Stop Trying to Impress God

Long before I committed my life to the Lord, I tried to impress God.

As a child, I sat at my grandma's side, and she told me about hell. I didn't understand how to become a Christian that day, but I did get the picture she painted of hell. I set out to make God happy with me, because I sure didn't want to "roast like a marshmallow."

I said all the right words, but my heart was all wrong.

In junior high, I walked the aisle at an evangelistic event. By that time I'd come to understand I was a sinner, and I felt guilty about one sin in particular. I'm sure many people made sincere decisions that night. I said all the right words, but my heart was all wrong.

I wasn't about to change. I was still looking for that quick fire escape from hell. I figured I'd just have to try harder.

Then before my twenty-first birthday in 1971, I joined Life Action Ministries for all the wrong reasons. I wanted to be on stage and sing. I couldn't afford another year at Bible college, and figured I'd just travel a while and maybe even find a Christian husband.

Within two weeks on the team, I was repentant, broken, and desperately seeking the Lord.

In a message at a Christian high school, Life Action's founder, Del Fehsenfeld, Jr., made my heart condition clear. Even my very best works were filthy compared to God's absolute holiness (Isa. 64:6).

I didn't need a pat on the back; I needed rescuing. I needed mercy! I needed God's righteousness (Titus 3:3–5; 1 Cor. 6:11).

God changed my heart that day, and I've never doubted my eternal destiny since.

End of story, right?

No. Somehow, I still didn't grasp the daily freedom of God's grace in Christ. I got caught up in comparisons, judgmentalism, insecurity, and fear as my old habit of trying to impress God and others rose to the surface.

Sometimes it takes a while for us to realize the shackles of our slavery have fallen away. I was God's child, but miserable.

  • I memorized Scripture and studied the Bible, trying to impress Him with my "spiritual commitment."
  • I offered "sacrifices" of compassion and stewardship.
  • I walked the walk—stumbling over myself at every turn—and talked the talk. I had Christianese down pat.
  • I served God, but, just like before I became a Christ-follower, it was for all the wrong reasons.
  • I even counseled people about giving their lives over to Christ, but didn't find my own spiritual life satisfying.

Do you notice one word in all those sentences? "I . . . I . . . I . . . I . . . I." During those years, I made checklist after checklist, trying to figure out how to get life right so I'd win God's favor. I never learned how to live out the process of being "dead to sin and alive to God in Christ" (Rom. 6:11).

But God continued to work.

I remember the day I said, "I'm tired of trying to impress You, God."

I didn't have to earn God's love; I already had it in Christ.

I was studying for a message I'd planned to share with a group of women. It included a long list of Scriptures about who we are "in Christ." As I unpacked each Scripture, light streamed into my thinking to push out the devil's lies.

I didn't have to figure out how to make God accept me. I was already accepted in the Beloved—accepted in Jesus (Eph. 1:6). God was satisfied, and all I had to do was rest in Jesus' powerful work on my behalf.

I didn't have to be good enough, perfect enough, or obedient enough for God to "accept" me. Only Jesus is good enough, perfect enough, and obedient enough. I didn't have to earn God's love; I already had it in Christ. I didn't have to earn God's forgiveness. Forgiveness was the cornerstone of my relationship with the Lord in Christ.

The Father who saved me also declared me righteous, loved me, healed me, and forgave me—all because God applied what Jesus did for me. I don't have to prepare a daily progress report to get the Father's approval. Jesus' completed "report" is all-sufficient. He got an A+ on my behalf.

Now when thoughts arise that I must "impress" God, I counter them with biblical truth and remember the cross. And I imagine the Father's smile.

I don't need to live by legalistic lists, but I do want to cultivate a holy lifestyle (1 Peter 1:14–16). The Holy Spirit continues to teach me how to be more like Jesus.

Now when thoughts arise that I must "impress" God, I counter them with biblical truth and remember the cross. And I imagine the Father's smile.

Are you still trying to impress God in some way? What does it mean to you today to be "accepted in the Beloved"?

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About the Author

Dawn Wilson

Dawn Wilson

Dawn Wilson and her husband Bob live in Southern California. They have two married sons and three granddaughters. Dawn assists Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with research and works with various departments at Revive Our Hearts. She is the founder and director of Heart Choices Today, publishes at Upgrade with Dawn, and is a regular columnist for Crosswalk.com. Dawn occasionally travels with her husband in ministry with Pacesetter Global Outreach.

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