When Faith Feels Like a Circus Act
“Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Galatians 3:2-3 (ESV)
For the last few years, I have been functioning like a Christianese acrobat. I’ve spent years jumping through hoops of holy hustle, walking tightropes of rigid spiritual discipline and contorting my body to fit into the mold of a good Christian.
My trapeze-like theology had me believing that my good works could hoist me into the air, keeping me close to God and in His favor.
But what you couldn’t see was the constant crash and burn that led to a dried-up woman who felt far from the God she wanted to please. Have you ever found yourself stuck in this “Cirque du Soleil” kind of faith?
Luckily, we are not the first people to feel like that.
In our key verse, Paul asks a soul-searching question to the Galatian church who found themselves trusting in human-made hoops to win God’s affection: “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2-3)
At this time in history, the Galatian church had heard the true gospel. However, some of the Jewish believers were trying to convince the gentile (non-Jewish) believers that in addition to believing in Christ, they must also abide by the Jewish laws. Instead of fully trusting in Christ for salvation, the Jewish believers claimed one must also rely on good works to be accepted by God.
Sound familiar? Friends, this trapeze-to-please kind of faith is not new. The trouble with this kind of theology is that it proclaims a different gospel than the gospel of Christ. I like to call this imposter “the gospel of grit.”
The gospel of grit might acknowledge the work of Jesus on the cross, but ultimately, the pressure is still on us to earn God’s acceptance. The most tempting thing about this false gospel is that we can easily measure our righteousness based on the spiritual boxes we check off.
While that might allow us to gloat in the good things we’ve done, it’s also a painful reminder that we will never measure up. This is not the life-giving, soul-freeing gospel Jesus intended.
Jesus came to proclaim the gospel of grace. This gospel hinges on the truth that Christ’s work on the cross makes us right before God. We don’t have to fill our lives with good works to be accepted; instead, our lives are radically changed because we already are accepted. We were never intended to spend our lives swinging from ropes to please a God who has already fully accepted us in Christ.
Dear friend, let’s step off the tightrope and rest in knowing Christ’s work is enough. The gospel of grace is a beautiful reminder that we’re not acrobats juggling our way into God’s Kingdom, but children of God who already have a place at His table.
Lord, thank You there is nothing I can do to earn Your love — it’s already mine through Christ. Help me remember the goodness of the gospel throughout my day and cling to the truth that Jesus is enough for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Galatians 2:16, “… we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (ESV)
Galatians 2:20-21, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (ESV)
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REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Is there an area of your life where you find yourself trying to “work your way” toward God’s affection? Share your struggle in the comments today, and discover you aren’t alone.
Write one of the Truth for Today verses on an index card and post it in your closet, on a mirror or somewhere you’ll see it daily. As you get ready each morning, remind your heart that there is no need to strive for God’s love — it’s already yours in Christ.
© 2019 by Kaitlin Garrison. All rights reserved.
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