I often read N.T. Wright’s translation of the New Testament. I was struck, recently with his use of the word “calculate” instead of “credited” (NIV) or “counted” (ESV & NAS), when declaring a person being right in God’s sight. “Now when someone ‘works,’ the ‘reward’ they get is not calculated on the basis of generosity, but on the basis of what they are owed. But if someone doesn’t ‘work,’ but simply believes in the one who declares the ungodly to be in the right, that person’s faith is calculated in their favor, putting them in the right.” (Rom. 4:4-5) The NLT is very blunt saying, “When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners” (Rom. 4:4-5 ).
The Message declares, “…if you see that the job is too big for you that it’s something only God can do, and you trust him to do it……well, that trusting him to do it is what gets you right with God, by God. Sheer gift” (vs 3-4 – The Message). Calculate comes from the Latin word for count. To calculate is to count on something having a particular effect. In this case, its a matter of a right relationship with God. Men, do you find yourself managing our spiritual life, calculating whether or not belief and effort would make you more acceptable to God. I learned years ago from John and Paula Sandford that this is getting caught up in “performance orientation.” I can still get caught in this trap.
In applying our natural abilities and spiritual gifting, we can easily calculate how well we think we are doing based on our compulsion. It just comes naturally. What would it be for you? Mine is that of a “people pleaser.” I can easily become compulsive in caring for others. Even worse, it is all about me and my performance. This only reinforces my ego strength. I simply work harder at being a caring individual. The worse I feel spiritually the more I can get on the tread mill of people pleasing. But it is never enough. Even worse, I will perform spiritually to please God. The Lord, of course, is not impressed with my efforts. How would you identify the manner you try to please God with your performance?
I have reformed a lot of my compulsive spiritual behavior. But my wife will tell you, that I can still get on the tread mill of performance orientation. So what has helped in the lessening of my compulsion. First, is the realization that my walk with God is based not on a contract (how I perform) but rather on receiving a gift (all grace). Operating with a contrast, I have to work to earn favor with God. I’ve had to learn to simply trust in God accepting me as a sinful man. I marvel at the generosity of God. It is “sheer gift.”
Secondly, the gift can only be received when in silent before God I hear that I are his beloved. Beyond your thoughts, perceptions, and feelings I am loved. I gratefully declare that I am “a beloved sinner.” Thirdly, learing to live freely in the open space of God’s love for me. Here I cry out daily for God to be merciful to me, his beloved sinner. What matters is my intentions. If I desire to grow in Christlikeness, God’s mercy will be sufficient in rescuing me when I get on the tread mill of performance.