Although I’ve no formal research to back this notion, it seems true that the world looks at those who are serious about their faith in Jesus Christ and sees a bunch of people who are weighed down by rules and restrictions. They are seen as long-faced folks who are trying quite hard to do good and who proclaim much and loudly all that God doesn’t like.
Jesus drew people to Himself through a very different message, however. He cried out:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt. 28:28–30, NAS).
Jesus continues to offer this same deal: rest from performing, rest from trying to work to God, rest from meeting the religious standards of the day. People flocked to Him because of it. They still do.
But sometimes, after we run to Him, performance’s siren song catches our ears once again. We turn again to striving—this time, striving to mimic Jesus and do what Jesus would do. This is what the world sees: the stress, the tension, the anxiety. Jesus gets lost behind all this personal effort.
When we put our effort into whatever it takes to help us connect with God, we quite naturally do good things without thinking about them. In such “accidental obedience,” we obey out of a personal connection with God, not because we ordered ourselves to do it. That’s how life with God works: You do the connecting (with God), and God does the perfecting (in your behavior). The distinction of where to put the effort is crucial: not in trying to be good (or do what Jesus did) but in connecting with Jesus himself.1
What blessed relief! Jesus offers to live His perfect life through those who remain connected to Him in love relationship. Jesus explained it like this: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4–5).
Abiding in Christ’s finished work on the cross cancels out my sin, douses me in grace, and calms me in rest. His work in me produces the fruit of accidental obedience that I do not need to strive to bring forth to fruition.
This is what I hope to be known for, rather than for being a long-faced, dour striver. May connection to Jesus be my one aim, and may my mouth proclaim much and loudly the rest and rescue of God found in Christ Jesus the Son.
1. Jan Johnson, Invitation to the Jesus Life: Experiments in Christlikeness (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2008), 37–38.