When in college, I left the church denominational affiliation I had grown up in. There were many reasons, but the primary one was that it did not proclaim the biblical message of the salvation that brings us hope. Instead it preached a humanistic message of what we are to do.
I find that many religious groups preach a similar message of “Do and Try Harder.” For certain groups it’s a message of social action promoting this cause or that. However, in doing so they cease to be the “church” by not preaching about the power that saves — the shed blood of Christ.
Other groups emphasize a moral message telling us how we are to live. Often their moral standards are biblically sound, but once again they miss the mark. Their message tells its congregants that the way to God is paved by doing the right things. It is my experience that such messages also leave people without hope.
The religion of “Do and Try Harder” is what I call the All American Religion. Boomers and later generations grew up being told that the American Dream is possible for everyone if they will only work hard. Is it any wonder that the American church easily adopted similar thinking? How? They say, “Are you troubled by sin? Then, stop sinning and choose to do right!” While this solution has the appearance of soundness it is hollow and empty. I am in turmoil because I was not able to “do right,” therefore, the answer to try harder will only lead me to greater despair.
There is no grace in “Do and Try Harder.” Why not? Because grace is not needed since it is for the needy, the weak, those unable to do all that needs to be done to be worthy. Such reasoning implies that grace is for the lazy; after all, there are no free lunches. This “no free lunch” view of grace not only cheapens its meaning it cheapens Christ’s sacrifice. Grace is destroyed by the suggestion that God extends grace to us only after we do our part. But grace is unmerited; if it must be earned it is not grace.
However, in our self-righteousness we want what we think we’re due without realizing that what we deserve is death, due to our sin! Paul describes what grace looks like in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul tells us that what we need is grace, the free gift that Christ purchased for us to deliver us from sin.
Maybe your knee-jerk reaction is to reject this as some kind of “easy believism.” It is easy because if we need to first be worthy it’s not grace. Where other belief systems emphasize what we must do for salvation or enlightenment, the Christian gospel tells us that we have nothing to bring to the table — all we can do is receive the gift that has been offered.
Is your religious system preaching you a gospel different from the Bible’s message of grace? If so, you are likely to feel worn down by trying to run uphill being burdened with more to do. If that describes you, possibly you have had enough with “church.” You are not done with God, but find the church does little to help you in your journey. But don’t “throw the baby out with the bath water.” My journey led me to a church that brought me hope by speaking of what Christ had done for me rather than what I was to do for Him.
The journey begins with our relationship with Christ. I cannot make myself worthy of God’s love and acceptance through doing good. Why not? James warns that without absolute obedience I have no hope, “For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.” The hope that I long for can only be found in being made worthy in Christ alone.
I cannot find worthiness in myself or in my church; my worthiness comes through Christ alone. “Giving thanks to God the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light.” (Colossians 1:12) Resting in the finished work of Christ gives me hope and assurance. If you are weary, next week author Lisa Brockman will speak at USU and the Logan Library on being “Finally Worthy.” Email me at email@example.com for more information.