I remember what it felt like the first time I forgot to clock out for work. I woke up the next morning with a notification on my phone reading: “Alert: you have not clocked out for your shift”. I traced back every step I took on the way out of work the prior evening in a matter of seconds, retracing and retracing. I could’ve swore I clocked out last night, did it not go through? I thought to myself. Guilt and shame washed over me endlessly as I laid in bed staring at my ceiling. My gut feeling was that I had tried, but it hadn’t gone through, so I texted my boss and made amends in my heart vowing to NEVER miss my time to clock out ever again.
Many of us make the mistake of not clocking out at work many times in our lives, but my fear is that, likewise, many of us forget to clock out of working when it comes to the Lord. I’m coming from a place of STILL struggling with this, but God is so kind and generous to make it known to me so that I could share it with you guys as well.
Since I was born, every relationship I’ve ever known was conditional. If I made good grades, I was loved more out of excitement or gratitude. If I made bad decisions with guys, I was loved less out of disappointment or anger. The list goes on- from friends, to mentors, to family, to church people. There has been and there always will be this expectation for every person written on their heart: “If you do this for me and act this way THEN I will like/love you”. Because of this, as you have seen in past posts, I struggled and worked hard to be accepted by everyone. I searched their hearts, found out their secret code of expectation, and catered to it. When I got saved, it was as if that burden trickled into my relationship with God
Working for my salvation
One of the ways that burden followed me was through “working for my salvation”. I knew that I wasn’t good enough, and so I tried to be good enough for God in every way I could (I mean, I did it for the rest of the people in my life, wouldn’t it work for him too?). It was an endless race, much like a dog running in circles trying to catch his tail knowing he will never actually get it, but still I tried. This, my friends, is what I will label as religion. The rules, the standards, the fingers in the face, and the condemnation. I stretched myself as thin as I could, tirelessly volunteering, reading, serving- thinking the more good deeds that I did would get me in better standing with Jesus. In actuality guys, this just gets you burnt out and bitter. For me, it caused me to go into depression. I would spend weeks feeling like I didn’t matter to God because I wasn’t creating decor for my youth ministry or I wasn’t leading a small group. I was pinning my tasks over God’s promises.
In the book “Swipe Right” Levi Lusko put it this way, “We mistakenly think that getting into heaven is based on doing something, but it’s based on believing something- God’s promises.” Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), so that means that by God’s grace you are saved, through your TRUST in Jesus. Notice I didn’t say through your VOLUNTEERING for Jesus, through your READING for Jesus, through your HAVING SMALL GROUPS for Jesus, through your SPEAKING for Jesus- just your trust and surrender.
Now this is NOT a stand for complacency or a rebellion against serving. DO NOT BE LAZY. If God is calling you to have a small group, do it with all diligence and excellence. If God is calling you to do lights for services, do it with all diligence and excellence. If God is calling you to share a word with a friend or to your congregation, do it with all diligence and excellence. But do not let the devil let you believe that because you do those things, you have a one-way trip to heaven. In Matthew 7:22-23 Jesus says “Many will say to me on that day [the day of judgement], ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you…”
You are not saved by your good deeds, NOR are you unsaved by your bad deeds. “Salvation is a gift; you can’t lose through bad behavior, what you didn’t deserve in the first place” (Levi Lusko). If you slip, stop questioning your salvation. Get back up and begin again. Now if you’re slipping in the same area habitually with no regard to our Lord Jesus Christ who died for your hurts, habits, and hang ups… Then do a heart check- it could be that you were never saved in the first place. Accepting Jesus into your life is accepting change and hustling for progress.
When you said yes to Jesus, he said yes to you. There’s no if, ands, or buts. It was finished when God hung his son on the cross for you, and he’s already been resurrected so there’s no digging you have to do. Lay down your shovel, embrace God’s grace, and remember that your identity is NOT based on what you DO, but what God has DONE. It is finished.
Working for God’s love
Let me finish before I even begin- God loved you before you were even thought about by your parents, so you don’t have to DO anything in return for his love. His love is not a thermometer that reciprocates a reaction from an action. When your on fire for him, his love doesn’t shoot up, and when you aren’t feeling it anymore, his love doesn’t slowly fall. Did you read today? his love didn’t go up. Watched porn again? his love did not go down.
Romans 5:18 “but God showed his loved for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Okay… Let’s look at this verse. He showed his love for us, that while WE WERE STILL SINNERS. STILL. SINNERS. Still broken, still crazy, still messed up, still disappointing others… He died for us. God never said “Hear yee, hear yee: all who are jacked up, get perfect so that I may THEN love you and die for you.” HE LOVES YOU RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE. When I realized that God’s love for me was the same before my mess up, during my mess up, and after my mess up, it radically changed my life. When you live in this truth, you don’t have to spend your life working to make up to God for the mistakes you’ve made- you can just move forward.
Many of us, though, will never see God’s love for what it really is. The moment we mess up we start decorating. We buy chips and dip, send out invitations, and hang up signs reading, “Welcome to my pity party”. Trust me, I get it. I’ve probably had many more than you. We isolate ourselves, condemn ourselves, and guilt trip ourselves for “losing” God’s love, but it’s not like you deserved it in the first place! Then that’s when the devil comes in… quiet and sneaky. Levi Lusko (yes, his quote again- “Swipe Right” is amazing) says, “He knows that if you are a believer, he can’t take you to hell; but if you let him, he WILL keep you from living for heaven.” You do not LOSE your salvation, and you do not LOSE God’s love.
On top of this, you are NOT branded by your failure or your pain. Your mess ups to not define you. Though others may shame you, God renames you! And it’s not a nickname (as my pastor once said).. It’s a NEW NAME. And the new name is CHILD OF GOD- powerful, redeemed, set free, restored, healed, lovely, wanted, cared for, chosen, forgiven, and LOVED.
Retracing back to the first paragraph, God’s presence and his love his not defined or reciprocated by your performance. He is NOT only with you on your good days, or MORE with you on your good days. He’s not somehow suddenly distant on your bad days, and just not there when you haven’t read a scripture for the day. And that is not because of anything YOU have done, it’s just because of who HE is. Imagine a stranger coming up to you and handing you a $100 bill (praise God!). They don’t know you, but their nature is just giving. You didn’t have to do anything for that, and you never will have to- they just wanted to give. God KNOWS everything about you and STILL he loves. It’s the nature of his being. Lisa TerKeurst, at a recent women’s conference said, “God’s love is not based on us, but PLACED on us.” So live loved.
It’s as if you God has bought you a car, paid in FULL, and there’s nothing you need to do. You are still trying to go out and work for it, though, and while working, you’re missing out on the experience of freely driving a car with no debt. SO DRIVE YOUR CAR. You are debt free. God has paid your ticket, your price, your debt, whatever you owed. He loves you so much. Stand up strong, look past your mistakes. They do not own you, they do not define you. CLOCK OUT, go home, and let God love you.