The Misery of Merit Mentality

In business, sports, and life we are often measured by our merit.  If we do not perform up to the expected standard, someone else is standing at the ready to take our place.

The problem with this worldly standard is that we unconsciously transfer it into our relationship with Jesus Christ.  Check out how Peter demonstrated a merit mentality.  Immediately after witnessing Jesus’ interaction with the rich young ruler, which Peter obviously misunderstood, and hearing Jesus say “With man this [being saved] is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” merit mentality reared its ugly head.  Peter mentally added up everything he had done for the Lord and asked what he would get in return.

Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?”  (Matthew 19:27) 

Imagine what Peter was actually saying.  He assumed Jesus was indebted to him because of all that he had done.  Peter was not alone in his merit mentality.  This is what the Jews of his day believed.  They more they did for God, they thought, the more God owed them in the form of blessing.

We are not so different today.  Sadly, many in the modern church have succumbed to the misery of merit mentality.  We know we are saved by grace, but we believe we stay in God’s grace by our own good works.  So we keep a daily score card and add up our merits and demerits throughout the day.  If we have more merits at the end of the day we anticipate God’s blessings; if we have more demerits at the end of the day we expect God’s cursing.

Nothing could be further from the truth! 

Paul delivers a stinging rebuke to all of us who fall prey to merit mentality in Galatians 3:2-3.

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

The Gospel frees us from merit mentality, because the only merit that matters is the merit of the Master.  We are not blessed because of what we do for Jesus; we are blessed because of what He has already done for us!  Our mystical union with Christ and our position in Christ is the source of blessing, not our good works.

And regarding the cursing of God, our sin-debt to God has already been paid in full by His beloved Son Jesus.  God cannot and will not collect on a debt that is not owed.  Jesus paid it all; therefore you owe nothing. 

What you experience after your sin is not God’s curse; the curse was nailed to that dirty tree (see Galatians 3:13 and Colossians 2:13-14).  What we all experience after we sin is the consequences of our sin.  Those consequences are real and often far-reaching.  But those consequences are never God smiting us punitively and in anger, collecting on a debt that has been paid in full by Jesus.  Always remember: when we do not feel the presence of God while we are in sin or after we have sinned, it is not God who moved . . . we are the ones who moved away from God!  God has promised never to leave us or forsake us, regardless of what we do.

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!




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