The Performance Plan or the Grace Plan

The Performance Plan goes nowhere in the end. We need God's Grace Plan instead.

By Lee Strobel & Mark Mittelberg Published on November 21, 2016

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

“God helps those who help themselves.” This is one of the best-known and most-loved verses anywhere in the world. It’s easy to see why; it just feels so, well motivational. Grab your bootstraps. Pull hard in an upward direction. Improve your lot, and God will recognize that you deserve his assistance and will jump in to help.

There’s just one problem. This “verse” is not in the Bible.

Thank goodness that the Bible offers us far better news. God helps those who can’t help themselves. Those who have given up on trying. Who have lost hope. The ones who, as Jesus described, “are weary and burdened” and in need of soul rest. (Matthew 11:28)

When things are going well in our lives, we instinctively put our trust in our efforts to do good, to help others, and perhaps to fulfill some list of spiritual obligations. One could call that the Performance Plan, and it plays perfectly into our sense of pride and independence.

You can’t earn it; you’ll never deserve it. It’s offered freely and must be received with empty hands and a repentant heart.

But before we get too excited about the Performance Plan, we should look at what the biblical writer James said: “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10, emphasis mine). He wasn’t trying to make the readers feel bad; he was simply giving a needed warning. If we put our faith in the Performance Plan, we’re destined for frustration in this life and for deep regret in the next because we’ll always fall short of God’s infinite standards (Romans 3:23).

Fortunately there’s an alternative. It’s called the Grace Plan. You can’t earn it; you’ll never deserve it. It’s offered freely and must be received with empty hands and a repentant heart. It comes through Christ and his death on your behalf. Hebrews 10:14 explains, “By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”

You see, the standard is still perfection. But we’ll never gain that perfection through our own flawed performance efforts. Rather, we’ll gain it by receiving Jesus’ self-sacrificial payment on our behalf, extended to us as free, undeserved favor. In other words, as a gift of grace.

Truth for Today

The Grace Plan seems almost too good to be true. In fact, that’s why many people don’t accept God’s grace. They just can’t believe it could be that easy. Well, it wasn’t easy for Jesus, but fortunately, grace is offered freely. We just need to humple ourselves and accept it like a child getting a gift on Christmas — in no way earning it but wholeheartedly receiving it.

Excerpted from the 180-day apologetics devotional Today’s Moment of Truth: Devotions to Deepen Your Faith in Christ, by Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg, available at bookstores and online retailers. Copyright © 2016 by Lee Strobel. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

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