Why Are You Striving?

Have you fallen in the trap of quid pro quo religion--something for something?

When I Hear The Praises Start –Keith Green

Why are you Striving?
It’s taken about 5 years for a very important truth finally gel in my thinking. God is very patient with me. Sometimes it takes too much time to break through my old ways of thinking and doing. God is faithful, He worked on me and worked on me until I became aware of something I have been doing that is wrong, that injured my soul, that caused depression and anger. Today let’s shine a light on this problem, drag it out of the dark and let the light and love of God disintegrate it from my life and maybe even yours. The problem is Quid Pro Quo and it’s result: a moralistic religion instead of vibrant relationship and the tyranny of striving that it brings.

You know that everything rises and falls on relationships. In order to live your life to the full God in His mercy and grace makes it possible for you to reconcile your relationship with Him simply by believing the Gospel. The Gospel is this “…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve” (1 Cor 15:3-5 (NIV). …and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life” (John 3:15 (MSG). Through faith in Jesus, forgiveness and reconciliation can be found. To thrive, to live your life to the fullest, requires a right relationship with God, a right relationship with Self, a right relationship with Others and a right relationship with the Earth. When you believe, God the Holy Spirit empowers you to reconcile all your relationships.

“Saving is all [God’s] idea, and all His work. All we do is trust Him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play a major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing!” (Eph 2:8-10 (MSG)

We may engage in silent bragging that thought that we play a major role, that we through our virtue and nobility and righteousness and hard work made ourselves acceptable to God, and we were accepted, because of all the good things we have accomplished.

“No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does…” (Eph 2:8-10 (MSG).

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--  not by works, so that no one can boast.

A gift is not earned. A gift is bestowed. Faith involves appropriating the gift given. This is the Gospel. Saved by grace.

As I reflect back upon the time God accepted my faith in Christ, somehow Quid Pro Quo snuck in the back door. Quid Pro Quo is a Latin meaning something for something, Something for Something, I give you something and you give me something. It’s deeply embedded in my thinking, maybe yours too. I give you my work, you give me a paycheck, something for something. I am sweet and kind to you and you are sweet and kind to me, something for something. You do good, you expect good to be done to you, something for something. You pay good money for a job and you expect to get a good job done, if the job isn’t done well, you naturally get angry because you gave something of value and you got something of lesser value.

When we unconsciously bring in Quid Pro Quo into our new life in Christ we fall into the trap of a moralistic religion instead of a living dynamic relationship.

Moralistic religion leads [a person] to the conviction that if they live an upstanding life, then God owes them respect and favor. They believe they deserve a decent, happy life [because they have been good.] (Keller, The Reason For God, p. 177).  “They build their sense of worth on their moral and spiritual performance, as a kind of resume to present before God and the world” (Keller, p. 176).

Feeding this misconception are those who pull a verse of scripture out of context and claim it as their very own promise from God.   Jeremiah 29:11 states
“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The quid pro quo of moralistic religion bends this scripture into the thought that if I am obedient and seek the Lord with my whole heart, then I will prosper. Prosper gets a cultural definition every time. Prosper might mean you expect to be healthy wealthy and wise. It’s what God owes you for being good.

If, however, life begins to go wrong, we tend to go one of two ways, or if you are really skilled you can go both ways like I did. With a quid pro quo, moralistic religious thinking when things go bad either people will be furious with God or they will be deeply angry at themselves. You get furious with God because you feel that since you live better than others, you should have a better life. You have been striving to be good, to be obedient and now God owes you. You get furious with yourself because you feel that you have not been good enough to get what you wanted (Keller p. p. 177). Am I ever good enough? There are many disciples of Jesus who turned their backs because they didn’t get what they expected from God. Their anger can sound like “God, how could you allow this to happen, I thought you loved me?” What sadly can occur is a rapid descent into bitterness, self-recrimination, despair and very possibly denouncing the faith. (Keller, p. 177)

Do you think Jesus led a good life? Quid Pro Quo, if you live a good life, things will go well for you. Yet when you consider the life of Jesus of Nazareth, He experienced poverty, rejection, injustice, torture, and execution. Not what you might consider the most prosperous of plans for a person. Quid Pro Quo is wrong.
I suggest you change your way of thinking.

There is another danger in quid pro quo moralistic religious beliefs. That’s the danger of egoism. Egoism is slippery and slick and worse than crabgrass. We must always be vigilant and when it raises its ugly head to be quick to nail it back onto the Cross. A form that egoism can take is “being very good and keeping all the rules and becoming self-righteous” (Keller, p. 174).

