I hear Christians saying that they miss the joy Scripture says they are to have. It seems they are still struggling with how they are expected to live according to religious teaching. It seems no matter how hard they work or participate in ministry they often feel guilty they have not done enough. Many feel imprisoned by past baggage and Christianity has not set them free as Scripture states.

Matthew 11:28 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Scripture says if you accept Jesus as your Savior He will also give you rest. Christians tell me they would like to have that rest and believe it is only when they get to heaven will they actually have it. Many just don’t seem to measure up to what they believe is required to live a Christian life. We know that we are saved by grace but then, are we required to work our way to heaven?

Most Christians know that God loves them unconditionally. But they are really confused between the meaning of grace and works. How much are they expected to do in serving? We must stop setting unrealistic goals that demand perfection. We are loved and accepted by God as His children. How much do loving parents demand of their children? Do we give them numerous rules and requirements that cause continual stress? Jesus tells us in John 10:10 – “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

No matter how hard we try, it is difficult to change sinful habits and behavior. I hear too often, I feel so unworthy and it seems I have disappointed God. Some have said: “Why pray, God will not answer me.” We should be looking for this abundant life that Christ promises and not thinking God will not answer.

I belonged many years to a denomination that had a manual of things Christians could not do. It seemed if it was an enjoyable experience and we did it, God would be displeased with us. It was similar to the 613 Jewish laws that the Jewish people had to obey. Much emphasis was on legalism and working one’s way to heaven. It was difficult to always do the right thing and then fail. Do they realize how hard it is to be a Christian perfectionist? Do they realize it has a tendency to make one feel they were a failure for not being perfect?

Have you had a parent or do you have a spouse that made you feel only acceptable when you met their standards? Have you felt in their eyes you never measured up? No matter how hard you tried it was never good enough. Some believe this is how God judges us. No matter how hard we tried to never sin, inevitably we mess up. Do we sense that God is waiting to immediately discipline us? It is so easy to misunderstand what is expected of us as Christians. God knows if we try too hard and fail we will feel guilty. That is why He has provided forgiveness. The Holy Spirit was given to us to console and encourage us to go on and learn from that experience and not to do it in the future.

How valuable and acceptable do we see ourselves? Do we base everything on performance? If we fall short who have we displeased? Shouldn’t we cease trying to be perfect? Where do we get our identity? Is it from God? Too often people get their identity from what they do, where they live, how much you do or being a leader. If we have received our identity from anything but God we could easily miss the joy, the rest and the abundant life that the Bible says is available to Christians.

In order to understand what is required as a Christian, we may have to change our perspective. Some of us may be too stubborn to do so, but if we don’t, we could unnecessarily find Christianity too hard to deal with. We are told to examine ourselves. What is going on inside you? Our souls need to be enlightened as to what Christ taught. Christianity is all about God’s grace and love. We must love God with all of our strength and put no other gods before Him. That would be the god of money, fame, power, etc. We must love others as ourselves. We are assured that if we can accomplish these two commands, there will be rewards for us in heaven.

Scripture tells us that God wants us to live a holy life. We also know that our faith determines the amount of power that God will gives us to serve Him. That means we must have the right attitude and a passion to serve Him. We serve in Christ’s ministry out of love and never as a requirement. It is just a matter of surrendering our will and accepting God’s will for our life. We must be individuals willing to be givers and not just takers.

It is very simple: I serve God because I want to and not because I feel I have to. As a result there is the ‘joy’ of achievement and the ‘rest’ we can find in God’s ‘garden of life’ where only opportunities exist.

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