Performance based Christianity versus the Gospel Jesus Wins | Gospel Brew

The Gospel Vs. Performance-Driven Christianity… Jesus Wins!

I was reflecting on a great discussion that we had one night at one of our GC’s (Gospel Communities) and thought I would share my thoughts with you all, hopefully for your joy and progress in the faith today!

One of the main points of discussion that we had was around this section of “The Gospel Centred Life” study material that we are working through at GC:

Now, to reveal your tendency toward performance (in your relationship with God), pause and answer this question: as God thinks of you right now, what is the look on his face? (I said not to think of how God thinks of you at that moment  at GC as you may imagine that he is happy with you because you are engaging in bible study, I said rather think of an answer to that question straight after you have just blown it in some way, that is the last time you remember sinning in thought, attitude or deed…)
Do you picture God as disappointed? Angry? Indifferent? Does his face say “Get your act together!” or “If only you could do a little more for me!” If you imagined God as anything but overjoyed with you, you have fallen into a performance mindset. Because the gospel truth is that in Christ, God is deeply satisfied with you. In fact, based on Jesus’ work, God has adopted you as his own son or daughter (Gal. 4:7)! But when we fail to root our identity in what Jesus has done for us, we slip into performance-driven Christianity. We imagine that if were “better Christians, ” God would approve of us more fully. Living this way saps the joy and delight out of following Jesus, leaving us to wallow in a joyless, dutiful obedience. Our gospel becomes very small.

This section was looking at how Christians tend to forget the gospel and as a result “shrink the cross” in our daily experience by pretending that we are not as sinful as we really are and/or by trying to perform for God as a means to merit his favour.

Jerry Bridges touches on this issue from his book Transforming Grace:

My observation of Christendom is that most of us tend to base our personal relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace. If we’ve performed well—whatever “well” is in our opinion—then we expect God to bless us. If we haven’t done so well, our expectations are reduced accordingly. In this sense, we live by works rather than by grace. We are saved by grace, but we are living by the “sweat” of our own performance… The realization that my daily relationship with God is based on the infinite merit of Christ instead of on my own performance is a very freeing and joyous experience. But it is not meant to be a one-time experience; the truth needs to be reaffirmed daily… Not only are we legalistic by nature, our Christian culture reinforces this attitude in us. We are exhorted to attend church regularly, have a daily quiet time, study our Bibles, pray, memorize Scripture, witness to our neighbors, and give to missions—all of which are important Christian activities. Though no one ever comes right out and says so, somehow the vague impression is created in our minds that we’d better do those things or God will not bless us…

Most of us really struggled with the thought that God can’t be disappointed or disillusioned with us, especially after we have not performed well and that is understandable from a human relationship point of view. Think of it like this, you can only be disillusioned with someone if you had an illusion about them in the first place. You thought they were better than they really were. Your knowledge of them was incomplete, therefore it is possible for you to be disappointed by a persons behaviour that was not what you expected.

God however, in his infinite wisdom and knowledge has always fully known everything about us and therefore has never had any illusions about who we are and how flawed we really are. King David said it best:

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:1, 2, 16 NIV)

Nothing sinful in thought, deed or attitude has ever taken God by surprise! God in his infinite foreknowledge knew exactly how flawed and sinful I would be both before and after I became a Christian and despite such an unprofitable deal for him, he loved me the same, choosing to adopt me into his family knowing I was an “under performer” and had nothing to offer! God has never had any illusions about me from day one in His Book of Life.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11 ESV)

While I was still a sinner this is how God saw me: I wasn’t spiritually performing, I wasn’t reading my bible, praying, going to fellowship, giving or doing any good deeds. I was a “grace bludger” so to speak, using up Gods free gift of oxygen thinking the world revolved around me and my wants and needs and yet God showed his love for me in that while I was such a self-centred oxygen thief, Christ died for me…

Now that we are reconciled or “in” with God – we don’t stay in by our spiritual performance – oh no, how much more, now that we have been saved by his death, shall we continue to be SAVED BY HIS LIFE.

The gospels good news is not just that Jesus died for sinners, but also that he rose for our justification and through his victorious ascension where he now stands at the right hand of the Father as our advocate, and LIVES to intercede for us! (Rom 8:34, Heb 7:25, 1 John 2:1) This present, continuous aspect of Jesus work on our behalf, coupled with the Spirit’s ministry of confirming our adoption as God’s children (Rom 8:15-17), guarantees that you can know that you are forgiven, accepted and delighted in by God the Father.

Tim Keller explains from his book, “Encounters with Jesus”:

So when the Bible says that Jesus stands as our advocate and representative before the throne of the universe… It doesn’t matter what you have been or what you have done. It doesn’t matter how flawed and foolish you are. When the eyes of God the Father look at you, they see the ascended Jesus; when they listen to you, they hear him. When God looks and listens to you, he sees and hears infinite beauty . . . He sees Jesus not sitting at the right hand but standing on your behalf, advocating for you.

So whatever kind of day I’ve had, I remain saved, beloved, accepted and blessed BY HIS LIFE! Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!

The more I understand this ‘out of this world’ good news, the more this grace continues to melt my heart and move my hands for the good of my neighbour and the glory of my Redeemer King Jesus!

About Steve Poisat

Steve Poisat is the proud father of two young adult men, a keen surfer and fisherman, an aspiring theologian and founding pastor to Redeemer Gospel Community church in Perth, Western Australia. He has been instrumental in exposing many to the gospel, biltong and good beer.


  1. Can i sign up for a regular post, Steve? Something in your writing really resonates with me. Thank you so much.

    • Hi Sharon, Steve doesn’t contribute often these days as he’s lecturing and studying his Masters. But if you follow us on Facebook, or Twitter we share new posts there. Glad you found our content helpful! Blessings!


    • We don’t have a newsletter yet unfortunately Sharon. And Steve’s other commitments means he doesn’t write as much as he’d like.

      If this changes, I’ll add you to our list.

      Thanks for the positive feedback!

  2. After listening to a sermon in my church today on working out your salvation with fear and trembling I feel I have not been working enough for God I started searching the internet and I come across your message, it was really helpful. Thanks and God bless.

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