Teaching God’s Grace in an Achievement-Oriented Culture

By Chip Ingram

My personality is pretty driven. Achievement-oriented. Okay, a little OCD.

That might look good from the outside, since we live in a performance-oriented culture. You earn advanced degrees, you’re worth something. You start a successful business, you earn people’s respect. You own a big house, you’ve made it. You’re acceptable.

This deeply embedded mentality actually messed up my relationship with God for a long time.

It took me forever to understand that I couldn’t earn God’s love. It only comes through His grace.

God’s grace is unmerited and unconditional. Unmerited means you can’t earn it. Unconditional means it’s available whether you’re bad, good, up, or down.

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people” (Titus 2:11).

That’s not how I grew up. I remember thinking that when you get to the end of the game called Life, if your bad deeds are more than your good deeds, you go to the bad place. And if your good deeds are better than your bad deeds, you go to the good place.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. God is holy, and by nature tolerates absolutely no sin. If you had 999,999 good deeds, and one bad deed, you still would violate His perfection and be unable to approach Him.

That’s why it’s so utterly amazing to understand God’s grace and learn that it is free to us. All we have to do is believe.

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

So I was thinking: Since we’re immersed in a world that judges everything by performance and appearance and achievement, how do we pass this radical concept of grace on to those we care about most?

Here are three thoughts — whether a person you’re discipling, a co-worker, or one of your grandkids.

First, we need to encourage our friends and loved ones to study the Bible and discover how God used people who sinned, and sinned terribly. Moses was a murderer. David was an adulterer. Peter betrayed his Lord. And yet through God’s transforming grace they became mighty servants.

Second, we need to help them find some mature believers, and – in a safe and trusting setting – own their bad stuff. We need to confess and repent of our secret sins to receive God’s grace and forgiveness.

Third, we need to teach them to intentionally refuse to continue living with a performance orientation in their relationship with God. That requires giving up control. Submitting to the Lord. And being mindful about the forces of our culture on our habits. God will help!

“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming” (1 Peter 1:13).

If you’d like to explore this topic more in depth, take a look at the following series: DownloadEffective Parenting in a Defective World, or House or Home: Parenting Edition.

Written By

Chip Ingram

Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge

Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.

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