (or three hours, for those last-minute shoppers; you know who you are! 🙂 ), just waiting eagerly for Christmas so you could see the look on their face, would you want them to react with surprise and joy and enjoy the present immediately or would you want them to whip out a wallet and try to pay you for the present? That latter one’s a slap in the face, isn’t it? Yet it’s exactly what we try to do when we attempt to earn our salvation, our identity, or anything else from God. We can’t. It’s all a bunch of gifts, given to us by a doting Father. All He wants is for us to love and obey Him, love others, and enjoy what He’s given us.
One of my readers left feedback last week attesting to this very problem. She said she was trying to be good enough and kept feeling she was failing, saying, “I never seem to arrive at my original destination.” I know the feeling. Life is full of twists and turns, but every one of them has been known by God since before time began. If you keep trying and failing, I see three possibilities:
1. You’re doing something God doesn’t want you to do. He may be calling you into something else or wanting you to just stop and seek Him. He may want you to do this, but not quite yet. He may even be calling you to use a different approach to doing it. This is a wonderful time to pray and wait on God to teach you what He wants you to do.
2. You’re doing something for yourself instead of for Him. The heart is crafty. It will tell you you’re serving God and in the same breath tell you that you deserve something for your service. God will never bless your efforts to glorify yourself. You may succeed and be glorified, but it won’t be because He blessed you. And if it’s not His blessing, it’s not what’s best for you, no matter how good it seems.
3. God is working, either in you or in others, in ways you don’t see. When I started promoting my book on confidence, sales were dismal. I was a bit down about it (showing that I hadn’t yet mastered confidence myself), but my wife reminded me that God could have had me write it to reach just one person. And if that’s the only person who reads and is touched by the book, then it is worth it. We cannot measure success in God’s work by human standards. You can only measure by your obedience to, faith in, and love for Him. Serve Him with your whole heart and let Him take care of the results.
In the end, we can’t do anything for God. Our righteous works are as filthy rags. And He doesn’t want us to try to earn them. He wants our obedience and love, but He gives us these presents just because He loves us. No earning necessary. No earning possible.