Religious Performance

Big Budgets and Burned Out Believers: When a Church Has It Backward

The following quote from John Hagee is an example of a performance-based theology that will burden, bind, and break your life:

"When you give, it qualifies you to receive of God's abundance. If God gives to you before you give to Him, God Himself will become a liar. If you are not prospering, it's because you are not giving."

But the message of grace is: When you receive God's provisions, it enables you to give. If you give before God gives to you, you will give out and get hurt. If you are not prospering, it is not because you are not giving, but because you are not receiving. Grace ministry exists to serve you (your health and happiness needs) and will sow its resources into your life and through you into the lives of others. If your church burdens you with its expectations for you to invest your resources ("sow seed") into its programs and projects, it has the message of grace turned on its head.

Don Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 6I27

Receiving Our Way to Health: God’s Plan for Giving

The radio preacher insisted that God’s plan for our personal prosperity is to give to others. He reported giving $5 to a stranger and, in only a few minutes, a stranger gave him $20. Indeed, Jesus said, “Give, and it shall be given to you” (Luke 6:38). But if we want to consider this instruction and promise in the context of organic life (the grace covenant principle), we must conclude that it was given with the assumption of God’s enablement in our lives to comply. That’s the reason Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

But what about the law of sowing and reaping? Does that not mean we must sow before we can reap? Absolutely, but we can sow only what has been sown into us by our resources. We cannot (and should not attempt to) give what we do not have. Injury, by definition, is the result of a demand made upon us (by others or ourselves) greater than our strength to meet it. It was exactly to those injured in this way that Christ called “Come unto me and I will give you recovery” (Matthew 11:28).

We do not give our way to health, but receive our way to health. God’s plan is for us to live and give out of our faith, strength, and abundance, not out of our weakness.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work” – 2 Corinthians 9:8

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10I17

Pure Religion: Enabled Service to Others to Meet Redemptive Needs

Religion that is defiled is sacrificial (versus enabled) compliance to performance (versus health) rules in order to win/earn favor for self from God and even others.

Said again: It is pursuing a relationship with God (or other resources) through obeisance (submission, genuflection) for the purpose of earning a blessing or favor. It can also include service to others motivated by self need to feel or look good (codependent behavior driven by unmet needs for superficial significants).

Pure religion (expressions of piety, service) cares for others. James wrote,

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (1:27).

It is enabled service to others purely motivated by the compassion of Christ within us for their redemptive (healing, recovery) needs without expectation for any return that serves our superficial pain relief needs.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10H30

To God, It's All About You

Although I had not yet read the book, I was happy for the report that the number of hardback copies sold was the most of any book ever.

Then I bought and read Rick Warren's "The Purpose-Driven Life." And grieved.

Warren's book is about pleasing God and making him smile. He establishes this theme early. The beginning statement in chapter one is: "It's not about you!" But to God, it is totally, completely, fully, and absolutely ALL about you.

The Grace Perspective

God's relationship to you is not about what you can do for him, but what you will allow him to do for you. He is not in a power position over you, but in a service and support position beneath you. He has no unmet needs for you to be concerned about. He is not lonely or unfulfilled. You do not need to make him smile.

Before the world was created, and before you were born, God was all that he is now - sovereign and self-sufficient. Creation was not about God's happiness; it was about yours. He did not create you for his experience of knowing you, but for your experience of knowing him.

Praise and Worship Defined

God does not need you to sing to him. He does not need your support, encouragement, or applause. To praise God means to celebrate him and to commend him to others. To worship him means to open your heart for him to nurture in you his life. To glorify him means to radiate the light of "who he is" in you into a dark world. To please God means to have been renewed by his grace and made useful and fruitful in redemptive service to others.

God's love (agape) for you is unconditional, not based on who you are (your worth) but on who he is; his interest in every detail of your life is passionate and intense; his commitment to fulfill his purpose for you is unfailing; and his provisions to enable your Christian life and service are faithful and fully sufficient.

Don Loy Whisnant, DCC, LCPC/The Grace Perspective #602

Redemptive Giving: It Is Not to God, But to Others

Labor Day is a fundraising time for organizations and ministries. The charlatan tv program this weekend insisted that God has promised blessings to those who sow into their ministry. But God’s plan for giving is for resource ministries to support/give to those they serve, not the opposite, and then for those served to give to those they, in turn, serve.

Also, the giving is redemptive giving - that is, it is not only to others, but for the purpose of supporting their healing and recovery needs. (That is the reason we do not give to God: He has no redemptive needs.)

Pre-school Logan and little brother, Gavin, each brought me an envelope recently with enough money to have bought themselves a nice toy. And they did it with excitement and big smiles. When I asked mom what she and dad were teaching them about giving, she explained it was about giving a percentage of the money they had earned to help meet the needs of others. I was blessed.

Sometimes it is appropriate for us to give to resources, but only in the sense that they are a surrogate or proxy in our service to others – that is, when they are our best opportunity to serve a particular need others have. For example, God may burden us for the needs of the lost in a far-away place where we cannot go, in which case we could sponsor another person or ministry to go in our behalf.

Somewhat on the same note: GracePoint ministers to the needs of others without expectation of return. That is the reason I do not accept payments or large personal gifts. When I sometimes say (usually trying to be cute) “don’t offer me anything you don’t want me to take,” I mean it with regard to the redemptive needs of others, but maybe also a token gift of kindness (a cup of tea or a slice of freshly baked bread) that we would give to friends and family. But mostly, I am attempting to teach about God’s redemptive provisions which he brings to the door of our lives, which we must also be willing to receive.

