Many Christians today are driven by the idea that they ought to be doing more in order to be pleasing to God. They think that if they were doing more for God, they would experience more blessing, favor, and goodness from God. While trying our best may seem like the right approach to relating to God, this motivation instead ignites a monster within that destroys its victims with destructive habits, overwhelming guilt, fear, anger, bitterness, and blindness to the reality of God’s goodness and grace in Jesus Christ.
Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?
It’s a sentiment that seems humble and right – “I need to do more to get more.” It is the same belief and expectation that drove the Pharisees in their legalistic attempts to gain righteousness. They assumed they needed to do more. They assumed righteousness was based on what they wore, said, and did. They denied that righteousness could come through faith in Jesus Christ. They denied that righteousness was a gift offered to man as an expression of grace. As a result, they:
- measured their righteousness against others.
- measured others’ righteousness against their own righteousness.
- looked down on others not like them.
- defined their life by keeping rules, laws, and standards.
- demanded that others keep the laws, rules, and standards.
- became self-obsessed with what they ought to do for God
The monster in sheep’s clothing
The monster is still alive and active today. It attacks Christians with the idea that God is withholding His blessings from them until they start doing more to please Him. The monster whispers with a voice that sounds seductively right.
- I’m not giving enough financially.
- I’m not reading my Bible enough.
- I don’t pray enough.
- I don’t witness enough.
- I don’t serve enough.
- I should worship more.
- I should worry less.
- I should care more.
- I ought to go on more mission trips.
- I ought to get more involved at church.
- I should be more holy.
- I should be more forgiving.
- I ought to do more spiritual things.
- I’m not doing enough.
The monster unleashed
By relating to God in this way, they unleashed within themselves a monster. They unlocked the self-obsessed monster of: I must do more. I am not doing enough. I must do the things that appease God. The monster unleashed itself in their lives taking away their ability to overcome and even recognize their sin. They lived with double standards, double lives, hypocrisy, anger, lust, greed, arrogance, and all manner of evil. In their system of pressured performance, they could not confess or be honest about their failures. They could not admit their sin. They were forced to hide their sin and cover over what enslaved them. They were held captive by the monster.
I hate that monster!
The way to defeat the monster of self-obsession is not through trying to do more things in hopes of being more pleasing to God. If fact, focusing on what ought to be done, should be done, or hasn’t been done is what unleashes the monster. The apostle Paul said in his writings to the Galatians that focusing on trying to do more in hopes of appeasing God ignites the “flesh”.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. Galatians 5:19-21a
The one weapon that destroys the monster
The message of the Gospel is that the fullness of God’s favor has been shown to us in Jesus Christ! He has shown His favor and when it is received completely by faith, we enjoy the experience of not only being forgiven, but also being made fully righteous and complete. The act of humbly taking in this truth by faith is what has the power to destroy the monster of self-obsession. Every longing, fear, need, and hurt is swallowed up when I accept that because of Christ I am made righteous, complete, perfect, and holy. In being full, the war of having to do more comes to an end! As I walk continually in this, the powers of temptation and sin lose their hold!
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16
I then experience within the the reality of being set free from the pressure, fear, and demands to have to do more. Walking in what’s been done for me frees me from the self-obsessive monster! He is crucified, dead, and without power!
And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. I John 5:4