Freedom from Performance-Based Christianity

Jul. 25, 2019 | By Creflo Dollar

Summary

Many Christians struggling with self-effort are still focused on their performance, rather than on their belief. There is a difference between performing to try to do what Jesus has already done, and performing as a result of faith in what we have received by grace. Some of us may have trouble understanding that we could actually receive something from God without doing anything to deserve it. If we have been taught that God’s blessings are dependent on our works, grace will challenge this mindset. Grace is all about believing and receiving, not about working and deserving. The Law of Moses locked the people into continual self-effort; grace frees us from it. We receive this freedom only when we accept it by faith.

  1. Relying on our own efforts puts us back under the law; Jesus rescued us from that.
    1. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death (Romans 7:5).
      1. In this context, “the flesh” means to be under the law, trying to do good through self-effort. This is a perfect description of religion.
    2. And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field… But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee (Deuteronomy 28:1-3, 15).
      1. Under the law, perfect performance is required before any blessings can be received.
    3. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (Galatians 3:13, 14).
      1. Everything we have under the new covenant we received through Jesus, not through our performance.
      2. Christ paid the ransom and delivered us from being cursed for our inability to perform according to the law’s requirements.
  1. Jesus’ works, not ours, position us to receive blessings. We simply have faith in Him.
    1. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30).
      1. Only by His doing are we in Christ Jesus; we are not blessed by our own performance.
      2. Jesus, in us, gives us wisdom, makes us righteous, sanctifies us, and makes us holy.
      3. When Jesus says we are holy, we are holy right then, not when our spiritual fruit begins to show. We will not experience the fruit until we believe, first.
      4. We must accept the root of righteousness, first, in order to begin the process of transformation.
    2. What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works (Romans 4:1-6).
      1. God considered Abraham righteous because of Abraham’s faith, apart from any self-effort.
      2. For us, this means that our works are unnecessary; grace is God’s unearned favor.
    3. In the eyes of God, true righteousness is by faith.
      1. And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith (Philippians 3:9).
      2. Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory (Romans 5:1, 2, NLT).
      3. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:22, 23, NLT).
  1. Jesus’ body and blood removed the curse and the need to work to receive from God.
    1. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:7).
      1. We are redeemed and forgiven not by our own actions, but by Jesus’ blood. He paid the ransom, not us.
    2. Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature (Colossians 1:13-15).
      1. The use of the word “hath” signifies the past tense—everything that Jesus did is finished, and ready for us to receive. We did not earn any of it.
    3. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4).
      1. Under grace, it is not okay to work to justify ourselves. We fall from grace when we think our works are necessary.
      2. Falling from grace is not falling into sin. When we fall into sin, grace is available to get us out of it.
  1. The Galatians moved away from trusting grace, and toward trusting their performance.
    1. Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross. Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it? I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ. In the same way, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God. What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would make the Gentiles right in his sight because of their faith. God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when he said, “All nations will be blessed through you.” So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith (Galatians 3:1-9, NLT).
      1. We must use our faith to believe what Jesus has done, not as an attempt to get God to do something for us.
      2. Faith is a positive response to what grace has already made available.
    2. You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough. Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up! Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? Don’t these things happen among you just as they happened with Abraham? He believed God, and that act of belief was turned into a life that was right with God (Galatians 3:1-6, MSG).
      1. The Holy Spirit was sent to work things in our lives we cannot do ourselves. We are deceived if we think self-effort and willpower will get the job done.
      2. Grace more than makes up for our weaknesses and inadequacies.
      3. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness… for when I am weak, then am I strong (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10).

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