When God tells you to stop trying to be good

There’s the temptation when surrounded by friends and colleagues who don’t know Jesus to fall into this mind-trap: “I have to be good so I reflect God well. I need to be patient and loving and not gossip, yet be funny and relatable. Help me to be good (perfect?), God, because I really want them to see something different and know it’s you.”

That kind of Christianity can feel more like a yoke than a freedom. The not-measuring-up can weigh you down to the sea floor. Discouragement can make you wonder why you even bothered trying in the first place.

Jennie Allen wrote it once: Christianity is not behavior modification.

It’s not you conditioning yourself to do good actions and not do bad ones. It’s not a checklist.

It’s a love transforming your very soul. It’s a love that can’t help but spill out. And it doesn’t need to spill out as “being good.”

It needs to spill out as “holiness.”

God gently rebuked me. “The world doesn’t need to see more of good. They need to see more of holy. We don’t need more people living “good” lives. We need to see more of people living holy lives. That’s where I move. The world needs to see the difference between a good person and a holy person. It needs to see anointing and unfathomable contentment, not because you’re stuffing your pain, but because you truly feel my peace.

What stood out about my friends Rheanna and Alicia before I was saved? It wasn’t their do’s and don’t lists or lives. It was holiness. It was peace. It was light. It was God.

“Being good” is from us. Holiness is from God alone.

This revelation is a weight lifted off. Because I can’t be good. I’m not patient by nature.

My life has shown me over and over again that there are things that I couldn’t fix with my best efforts. Sin and Satan have left me so intractably not-good that my only hope…the only one strong enough to save me, heal me, or restore me was Jesus.

All the fruits of the Spirit are meant to be fruits of…the Spirit. We don’t have to be good and patient and joyful or long-suffering in our own power or strength. We just have to ask again and again (and again) for God to come with us and give us a spirit of Holy love and obedience. Eventually, His spirit becomes embedded in our spirit. And that’s the kind of humble holy that God delights in and uses. It’s the kind that isn’t trying to channel some good quotes or deeds, but the very words and actions of God.

This is what I’m preaching to myself these days as I walk into work. As I go out with friends. As I contemplate how or if to respond to something. Guys, there are still days that I suck at this, because I have a habit of getting in the way of God or caring too much about what other people think. But there has been some serious progress here, too.

I can’t imagine what the world would look like if all the Christians in it stopped trying to be good and started letting ourselves be vessels of holiness and conduits of love. In short, Jesus.

Maybe the two or three or nine of us people used trying to be good can make that shift? I feel God’s pleasure at the very idea.


You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.  John 15.3-8

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