Performance-based Christianity is a burden that will kill you. I’m more convinced of that today than I’ve ever been. It may not take you out physically (although in some instances it might), but it will kill your joy and turn you into a sad and heavy laden person. It will turn you into a Christian Eeyore, full of gloom, despair, and unending agony. Nobody wants to be around that person because they’re so dark and joyless. They’re like that because they’re so turned in on themselves. Having become convinced that the Christian life is about them and how well they’re performing, they’ve become enslaved to their own performance and they don’t even recognize it. They’re sad and enslaved, and they want you to join them. Paul was dealing with a similar group of enslaved people when he wrote this:
…[They] slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery… Gal. 2:4
Those enslaved by their own performance are constantly recruiting. They have an agenda – to find those who have been set free by the “it is finished” message of the gospel and turn them into slaves – unhappy and joyless slaves just like themselves. Their singular goal is to “bring us into slavery” because the freedom that the gospel brings really bugs them and they can’t stand it. You’re free and they’re not, and that eats away at them. So they become spies. They start stalking you, looking for chinks and weaknesses in your armor. When they think they’ve found an opportune moment, they rise above the surface just long enough to throw a dart but if it doesn’t produce the desired affect, they drop below the radar once again and resume their stalking of you, waiting for your next move.
I’ve seen this kind of destructive hit and run tactic tear apart relationships, destroy life-long friendships, and create an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust. I’m sure you have too. I’ve seen what feels like endless character assassinations and name-calling by those covert Christians who are trying to rescue us from the freedom we have in Jesus and bring us back into the same slavery they’re stuck in. Accusations like “antinomian” “hyper-grace”, or “easy-believe ism” seem to flow freely from the lips of those still enslaved because they’re desperate to find some way to bring you back into slavery with them and they know they’re losing you to God’s radical one-way grace. But here’s how Paul responded:
…to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. Gal. 2:5
The gospel and performance-based Christianity are stark enemies. They can’t be mixed. Performance-based Christianity is hostile to pure grace. It can’t stand it! In performance-based Christianity, the “it is finished”-ness of the gospel is a threat that can’t be tolerated. There is no room in performancism for “it is finished.” Performancism’s agenda is to overthrow the radical notion of one-way grace by bringing us back into slavery. But Paul wouldn’t allow the radical message and purity of the gospel to be diluted.
To those sad slaves spying on those who have been set free, who still think the Christian life is about them, their rule-keeping, and their progress, Scripture poses this simple question,
“Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Gal. 3:3