Here’s what’s obvious. Of course you and I should be getting better at the Christian life. Of course you and I should be more kind, loving, and generous. We do need to play by the rules of the “Owner's Manual for Life.” Of course you should be making more of an impact in the world. You should feel really excited and energized in your faith. We all should. All God’s demands are good, but the problem is, all the demanding isn’t helping any of our doing. I don’t know about you, but the exhortation to live a transformed life doesn’t have an ounce of power to get me out of bed each morning.

If you’ve been told that the core of Christian faith is about your ongoing transformation by making good on all the Jesusy advice, you’re getting ripped off. Save yourself the heartache and peruse the self-help aisle instead. Maybe there you’ll find what you’re looking for. But if you have an inkling that maybe the Christian life has something deeper to offer, you’re on to something. The fact is—and this has to be received in faith—God is making all things new despite whether you are willing or able to cooperate with him. Those who are in Christ, those who belong to Jesus possess a glorious already-not-yet present. Yes we are called to express our faith in love but don’t forget that faith is God’s gift. That good gift is not based on your ability to perform for him. You’re in the family. You’re adopted, loved, and secure.

Many of us have been hearing the one-note monotone of Christian duty our whole lives. But the Christian message isn’t music until we hear that second, all important triumphant note of the gospel of Jesus Christ for you! Otherwise, the one note of the law inevitably drones on and accuses you as you lay in bed in a half sleep state each morning. It reminds you over and over that you haven’t lived life according to the owner’s manual. You’ll be forced to lug your shame around throughout the day. This shame and the accusations that go with it lingers. They’ll climb into bed with you at night with their yellowy, cold, pokey toenails and keep droning on into your ear like a bad case of nightmarish tinnitus. All they can do is say “do, do, do,” but the work is never done.

The good news is, there is an antidote to the pride and despair, but it’s severe. And while the Holy Spirit is a comforter, he’ll lead us into circumstances where we get knocked around a bit. We might get a blackened eye or scraped knees. But I promise you, this antidote has the power to get us out of the mess of pride and despair.

From Matt Johnson’s new Key Life/New Growth Press book, Getting Jesus Wrong: Giving Up Spiritual Vitamins and Checklist Christianity.

Find more from Matt Johnson here.