Just like Adam and Eve, we try to dress ourselves with the spiritual fig leaves of performance. But hear them ripping?
I tried to prevent my fig leaves from ripping by keeping track of my good deeds and bad deeds on an imaginary scale of justice. After all, I wondered, why did God establish the Old Testament Law if not to give me the rules for making me perfect?
But our sinless, glorious God established the Law of the Old Testament to help us see our need of a coming Messiah and Savior. For some of us, our problem can be thinking we’re supposed to keep the Law or perform perfectly to establish and secure our salvation. Although it’s true we need to study the Bible, pray, and follow through on other spiritual disciplines, the motive can become warped. We forget abiding in Christ moment by moment empowers us to face life’s challenges.
When we depend upon our own performance—even if it’s spending time with God—we could be saying, “I find it hard to believe Jesus did enough on the cross for me.”
Believing such a lie goes against the truths of Romans 8:2-3: For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.
We can never fulfill God’s holy commandments because our flesh is … well … fleshly. It fails us.
God designed our flesh to be weak so we would need Him.
Curiously, our efforts at performance are exactly what Adam and Eve did after they sinned. To protect themselves from the exposure of their sin’s guilt, they hid and designed their own solution: fig leaves. Our own “fig leaves” can be claiming to be perfect, thinking we can reach perfection, or trying to perform as well as possible. All with the motive to override God’s plan for our spiritual security.
But God knew fig leaves rip and shrivel easily. Instead He killed animals to provide skins, pointing to the future system of animal sacrifices. And those sacrifices point to the Lamb of God, Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice, who would die in our place on the cross.
When we doubt our security, we’re saying His sacrifice wasn’t sufficient. That’s what I believed as a little girl. I believed God was standing over me, waiting for me to do something wrong so He could punish me. In my child’s mind and heart, trying to find a way to protect myself, I envisioned a scale of justice. I piled my good deeds on one side of the scale, my bad deeds on the other. Since nothing could be placed on the “good” side unless done perfectly, I piled the majority of my choices on the “bad” side. My only hope was becoming a perfect adult.
But glory to God, I heard the gospel clearly at the age of eighteen when a boy, Larry (my future and only husband), took me to his church. I understood for the first time nothing I could do would make me good enough to earn God’s favor. So God offered it to me as a gift through Jesus’ death and resurrection. What glorious news! I prayed to receive Christ as my Savior and Lord on Sunday morning, October 1st, 1967. Unfortunately, I thought salvation was also the way for me to act perfectly. It does guarantee perfection in heaven but not on earth. Over these many years, God has been teaching me about grace and how only grace provides security—not what I do.
Can you hear the truth?
- You cannot feel guilty enough …
- You cannot do enough good deeds …
- You cannot mentally hit yourself over the head enough …
- You cannot vow to become better to please God …
- You can’t even have sufficient devotional times to be declared acceptable …
God knew you and I couldn’t perform well enough, thus His love designed a plan for declaring us perfect based on Jesus’ death and resurrection. God’s wrath for sin has been appeased. Satisfied. Taken care of. Perfectly. Completely.
Take off those fig leaves of performance and claim your inheritance in Christ bringing forgiveness.
(This post is an adapted excerpt from my book, Pure-Hearted: The Blessings of Living Out God’s Glory.)