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10I06

Embracing the Gospel Message, Seeking to Be Set Free from Religious Nonsense

The well-known preacher expressed horror and grief recently because of the “Freedom from Religion” billboards popping up in major cities, 50 in Atlanta alone. One reads “Sleep in on Sunday!” Another, “In Reason We Trust” inscribed on a penny. He then followed to preach a passionate sermon declaring that God is faithful to those who honor, glorify, obey, and live for him – totally missing the connection between the legalistic message he preaches and the disinterest many people have in Christianity.

Actually, I would not mind having some freedom from his performance-based religion myself - especially the sermons to be heard in the pulpit and on tv and radio that are strong to identify what the Christian life looks like and also God’s expectations for us to conform to the standards it represents, including to tithe, attend church, read the Bible, etc., plus the long list of “don’ts” – all in order to make him smile and to win his favor so that, maybe (just maybe), he will give us a blessing – or, at the least, in order to stay out of trouble with him.

It’s just nonsense. God has no expectations for us to conform to his likeness, but only for us to open the door of our hearts and lives to receive his provisions for our redemption (healing and recovery). The promise of Scripture is that his provisions in us (beginning with Christ) are powerful/effectual to conform us to his likeness (Romans 8:29) - that is, to transform our minds, emotions, and wills - so that we are enabled to make the wise choices which establish us in health for this life and the next.

“I am not ashamed of the gospel (God’s redemptive plan), because the provision (of Christ’s blood/death and resurrected Life) it proclaims is the power (dynamic) of God for the salvation (healing/recovery) of everyone who believes (receives it).” – Romans 1:16 (GracePoint Interpretive Paraphrase)

“For if, by the trespass of the one man (Adam), death reigned (was certain) through that one man, how much more (certain and unfailing) will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of (his) righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” – Romans 5:16-17

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10H31

Christians Called to Performance: Satan’s Subtle Ploy

God’s best for us sets us free, not only from an eternity in Hell, but also from the hell that can exist in our lives on earth. We can indeed experience a measure of Heaven in this life. But that experience is the outcome of responding to the call of God to include his provisions in our lives every day.

The battle rages. God calls us to him for health, and “the enemy” (Satan, the world system [its culture and religion], and our fallen human natures) calls us away to brokenness.

The call away from God is not always to evil. Sometimes it is to good, but only in the sense that it does not outright destroy our health – that is, it does not poison our lives so that we drop dead on the spot. But neither does it establish us in health. This compromise is an acceptable outcome for the enemy because it leaves us in brokenness.

Satan called Jesus to that compromise in the wilderness. The crowd called him to political activity during his entrance into Jerusalem on the day before his crucifixion. At Calvary, when he was investing to provide for the redemptive needs of the world, they called him to show off his power by coming down from the cross.

Sometimes the call to good is to religious activity. This call may be Satan’s most subtle ploy – that is, to call Christians to “do-good” activities as a religious substitute for giving attention to their personal health and to the support of their families’ health needs.

Sometimes the call to good is to diet, exercise, Bible study, and even social ministry (to the homeless, hungry, etc.). It is also even to evangelical ministry (outreach to the lost). But when we are called away from careful attention to include God’s provision in our lives daily which renews us in health, we will miss God’s best.

“For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich (religious) man will fade away even while he goes about his business (performance).” – James 1:11

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 10H26

Set Free From Pounding Through Our Experience of Christ

Years ago when providing church leadership, my strategy for increasing church attendance was to make God’s expectations known and also his disappointment for our slack and non compliance. It worked! Fear, guilt, and pride were powerful to motivate church members to never miss a meeting. That is, until we all broke under the weight of the legalistic demand (religious performance to win God’s favor or stay out of trouble with him).

Legalists live bound to the rules and expectations of those who they perceive to be in authority over them. But our growth in grace sets us free from the demands of the law. This means the support we now provide to hurting persons for making the choices that increase them in health is not to pound on their wayward behavior but to call them to a daily experience of Christ. His Life in us is our surest hope for support to make wise choices.

"But now, by dying (by virtue of Christ in us) to what once bound us (the sinful nature), we have been released from the law (because, like our first grade teacher, it is not longer necessary) so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code." - Romans 7:6

Don Loy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 11F28

Brokenness and Burnout: The High Cost of Trying to Win God’s Favor

My dear former mentor/pastor/employer said this week on radio that he had set his mind on winning the favor of God at any cost. It was this performance-based message that was at the root of my failed health and ministry years ago.

The message of grace is, we do not need to win God’s favor because we already have it, so much that he gave his only Son (along with every other essential provision - Romans 8:32) to make possible our healing and going to Heaven. And he has brought these provisions to the very door of our hearts, so that anyone who opens the door to receive them into their lives will experience the benefits they provide.

Indeed, there is a cost for attempting to win favor we do not understand we already have. It is brokenness and burnout, discouragement and death.

“When we were still powerless (to win his favor), Christ died for the ungodly.” – Romans 5:6

“God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” – Romans 5:8

”He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” – Romans 8:32

“Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:39

“For what the law (performance to obey the rules) was powerless to do because of the weakness of the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.” – Romans 8:3

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” – 1 John 4:10

DonLoy Whisnant/The Grace Perspective 12A24

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