Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

How Great Performance Can Mislead

            In the previous blog post, I discussed the link between fruits (results of our actions) and the roots (thinking and core belief systems).  Building on the idea that thoughts lead to feelings, feelings lead to actions, and actions lead to results (T>F>A=R), let's look at an example of how the cycle of offense (discussed in chapter one of my book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart) enslaves a person to their own lie-based thinking.

             One form of entrapment in a cycle of unforgiveness may be expressed by people trying to perform their way out of severe disappointment, bitterness, or resentment through self-righteousness. Although good works might make a good impression on fellow man, they are useless (for salvation) in the sight of God. From God’s perspective, a person’s good deeds are like a “filthy garment” (Isa. 64:6). Christians may sometimes fall into a cycle known as “performance orientation” (as named by the Sandfords who founded the Elijah House). It is characterized by seeking acceptance or identity based on activity level.

            The cycle develops like this: A person keeps overly busy serving in the church and receives much affirmation and acceptance for his or her work. He begins to tire, or becomes disappointed by someone's critical opinion of his performance. The person’s spirit begins to ask, “Is this really working?” The person becomes disillusioned and his performance begins to wane. His work fails to earn the love he craves and once knew. He spirals into a black hole of depression, self-doubt, self-condemnation, and self-rejection. He thinks if he engages and does more activity, his painful symptoms will go away. As his performance improves and the praise from others puts him at the top of the world, he once again burns out and repeats the cycle all over again.

To some degree each person reading this must admit that he is vulnerable to believing the lie that he must earn the right to be loved, which causes him to work harder and harder to perform. This performance can be rewarded in countless ways: the job promotion, the higher pay, the status, the compliments, the sense of well-being that comes with approval and acceptance. It may all seem so right, but if God’s glory is not being manifested in the activity, His presence is not breathing life into it. It becomes a dead work (1 Cor. 3:11-13), fueled only by self-willed passions and desires.

Receiving God’s forgiveness requires a realization of the truth of our need and inadequacy. But it must always be remembered that God required nothing of Adam and Eve before He initiated the reconciliation process. He came looking for them and questioned them about their fig-leaf covering before they ever acknowledged their sin and shame (Gen. 3:6-11). God does the same for each person. Accepting the Gift of Jesus to cleanse from sins requires not only honesty of an unclean condition, but the humility to receive the help to become clean.

The work of forgiving another person requires not merely mentally assenting to a need for change, but also motivationally responding with a will to pursue the change. A heart of brokenness is the fertile soil for the seeds of forgiveness. This theme is reiterated several times in the book of Isaiah which says: “‘Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?’ declares the LORD. ‘This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word’” (Isa. 66:2). God’s Word is the ultimate authority in the Christian’s life. A heart of forgiveness is produced by a heart accepting its need for the Word of its Creator (John 14:23).

            Forgiveness is not about what you do, but it is about what God has done. Forgiveness is surrendering to God the sole right to judge a person's performance (including your own).  Surrendering to God is the true path to freedom.

            Note:   The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with offense and finding freedom in forgiveness.  This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith)  to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: . If you get anywhere near PA for vacation or on business, be sure to look us up for lodging at 

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry