I fell behind on my Bible-reading plan. Again.
I’ve been trying to read the Bible in four months, and the pace has been overwhelming. What started as a genuine desire to get a birds’ eye-view of the Bible soon gave way to a begrudging attitude. It was yet another chore to check off.
And then guilt piled high and weighed me down.
• I’m such a bad Christian—I can’t even keep a commitment to read the Bible every day.
• How can I write about “dwelling in God’s presence” if I don’t do it myself?
• How disappointing I must be to God! I call myself a Jesus-follower but hardly make time for Him.
The voice of condemnation rings loudly in my ears, and I hang my head in shame.
The Lie of Being Good Enough
That age-old lie catches me off guard again: You need to be a good girl so God will be proud to call you His daughter.
I can’t remember anyone saying those exact words to me, but that message somehow lodged itself in my subconscious, poisoning even the best of my intentions. It has become my default motivation for what I do.
I need to be different from “the world,” and that means regular church attendance, a different vocabulary, a pristine reputation, and a certain glow about me. Well, not really, but that’s what it feels like sometimes. Since God calls us to be holy, He must be disappointed when we’re not.
Celebrating Our Need for Daily Grace
All my life I’ve struggled with feeling like I’m not good enough. I’ve seen my shortcoming as an embarrassment. So I tried harder. Prayed more. Practiced spiritual flagellation. And welcomed the guilt. I thought surely the guilt would whip me into shape.
I firmly believe that God is glorified in the transformation of people into His Son’s image, and that’s a miracle we get to witness every day. But I also need to remind myself that we are never told to “be good” in order to gain God’s approval. Quite the opposite. All my good efforts to impress God are like dirty rags. They’re offensive to Him. They belittle the all-sufficient sacrifice of Jesus.
God doesn’t want a top performer on His team.
He wants devoted followers.
He wants an enamored Bride.
He wants a child who goes to her Daddy not with fear of not being good enough, but with the gleeful assurance that he loves her just the way she is.
My shortcomings, my brokenness, and my weaknesses don’t embarrass God; they are exactly what qualify me for God’s love and grace.
Jesus says: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
Why must I insist on trying to be good when Jesus asks me to admit my failings and celebrate His lavish love?
I don’t need to make God proud of me: I am preapproved!
I don’t need to do anything to get God’s stamp of approval: I claim Jesus’s finished work on the cross as my righteousness!
I don’t need to convince God I’m a worthy addition to His team: I am already welcomed as His beloved daughter.
God’s unmerited love doesn’t just secure eternal salvation—it assures grace for every day.
Listen to these beautiful words:
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? […] 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God isn’t disappointed in our failings. He takes great delight in you and me, and he rejoices over us with singing.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Cling to that truth when the enemy’s lies resound around you.
Yes, the Christian life is a continual process of sanctification, and there’s amazing beauty in shedding the old flesh and putting on the new self, made righteous in Jesus and producing wonderful fruit in the Spirit. But friends, that is God’s redemptive work in us as we make ourselves available to His Spirit. As Jennifer Dukes Lee says, “In Christ, you have nothing to prove. You’re preapproved.”
And if you’re caught in the spiritual guilt cycle of feeling like you can never do enough to please God, know this: you can’t. And you don’t have to.
Your need for daily grace is what qualifies you for daily grace. And God delights in pouring out grace upon grace over you and me. Those who are in Christ are already His. You are preapproved. And you are loved.
If you enjoyed this post, please share it with a friend who could use an encouraging word.
This post was inspired by the beautiful Jennifer Duke Lee’s Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval and Seeing Yourself through God’s Eyes. To read more about the book, click here.
Photo credit: cherry blossom, preapproved printable, love idol