For many years, I treated my faith like I was cooking dinner in the kitchen. I clung to the notion that if I followed my spiritual recipe, then I’d feel like I was a good Christian.
Here’s what my Christian life recipe looked like for many years:
1 c. weekly church attendance
1 c. daily Bible study
1 c. volunteering (or 2 c. if pressured to do more)
1 c. Bible study group (sometimes a seasonal ingredient)
1 c. offering (or a dash if money is tight)
1 c. prayer (add more if you gossip, lie, or occasionally swear)
1 c. good intentions
Directions: Mix together each week on your calendar. For consistence, each ingredient must be mixed in each week, even if you’re sick. Substitute guilt for any missing ingredients. Season with “Hallelujah,” “Amen,” “Won’t He do it?” or any other favorite Christian cliché. Pour generous amounts of worship music over the top to cover for anything that might be outdated or less than fresh. Finally, serve with a Sunday smile.
For years, I felt confident about my recipe of good Christian rules. As long as I mixed the ingredients together consistently, I relished the idea that my actions made God feel good about me. That was important to me!
However, in those seasons when my kids didn’t sleep at night or when I was depressed and didn’t feel like praying, my failure at executing my recipe felt like grumpy restauranteur Gordon Ramsey calling me names like “slacker,” or “bad Christian.” There’s nothing that a Jesus-girl is more afraid of than being called a bad Christian. Wait, there is something worse: feeling like I was failing God.
Have you ever felt like there’s long list of rules you have to follow in order to be a “good Christian” and you always seem to be breaking one of them? Perhaps you feel like you are just one mistake or sin away from God sending you a big “whammy.” Or, maybe you’re just tired of trying to measure up.
The truth is that many of us have been shaped by the idea that in order to please God, we’ve got to follow a “religious recipe” or jump through religious rules hoops. If that’s you, you’re not alone!
The only way to straighten ourselves out is to go back and start at the core of our faith: The Gospel. Even if we’ve heard the gospel 1,000 times in our lives, we need to hear it 1,000 times more because the gospel changes everything about our lives every single day!
In his letter to the Galatians church, the Apostle Paul begins at square one explaining the gospel, proving a concise summary at the beginning of his letter:
Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live” (Galatians 1:4 NLT).
Every day, the gospel is the evidence us that God wants more for us than from us because the gospel is based on God’s perfect promises, never our performance.
Not only that, the gospel reminds us that God’s greatest desire for us to receive from Him, not follow the rules for Him. Receiving from God is what paves the path to our freedom from the fear of not being enough for God, not following the rules. When we find that freedom in Christ, that’s when we experience a life that shines with God’s joy and purpose.
If you’ve been struggling with pressure of doing more for God, the question for you today is this: Will you allow the gospel to be enough for you?
Perhaps God is saying to you today, “I know that you want to please me, but trying to follow the rules just right is breaking your heart. You can stop trying so hard. You don’t need to stress yourself out trying to live the perfect Christian life like following a recipe. Our relationship is enough.”
Ultimately, a relationship with God is much more fulfilling than following the rules. Best of all, God knows that we’ll never be perfect and we don’t need to be. In a letter to another group of believers, the Apostle Paul delivers timeless encouragement, especially for those of us who struggle with perfectionism or fear of abandonment:
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns (Philippians 1:6).
When we learn how to shift from following the rules to recognizing where God is at work in our lives, we’ll feel less pressure to try to do the work ourselves. So, even when you may not feel like God is at work, as long as you are praying for Him to lead you to freedom, you can be confident that He is doing exactly that!
Barb Roose is a popular speaker and author who is passionate about teaching women to live beautifully strong and courageous in spite of their fears so that they can experience God’s great adventure of faith and purpose for their lives. Learn more at barbroose.com
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