Getting off the hamster wheel for a life in Christ

PerformanceChristianityI want to continue where I left off in my previous post. I had shown that we no longer have a sin nature but we still have to contend with what the Bible calls the flesh.

Quick review–the flesh, in this context, is not our physical body but about how we default to meeting our own needs apart from Christ. It’s the life of self-effort, self-sufficiency–the carnal mindset, or as Paul called it, behaving like “mere humans” (1 Cor.3:1-3).

And when we “Christianize” the flesh it’s called performance Christianity.

James Jordan made an amazing statement recently. He said that God is giving us fresh revelation of the Father’s love and grace in this hour…to where we’re in a place that we can finally enjoy our life more than sinners.

Imagine that! Wouldn’t that be wonderful….

And also sad that it hasn’t been true for most Christians before…

What have we done with this life of Christ?

Hamster wheel Christianity

There’s more than one type of flesh. We all understand the sinful kind, but do we equally understand the performance version? It’s my observation that most Christians are running on this religious hamster wheel–at least, in the West. In fact, this kind of Christianity is applauded in most churches.

Sadly, most sincere believers have never known any other kind of Christianity. I know this because I was a card-carrying member myself for most of my Christian life. But we don’t stay here because we actually want this but because we’ve been told that this is Christian discipleship.

We’ve actually constructed a theological “matrix” around this life-sucking treadmill in order to keep our programs humming and ministry wheels spinning. We call this being a “committed Christian.” And we leaders are skilled coaches in guilting anyone who isn’t playing the game.

What makes it hard to spot is that the world plays this game every day. So, we call this “normal living.”

Welcome to the “Adam’s” family!
(If you would like to sing the theme song, go here…)

It’s even harder to know the difference between this and those actively empowered by the Spirit because it may outwardly look similar in many ways. However, there are some striking differences that are sure indicators we’re walking in the flesh instead of the Spirit. I will list a few here…

We know we’re in performance mode when…

– we try to follow Christ instead of abide in Him

– we try to live for Him instead of letting Him live in us

– we see our relationship with Christ as serving Him instead of resting in Him

– we do our spiritual disciplines and devotions because we’re supposed to rather than because we’re in love and want to connect with God at a deeper heart level

– we study to know more about the Bible rather than to know Him more

– we’re doing things “for God” out of duty instead of love

– we do things to please God rather than as His beloved son/daughter in whom He is well pleased

– our serving eventually leads to anxiety, burnout, or just feeling unappreciated instead of leading to greater joy and contentment and fulfillment

– it becomes a constant seesaw battle of self-effort–doing well and feeling good and not doing well and feeling miserable and unworthy. Both are self-righteous behaviors.

– we succeed, we look committed, faithful, successful and always willing. And we tend to judge others by our lofty standard, looking down on them or complaining about their lack of commitment. This is self-righteousness

– we fail, our frantic ministry plate-spinning comes crashing to the ground. We end up  burnt out, we give up, or we wallow in a mire of self-pity. This is also self-righteousness.

Committed Christian, do you see any of these symptoms in you?

Distracted by much serving…

Most of us have probably heard the Martha-Mary story used in this context before (Luke 10:38-42). But do we remember that Jesus didn’t say that Mary chose the better thing, He said she had chosen the only thing necessary... (Bold-type added for emphasis).

but only one thing is necessary,
for Mary has chosen the good part,
which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42 NASB

Again, only one thing is necessary. Do you see this?

Beloved, Jesus doesn’t need you to do anything for Him. He wants you.

We also see that Martha was “distracted with much serving.” Distracted from what? From the “good part,” from the life that can only be found in intimacy with Christ. And, unlike “Martha” Christianity, this “good part”can never be taken away from us.

And it was this same Mary who had the prophetic insight to anoint Jesus for burial (John 11:2; 12:1-7) when everyone else was still waiting for Him to crush the Roman Empire.

Perhaps we’ll hear God’s voice more clearly when we clear out the clutter too.