Here’s what can happen when you believe in a quid pro quo moralistic religion. Life is good, yes you’ve had your share of challenges, but you’ve overcome, and of course with the help of God. The family is well, business is good, and you are prospering. Why? Because you hold to the right theology and doctrine, you practice of the faith is faultless, oh you mess up from time to time but are quick to make things right.  “…you feel you are living up to your chosen religious standards, then [even though you probably don’t realize it] you feel superior and disdainful toward those who are not following in the true path” (Keller pp 177-178). You become self-righteous, self-justifying. You are right. Your way is the best way. You know. The result is you become highly judgmental of Others who do not adhere to your brand of belief and practice.

When such people group together doctrinal purity is prized, the exemplary moral behavior is lauded and rewarded.  Give more, do more, be more.  Keep the rules, do the do’s and don’t do the long list of don’ts and you will be fine. Everyone who doesn’t believe as we believe is wrong. Others have heretical beliefs. The Others are not true followers of Christ. We are right in our understanding of how everything works and you must believe as we believe in order to be saved.

When such a people group become dominant in a culture that is when religious oppression rises and exerts its cruelty on all. Religious superiority leads people to marginalize, oppress, and exclude others”(Keller p. 176).  The idea of Divine Providence having elevated me is the reason that the powerful and the rich are indifferent to the plight of the poor”(Keller p. 173). In the name of the Prince of Peace, we find justification to kill those who do not believe as we do.

There is also an internal tranny in such a group. You must obey; when you obey you are accepted by the group and therefore accepted by God. This is nothing more than obedience motivated by fear of rejection and punishment. If you step out of line, bad things are going to happen. So there is this unconscious fear. You wonder if you really are good enough, you may become worried that you’ll be found out, you have to maintain the façade of perfection.  You can’t be real because by your own standards you have judged yourself to be wanting. Guilt is a common unspoken companion. If something bad happens it is because you were not good enough. The result of this internal pressure is anger.

There are a number of professional beggars in and around Huntington Beach. Today as you leave this place if you head toward Warner Ave down Beach Blvd you will see this tall 20 something with a sign asking for money. “If he’d only give his life to Christ he would prosper” is that, not spiritual snobbery?  Do you feel superior—“Oh why can’t he get a job and work for a living like me?” That’s pronouncing judgment. If you have ever thought “he’s getting what he deserves.” You just may be a spiritual bigot.

Quid Pro Quo moralistic religion “may produce a great deal of good behavior in your life, but inside you are filled with self-righteousness, cruelty, and bigotry, and you are miserable. You are always comparing yourself to other people, and you are never sure you are being good enough” (Keller, p. 178).

We get a glimpse of this in Jesus parable of the prodigal son with the reaction of the older brother when the patriarch of the family throws a party for his wayward son who has finally come home.

Luke 15:25-30 (MSG)
"All this time his older son was out in the field. When the day's work was done he came in. As he approached the house, he heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, he asked what was going on. He told him, 'Your brother came home. Your father has ordered a feast—barbecued beef!—because he has him home safe and sound.' "The older brother stalked off in an angry sulk and refused to join in. His father came out and tried to talk to him, but he wouldn't listen. The son said, 'Look how many years I've stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Then this son of yours who has thrown away your money on whores shows up and you go all out with a feast!'

Striving, out in the fields, working hard, quid pro quo, something for something and when we don’t get what we feel we are owed, we actually bar our own admittance to God’s party.

That’s why I hate religion.

“The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued and that Jesus was glad to die for me” (Keller p. 178).

1 Peter 3:18 (MSG)
He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God.

“This fosters within a sense of deep humility and a sense of deep confidence at the same time. …I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less” (Keller p. 178).

1 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NIV)
I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.

Romans 14:4 (NIV)
Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Moralistic religion is not what God wants. God’s will is all that you do to be motivated by love. Quid Pro Quo is wrong, you don’t obey to get, striving for the perfection being good is not insurance against the trouble Jesus said we would find in this world. Get out from under the pressure. Get out from under the pressure and get into the liberty and freedom of a right relationship with God. A relationship that rushes into obedience, and doing good, and loving others, because it is motivated by a desire to please and resemble the one who gave His life for us.” (Keller, p. 177)

By Your Side—Tenth Avenue North

Why am I striving?

Today I renounce quid pro quo, God has already done all that needs to be done. I reject the thought that God owes me anything. He has already given me eternity in Christ.  I renounce moralistic religion, I cannot make myself righteous by doing good things, I do good things because I love the one who first loved me. (1 John 4:19)

What about you? Do you want to base your identity on who loves you or on what you do to be loved? 


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