If you are a follower of Jesus, I want to ask you to seriously consider this list and stop doing these things. I am convinced that the moment we stop doing these things, we will experience freedom that has long been forgotten.
1. Doing Things For God. Martin Luther rightly said that God doesn’t need your good works, but your neighbor does. I have witnessed many Christians treat others horribly or doing work that is sub-par, all the while qualifying this behavior by saying things like “I am doing this for God,” and “I don’t care what people will think, I am only out to please God.” Our good works that we demonstrate are not for God but rather because God is already for us.
2. Trying To Please God. Friends, here is the reality – no matter how hard we try or how well behave, we will never be able to please God. All of our good works amount to nothing before God (Isa. 64.6). We are desperately in need of a righteousness that does not originate from us. But here is the good news: even though we won’t be able to please God, Jesus did. This is the reality from which we live and a reality that has been given to us (2 Cor. 5:21).
3. Attempting To Save People. The most scandalous news that people hate to hear these days is that Jesus saves, not us. We must put in the work and leave the saving to God. Let’s stop trying to be functional Messiah’s to our friends, church members, spouses and employers – because we will fail every time.
4. Staying Mad At People. I have literally witnessed professing Christians who have followed Jesus almost their entire life boldly proclaim to other Christians that they refuse to forgive them. Jesus said that we don’t have to physically kill people to commit murder (Matt. 5:22). There is no reason to store wrath to unleash upon people. The wrath of God was already unleashed upon Jesus on our behalf and this is the good news that frees us to love people as they are, not as we think they should be.
5. Comparing Ourselves To Other People. With the proliferation of social media, we often see the highlight reel of peoples’ lives, not the behind the scenes footage.
I believe that much of our anxiety (Matt. 6:34) is due to the fact that we are to busy comparing one another, instead of complementing one another.
6. Sending People To Hell. So many times I hear Christians boldly declare that a certain favorite sin – will send the person to hell. The most favorite ones are idolatry, homosexuality, adultery, murder, suicide, not reading your Bible enough and fill in the blank. Here is the point: every single person on this planet has committed enough sin to send them to hell for eternity. In fact, we were born sinners (Ps. 51:5). So basically, the only thing that we contributed to our salvation is the mass of sin that made it necessary. These verses give me a credible hope for humanity:
These verses give me hope for humanity:
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Pet. 3:9)
Who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Tim. 2:4)
7. Straining To Complete God’s Commandments. We have all trespassed and completely missed the mark on every single commandment that God said we should complete. But the good news is that even though we have failed, Jesus did not. Even though we could never accomplish the law of God, Jesus accomplished it on our behalf. And that is again the scandalous nature of grace that will throw a curveball to religious people who still think that God cares about their good behavior. If you are still not convinced, read Romans 6 and 1 Timothy 1 where it is clearly stated that not only can we not complete the law but we don’t have to (gasp) because we are not under it anymore.
8. Depending On Other People For Our Happiness. The truth might hurt but it also helps and heals. Your career, your money, your car, your house, your spouse, your church, your employer, your friends and your social networks will never provide you with an everlasting joy.
In addition, those items will be crushed under the heavy weight of your desperate desire to be happy.
So even though people will fail us, Jesus won’t.
Even though people will turn on us, Jesus won’t.
Even though our career will end, Jesus won’t.
Even though our spouse might not live up to our expectations (and by the way, you don’t live up to theirs either) Jesus does.
Even though your church might not meet your needs, Jesus does.
Jesus is the point. Jesus is the center. Jesus is God. Jesus is the only God who can bring you joy. Not in the way that you want it, but most certainly in the way in which you need it.
9. Trying To Please People. This is a trap and many of us fall right into it (Prov. 29:25). If I only understood this concept sooner in my life, I would have avoided so much conflict and heart ache. In my last fifteen years of preaching, I have never felt so free and so restful in the finished work of Jesus as I have been feeling in the last two months while preaching through the ten commandments at my church. This is because when you realize that God is a loving Father and not a cruel taskmaster, you begin to free yourselves from former constraints of pleasing people to make them like you.
Here are some crazy facts:
Not everyone needs to like you.
Not everyone needs to approve of you.
Not everyone needs to accept you.
Not everyone needs to validate you.
Not everyone needs to invite you.
Not everyone needs to encourage you.
Not everyone needs to be amazed by you.
Not everyone needs to follow you.
Not everyone needs to listen to you.
Not everyone needs to be fond of you.
Not everyone needs to be friends with you.
Sometimes people leave your life not because of you but because of God.
The moment we as Christians realize this amazing fact, we become freed men and women and not captives in a jail cell, captured by the opinions and remarks of other people. If Jesus was constantly rejected, abandoned and betrayed by his closest disciples – and remember that Jesus was God – what makes us think our life will be any different.
10. Thinking That Jesus Is Not Enough. I will never forget a conversation I had with another fellow believer. When the topic of the gospel came up, they said that they already know the gospel and we can move into a deeper discussion. There is probably not a more grave error we as Christians can make as thinking we already have grasped the gospel.
We don’t just learn the gospel and move away from it, we move deeper into it.
The gospel is about the finished work of Jesus.
The gospel is good news for an exhausted person contributing to a rat race leading straight to self-salvation and humanistic preservation.
The gospel is that Jesus is good enough.
The gospel is that you have failed in everything and at everything, but Jesus did not.
The gospel is realizing that the law tells you what you cannot do, grace shows you there is nothing you can do and Jesus shows up and says I have done everything for you (Jn. 6:35; Jn. 10:10)
To paraphrase Spurgeon, when he thought God was cruel, he found it very easy to sin. But the moment he realized that God was good and kind and merciful and gracious and loving – he found that every sin he committed grieved him deeply because it grieved His Heavenly Father deeply.
This is why the law damns us. But the gospel delivers us. Because Jesus came to set us free. Embrace it and rest in it.
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Question: What else would you add to this list?