Performance Mentality vs. Abiding in Christ

So…I’m given this spiritual freedom: the power of both sin and death over me is broken because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. This creates a conundrum in me where I am free to sin as I please (it cannot separate me from the love of God), yet my spirit is bound to Jesus, thus I’m fundamentally not satisfied with sinning and I want to avoid it.

While writing on this subject, James Bryan Smith says, “I am free to make choices about what I do and don’t do. But pay attention to this: Those choices should be made in light of who I am, not to determine who I am.”

Too many times I have let my mistakes define who I am. Too many times I have let my ability to avoid those mistakes define who I am. No matter how hard I try to avoid it, my baseline, my automatic starting place, is a “performance” mindset. It’s something I fight against constantly. If I do enough good things and avoid enough bad things I will be acceptable, lovable, and good. If I decide I’ve made too many mistakes (or those mistakes are too potent), then I watch my sense of value go down in flames.

If this were just my struggle, that would be one thing, but I know I’m in good company here.


For me, this performance mentality has two fundamental lies driving it: (1) action = value and (2) other people’s reactions = value.

We all inherently know that there is no freedom in this approach. It makes the idea of living a “Christ-like life” terrifying because we know our sinful selves all too well.

Over the years, God has been teaching me a new approach: Abide in Christ.


When ever I read Jesus saying, “My yolk is easy and my burden is light.” I had always thrown the yellow flag. According to the performance lifestyle, Jesus’ expectations of me were anything but easy and light. What I am…slowly…learning is that when I abide in Christ – resting in Him, relying on Him, seeing him, not as the disappointed judge, but the empowering friend – only then does a Christ-like life become natural, happening easily because I did the work of abiding first.

I particularly love the word “abide”. There is an ease and simplicity to it. I picture it like Jesus and I are in our rocking chairs, in front of the fire, wearing flannel shirts (of course), and talking like old friends…there’s the freedom.

I’ve gone on long enough, so, my challenge to myself and to you is this: Abide. Live in the freedom that is rightfully ours instead of going back to the “performance” default. Know that our value is automatic and unwavering because of Christ. No matter how busy life gets, remember that it is not the branch, but the vine we are attached to, that produces the fruit we want.

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