Some Christians are so focused on what they do for God that they miss who they are in Christ. They misuse the grace of Jesus without even realizing it. His grace becomes a means to an end instead of the precious gift of righteousness that it is. Jesus called the Pharisees self-righteous. They tried to live a holy life to impress the Lord. But they were like white-washed tombs, beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with all sorts of impurity. Outwardly they looked righteous, but inwardly they were filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:27-28).
Someone trying to earn God’s favor might not see himself as self-righteous. However, righteousness is not something you make happen in your life. It is Christ’s gift of redemption on the Cross for you. In this natural world, we believe we are rewarded according to our performance. And many believe that they are only accepted by God based on how well they do. God’s Kingdom is the opposite of this natural world. The grace of Christ is unearned and not based on us at all. We don’t have to perform well enough to win or keep God’s love and favor. We received these when we believed by faith in Jesus.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6, NLT). God resists the proud who believe they have to earn and win God’s favor. He gives grace to the humble who know that Christ has already favored them with His righteousness.
Am I someone who believes that living holy will give me a better standing with God? I don't need to prove myself to God. He accepts me based on His merit and not mine. The only sin that Jesus rebuked on earth was that of self-righteousness. He never rebuked sinners—only the Scribes and Pharisees. The Pharisees did good things but for the wrong reason. They trusted in their own goodness.
Do I expect God to answer my prayers based on how well I serve Him? No one is good. All of us have fallen short of the glory of God. If I ask God for something because of what I have done, I ask Him to reward my religious performance. And that is an insult to Him. Doing things to earn God’s grace is promoting myself and trying to relate to God based on what I have done instead of having a relationship based on what Jesus has done for me. When I do this, I operate in pride. Pride will never raise anyone up. The only way up in God’s kingdom is down.
Holiness does not render grace. Only Jesus gives grace. Humility—not performance—is our response to the grace of the Cross. Humility is not demeaning ourselves—humility is laying down self and recognizing the omnipotent power of God. Humbling yourself is not a one-time thing. You have to surrender yourself for the rest of your life. Everything good you have in your life comes through God. If self is on your throne, your goodness becomes your own.
“I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own,” Jeremiah prayed. “We are not able to plan our own course" (Jeremiah 10:23, NLT). Man is not able to direct his steps. But self-made men do things their way. Belief in what they can do instead of faith in God's ability leads to pride. God is not the author of pride. He is the one whose glory raises the humblest heart.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV). Pride is the result of doing what you think is right. Humility is trusting God and recognizing that He is the source of all good things in your life. Pride leads to death. Humility before God gives life.
God imparts everything He has available to us through grace. His favor rewards someone who has humility in his heart. Grace abounds when you humble yourself and admit you need God. Ask yourself if you are trying to win God's love and acceptance based on how well you serve Him. You don't have to prove yourself to God. He already approved of you on the Cross.
When you encounter God’s unearned grace, you are humbled by His goodness. You know you are unable to direct your own life. And you learn that God’s plan for your life is better for you than anything you could earn. Without holiness, we will not see God. But pursuing holiness is not working to prove to God that you are holy. Christ has made you worthy. Pursuing holiness is allowing His righteousness to change you, lead you, and fill you.
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NKJV).
©2021 Lynn Lacher