Sep 17, 2009
The Works Addiction
Several years ago, a young lady who was friends with my wife and I, flew out to Arizona to meet with me personally. She informed me that she felt like God had told her to come to Phoenix and Darin would give her a “word” from the Lord. I’m sure you can imagine the pressure that this type of a set-up puts on someone. Immediately, my mind begins to search frantically for something super spiritual and profound to tell her that would make her trip worth it. In my early years of being a pastor, something like this would make me want to quit my job and move out of the country.
Unfortunately this is quite a common thing in the Pentecostal world. People will travel from conference to conference chasing the latest “prophet” or evangelist in the off chance that he or she might have a “word” for them. Our friend was no different. She wanted to know what God wanted her to do.
As she and I walked through the grocery store picking up food for dinner that night, Iinformed her that God had given me the answer to her question. He had given me the “word” that she came for. I told her that I could give it to her right there in the produce section of Safeway, or we could wait until we were home in a more private setting. She immediately got a look of nervousness on her face. She had spent about three hundred dollars on a plane ticket, countless hours in prayer and meditation, and now she was about to get her answer. It all came down to this. She didn’t want to wait. She told me, “Give it to me now - I want to know what God wants from me.”
We stopped by the eggplants and I reached out and took both of her hands in mine and looked deep into her eyes. She was quiet with anticipation. I said;
“He doesn’t want anything from you.”
I have found that a common concern that people have when they’re first introduced to the grace message is whether or not it’s okay to stop “doing” stuff for God. When they hear that our relationship with God is not based on works, they worry that they might become lazy and unfruitful for God’s kingdom in the name of grace. I’ve watched many people “play it safe” and continue their works lifestyle while trying to embrace and understand the grace message. It just feels so free-riding and irresponsible. It feels like you’re taking advantage of God and using His grace as an excuse to do nothing. Many people spent most of their lives talking down to people who don’t do as much for God as them, and now the prospect of becoming slothful and lax, is more than they can bear.
Many people prefer to believe that it’s not about works, but they still want to do the works, just in case. Their works soothe them when they feel especially sinful and undeserving. Works are like a security blanket for the Christian who isn’tcomfortable getting something for free. It washes that humbling and vulnerable feeling away and replaces it with a self-deserving sentiment. I have found that for many people, works is like that secret pacifier they don’t even know they’re addicted to. Like the alcoholic who says, “I’m not addicted - I can quit whenever I want.” Once they try to quit, however, they find a different reality exploding in their face.
Most charismatics will tell you flat out that “salvation is not by works,” but by grace. They’ve memorized the verse and have learned to quote it boldly and powerfully, but the reality of their religion is that they don’t believe a word of it. I have yet to meet an Assembly of God pastor who wouldn’t tell you that salvation is by grace alone, but interestingly they will say in the same sentence that they can’t wait to get to heaven and hear those wonderful words from Jesus’ mouth...
“Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
The truth is, the works mentality is like a poisonous fog that has infected the surface of every aspect of institutional Christianity. Once I left the Institution and had a few years away, I began to see how much of my religion was works-based. I was astonished to find that the performance-based belief system accounted for about 99% of what I was taught. It is so prevalent in Christian thinking today, that most of us don’t even see how inundated with it we are. This is why some Free Believers living in the wild sometimes go into an all out panic attack when they find themselves doing nothing.
It has been my experience that a person cannot fully comprehend the truth of God’s love and grace until they intentionally stop doing everything.
They have to stop witnessing to others. They have to stop fasting, praying and having fellowship. They have to quit worshiping and cease all serving and volunteering. They have to put down their bibles and stop reading and studying. They have to quit giving or paying their tithe, and in many circumstances they need to quit attending church altogether.Everything they feel they need to do in order to be a strong Christian and pleasing to God, needs to be put down, given up, and completely abandoned. It all has to go.
I have found that people literally have to become intentionally lazy and idle before their eyes can be opened to the beauty and simplicity of God’s grace. Any amount of works will not only hinder the process of grace, but it blurs the vision and makes it impossible to see or understand. Our need for works is the very thing that causes one to fall from grace. It’s that serious!
Once a person breathes in the grace of God and understands that they are loved unconditionally and they are forever safe with Him; they begin to produce things that look like works to the untrained eye, but in reality it’s not work at all. It’s fruit. It happens naturally and without effort because it blooms from love and grace.
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