What Counts? Gospel Workout, Part 3

What Counts?

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We’ve started a new fitness routine this New Year–a Gospel Workout–to make us stronger in the Lord. But how do we measure results? What counts?

You know what I mean. We count all kinds of things to measure our progress:

  • Counting calories–or carbs.
  • Ticking off my to-do list.
  • Racing against the clock.
  • Comparing myself to friends (and rivals).

It feels so normal to count–even necessary–that it’s hard to stop. We feel moments of elation when we’ve surged ahead of the crowd. But the anxiety of staying ahead and the pressure to keep up the pace quickly spoils the fun.

So we opt out for a while. We tear up the lists and turn off the media that encourage our incessant competitiveness. Then one day we get restless, and something comes along that starts us counting again.

It was on just such a day that my husband and I walked into our first cycle class.

Up until then I had glanced at sweaty cyclists through the window and said, “That is not fun and I am never doing that!” But that day we decided we needed to boost our metabolism. So we showed up for the beginner class. The instructor greeted us boisterously and got us situated on a bike. “Have fun!” she chirped.

Fun? There were too many numbers in front of me to think about fun. The bike measured how far, how hard, how fast, and how long we were cycling, not to mention how many calories we had burned. At least it kept me busy and slightly distracted. But which number mattered most? What counted?

Then I bought a heart rate monitor and a funny thing happened. I noticed the numbers of my heart rate matched my effort perfectly. Feeling warmed up? Yep, 145. Feeling like I hit my pace? Yep, 155. Feeling like I’m going to fall off my bike? Yep, 165. So I quit looking at the numbers and just rode.

It felt like freedom.

Measuring Myself

We do this in our Christian lives, too. We have an inner counter that won’t quit.With it we measure ourselves against each other and commend or condemn ourselves depending on how we do.

Then we become proud of the things we do–juicing or recycling or homeschooling or picketing abortion clinics. These things might be good and we might be called to do them. But when we feel better about ourselves as we do them, then we begin to think they count.

We become proud of the things we don’t do–eating junk or watching junk or buying junk or collecting junk. These things might be bad and we might be called to avoid them. But when we pat ourselves on the back for them, then we begin to think they give us an advantage.

But as soon as we move the measure of ourselves away from Jesus and what he has done for us, we lose. It doesn’t matter how good (or bad) we feel about ourselves, we’ve chosen the wrong measure.

We have submitted ourselves to something that doesn’t count.

What Counts?

What counts in the Christian life is this.

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6).

Let’s look at the things that don’t count first. Circumcision–though not much of a temptation in our day–stands for every good work I do in order to feel OK about myself. Uncircumcision–the label used as an insult in Paul’s day–stands for every unclean thing I avoid in order to feel superior to others. These two things–doing good and avoiding evil–actually don’t add an ounce of favor to our lives.

They don’t earn us brownie points with God.

What does count? Christ counts. The finished work of Christ counts. He finished every good work his Father gave him to do–fulfilling all true righteousness for us. He became unclean on the cross when he bore our curse–atoning for all self-righteousness.

Faith in this Christ frees us from constantly measuring ourselves. Jesus himself frees us to love others. Good works abound through such love. We don’t bother to stop and count those works, because God sees and remembers them. We are free to simply do them.

Free in Christ

If Christ has set us free, why would we submit ourselves again to our inner accountant? Paul writes:

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

This is a choice we are faced with daily–will I submit to measuring my worth by what I do or will I stand tall in the freedom of Christ? It’s a choice I must make every day with the Spirit’s help. I am not a victim of my inner slave driver. I have been set free. Jesus means me to live in that freedom.

Free to love. Free to serve. To finally stop counting, jump on my bike and ride like the wind.

What counts in your Christian life? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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