The danger of not progressing further…

If our relationship with Christ is based mainly on the initial encounter we had with Him at the altar when we gave our heart to Him, we will inevitably end up in the flesh. Here’s what Steve McVey said about this in his classic work, Grace Walk

“You may be deeply moved by the need of others around you,
and holy ambitions may have stirred within your heart, to count for God;
if however, all that has happened is that your sins have been forgiven, because you have accepted Christ as the Savior who died for you,
leaving you since your conversion only with those resources
which you had before your conversion,
then you will have no alternative but to “Christianize” the flesh and try to teach it to “behave” in such a way that it will be godly.” (P.95)

 Why is this so? Because our “resources” can only come from the Spirit–in our abiding in the grace of Jesus Christ, in our continual encounters with the Father’s love, resting in His embrace.

What don’t we get about “apart from Me you can do nothing”? (John 15:5)

Lose the religious hamster wheel!

So, let’s get off our hamster wheel of performance-based Christianity and prune ourselves back to love!

Child of God, this is where the life is, knowing the Father in Christ (John 17:3); the “rest” waiting for the people of God (Heb.4:9-10).

Let’s trade in our heavy religious yoke of flesh for Jesus’ easy yoke of the Spirit (Matt.11:28-30), learning to walk in His righteousness, His peace, His fullness of joy (John 15:11; Rom.14:17)–where you will never “serve” yourself into burnout or frustrate your way out! You can only come and be filled with all the fullness that fills God (Eph.3:19).

Beloved, listen to Paul’s prayer for us. Let it be like living water to your weary soul…

“Now may the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
that you may abound in hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Rom.15:13

I will conclude with a song written by our worship leader, Levi Blackburn. It comes from the same live recording I shared here. I encourage you to sit back for a few minutes, jump up on your heavenly Papa’s lap and let Him love on you for awhile.

Love Song – words and music by Levi Blackburn

Hamster wheel image found here

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 41 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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9 Responses to Getting off the hamster wheel for a life in Christ

  1. Cindy Powell says:

    “Beloved, Jesus doesn’t need you to do anything for Him, He wants you.” Amen. Doesn’t get much simpler, or better, than that. I think we’re still tracking on different shade of the same issue. Holy
    Spirit must be on a theme 🙂 I’m pretty sure it’s a good theme for the rest of forever. Blessings!! (P.S. Love the song. I wasn’t able to play the link you posted the other day from your service, so I’m glad to at least be able to hear this 🙂 )

  2. Wow. This has been exactly what has been on my heart lately (which is why I’m taking the time to withdraw and be alone with God this month more than I have before). I definitely feel like I’ve been a Martha, so focused on the doing that I forget on the “being” alone with Christ like Mary. I need to get off the religious hamster wheel and get back to the basics, falling more in love with Christ and serving out of an overflow of that love, not just out of duty. Thank you so much for this post. It’s very timely. Be blessed!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, Anna. I just saw your post today about being busy…sounds like the Holy Spirit has us on the same page. 🙂 Definitely gonna check it out.

      I think any sincere believer will have to work through the Martha syndrome. We have a desire to be used, but we still have to learn how to do it His way. We need to come to the place in Christ where we learn how to work from rest. This sounds paradoxical because it’s how the Kingdom works. We’re trading strengths–ours for His.

      Many blessings to you as well.

  3. John Cummuta says:

    So hard to quiet my mind down to Mary level. 🙂

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yup, that it is. I have the same challenge, especially, on crazy busy days. But when we finally do, we get HIS mind (1 Cor.2:16). Definitely worth it. 🙂

  4. Daryl Billings says:

    Very good word and thought, Mel! Christianity has been stuck in the deep rut of the wagon wheels of a convoy going in circles for a long time. I believe it will take the revelation of Who Jesus really is and who we really are to move out of the rut and into the green pastures that are waiting for us. You are doing a great job revealing the revelations. I wish we were closer so we could coffee up more often. It was great spending time with you and the others at the bunkhouse meeting. Peace and grace to you, Daryl Billings

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks, Daryl. I believe this is exactly what God is doing–revealing Himself and ourselves in Him in a new and living way that empowers us out of that rut like you said. I had a great time getting to know you at the Bunkhouse meeting too. Hopefully, we’ll be doing more of those gatherings in the future. Blessings to you..

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