Quit Tryin' So Dadgum Hard!
Recently my buddy Ed Underwood (you should read his books and blog) texted that he had found the official anthem for Christians who try to live this journey in their own insufficient strength. I agreed so much that I asked his permission to steal his insight for today’s musing.
Ed had texted that rock icon Janis Joplin’s song “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)” perfectly summed up the frustration of Christians who think that just a little more effort or doing more of the right things will make them holy. It is a losing game. Joplin’s lyrics address a love interest but they fit perfectly into the frustrating cry of many followers of Jesus trying desperately to “be holy”.
Yeah, I’m gonna try yeah, just a little bit harder
So I can give, give, give, give him every bit of my soul.
I spent a lot of years alternating between trying harder, giving up, feeling guilty and trying harder again. What I got was not godliness. What I got was tired.
When I was a kid the preachers used to bellow about revival. We need REVIVAL! They preached in ALL CAPS ALL OF THE TIME! They would have week long revival meetings badgering us to sell out. We got yelled at about our sin. We heard clearly a message of condemnation and fear. We heard that we had better shape up or else! We heard stories about backslidden Christians burning in hell because they wouldn’t repent. We heard that we had better get serious about Jesus. And we believed we would. That fear based compliance lasted for a day or two or maybe a couple of months if we really got convicted. But it didn’t last.
What if the secret to living this journey is not trying harder but simply living out of what Jesus has already done for me?
What if revival is based not on avoidance of damnation but on having an actual relationship with God? What if Christians really understood that they are new creatures when they put their trust by faith in Jesus? What if Christians truly got that there is no condemnation for them because of the Cross? What if Christians really understood that they are no longer have to prove anything and they could instead trust God for their spiritual growth? What if Christians saw that Jesus stood beside them ready to resolve their sin instead of looking with disappointment from afar? What if Christians learned to trust God and others with who they really are and dropped the dadgum masks? (My grandfather’s favorite Christian cuss word). What if Christians had the courage to put their full weight on these truths of identity and grace and allowed God to love them and others through them? These are the truths I have learned, refined and had a chance to live with my friends at Truefaced and other assorted misfits around the country.
Here is what one tired and discouraged Christian experienced when I began to understand the message of grace. It is changing me. And I have had the best years with Jesus of my four decades plus on the journey. I have had some really good spiritual seasons along the way but I have never had the consistency of joy and peace that I have experienced since I trusted these truths of grace. I have never felt such spiritual freedom until I leaned into grace that allows me to love God, receive love from Him and allow that to flow to others.
What if Christians really trusted who God says He is? Could we change our walk with Jesus? Could we change our family? Our church? Our culture? Dare we believe this?
I have often quoted from my friends at Truefaced. This statement rocked my world many years ago.
If you are a Christian God is not interested in changing you. That has already happened. You were changed when you trusted Christ. You were imputed with His righteousness. Your very spiritual DNA was rewritten and you became a new person. So the change happened right away. God is now interested in maturing you into what is already true about you.
We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. (Romans 3:22-23, NLT)
Remind yourself daily who you are. What is already true about you. That you are a new person. Righteous because of Christ. A new life has begun in you.
Live it joyfully and without condemnation. You are deeply loved by God today. Breathe that into your soul and quit trying so hard! I pray it will change your journey like it has mine.