At Christmas we sing a song with our small children about Santa Claus coming down the chimney with presents on Christmas Eve. The song warns the kids to watch out, don’t cry and don’t pout. Later in the song we tell these naive little peeps that Santa knows all about them, when they’re asleep, when they’re awake and when they’ve been good or bad.
When we grow up Satan tells us the same thing, doesn’t he? Especially the part about knowing when we’ve been good or bad. Santa brings toys to girls and boys whether they’ve good or bad.
Does Satan care when we think we’ve been good? Yes. Does Satan care when we think we’ve been bad? Oh, he loves that. Why does he care if we think we’ve been good or bad? Because then he knows we’re hung up on a bunch of rules. We compare our good behavior with our bad behavior, or our behavior with other people. That’s a field day for the evil one.
So many Christians struggle with their behavior. They condemn themselves when they misbehave and they struggle to do all the right things for the approval of others and of God. Romans 8:1 says, “For there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” None. Jesus freed us from all condemnation by his sacrifice for our sins on the cross.
But, oh, how Satan likes to remind us of our bad behavior. He has plenty of condemnation for us. He loves to tell us how bad and unworthy and sinful we are. He likes for us to do good things, so he can remind us of the bad things we do. We can walk the little old church lady across the street and feel good for doing something for someone else. But then Satan says, “Oh, but you remember that time your handicapped neighbor asked you to mow his lawn? You played golf with your friends instead. Remember?
So we try to keep from doing bad things and work real hard to do more good things. When they tried to label Jesus as “good,” he asked them, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Luke 18:19. So it doesn’t help us to try to be good. We can’t.
That’s why I don’t make any New Year’s resolutions. I always break them. The same goes when many Christians try to improve their “Christianity.” We hear them vow, “I’m going to pray for 15 minutes every day,” and “I’m going to read the Bible every day.” or “I’m going to serve the church on seven committees this year,” or I’m going to tithe.” or “I’m going to witness to one person every month this year.
What’s usually the outcome?
They don’t do it. They fail to keep their commitments to themselves. They might for a while. Some might even follow through (though I’ve never known any one who did). Something or someone distracts them and they skip off down some rabbit trails. Then they don’t read the Bible for three days, so they condemn themselves. They feel like a failure because they didn’t do what they said they would do. They didn’t follow their self-imposed set of behaviors (rules) and now they think they’re bad. So, they pray and promise God they’re going to do better and re-commit to all their rules. Do you see a pattern developing here?
Many of us think being a follower of Jesus means we have to behave in certain ways. So we work and work and work at being good and doing good things for God. But at some point we fall, and we’re back into the condemnation game. It’s like a yo-yo. We do good for a while, then we do something bad. We can’t stay consistent. No one can.
Paul says in Romans 7:15, “For what I am doing I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” Then in verse 5:17-18, “So now, no longer am I the one doing it but sin which dwells in me.” Paul says in Romans 5:18-19, For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”
God’s grace and forgiveness and mercy are not based on what we do, but who we are in Christ. We waste so much time and money and effort trying to do good things for God. All he’s asking you to do is believe, receive and abide. In John 15:5 Jesus teaches, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit (good), for apart from Me you can do nothing (good that will matter to God).” Parentheses mine.
Jesus does all the work. The life is in the vine. As we abide in Him (and do nothing else) He will do the good works God created for us to do. But when we try to add something to help God out, we can do nothing.
Do you think you’re not good enough to have a relationship with Jesus? Do you think He won’t understand? Well, Jesus loves you just like you are, just where you are and nothing you have ever said or done will keep Him from accepting you becoming your friend and Savior. If you’d like to know Jesus and how easy it is to invite him into your heart, follow this link.