The Slavery of Performancism

From Tullian Tchividjian’s forthcoming book Jesus + Nothing = Everything.

Here’s a great quote from a chapter on the dangers of legalism, or what Tullian likes to call “performancism.”

“Legalism traps you in slavery and despair. To define ourselves by what we must do, what we must accomplish, and who we must become–that’s the epitome of slavery. When we believe, deep down, that God’s blessing depends on how well we’re behaving, we wither and groan under the heavy burden of self-reliance.

In this ‘performancism,’ we eventually figure out that being the star of our own show actually makes life a tragedy. When life is all about us–what we can do, how we perform–our world becomes small and smothering; we shrink. To have everything riding on ourselves leads to despair not deliverance.

When we’re living by this legalism–trusting in our rule-keeping, our abilities, our performance–to sustain our little safe and controllable world that we’re addicted to, someday it will all start to crumble. Our kids will spin out of control, or our marriage will, or our finances, or our career. And it’s devastating. We’ve tried so hard to hide our frailty and weaknesses, building our self-esteem on our success at that, then suddenly those faults can’t be hidden any longer. We feel hopeless.

The bitter truth slams us: those attractive idols we keep trustfully turning to are indeed ‘nothing’ and ‘less than nothing’ (Isa. 41:24). They’re only black holes, the blackest of holes, dragging us down into desolation.”

(HT: Josh Harris)

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.

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