Imagine two very different days in your life as a pastor [or as a Christian]. A good day and a bad day.
The bad day begins with you sleeping in, so immediately you’re feeling guilty for being lazy and missing your devotions. You’re short tempered with your family because you feel so rotten, which only increases your feelings of guilt. You try to focus on sermon preparation in the morning, but you can’t settle to serious study and close application of the word because of how you’re feeling; so instead you fritter away that precious study time. You buy a commentary on Amazon, and then surf some blogs and Facebook. At lunch your wife asks if you’ve had a productive morning; feeling defensive you assume she’s checking up on you rather than kindly asking about your day. In the afternoon you make some visits, but your heart isn’t in it. Instead of speaking to that member about his lack of commitment, you shy away from the hard questions and stick to polite conversation. At home you lose your temper with the children for some minor offense. At your elders’ meeting you assert your authority in a less than gracious way. Then you come home and watch a couple of hours of mindless TV to escape after your hard day before going to bed far too late.

On the good day you spring out of bed at 6 am to read the Bible, ten pages of John Owen, and to pray. You make your family breakfast and have family worship. You put in four solid hours of study before lunch, and the afternoon visits go extremely well: you’re able to counsel that difficult member and also have several opportunities to share the gospel. On the way home you help an old lady across the road! After a lovely time playing with your children you go to your elders’ meeting, where you are the epitome of the gracious yet firm chairman! You come home and spend an hour talking with your wife over her day; you pray together and go to bed at a decent time.

Now on which of those two days are you more accepted by God? Isn’t it so easy to fall into a performance mentality and forget that our standing before God is entirely based on grace, not works—that we are only ever accepted because of Christ’s righteousness and not at all on the basis of our own? So we come to the end of a bad day and go to the cross and receive the cleansing of Christ’s blood. We pray, ‘Father, how glad I am that my standing before you doesn’t depend on my performance today, but on Christ’s performance for me.’ And how do we pray after a good day? We say exactly the same thing! ‘Father, how glad I am that my standing before you doesn’t depend on my performance today, but on Christ’s performance for me.’ Even my best day—even a lifetime of good days—could never be good enough to make me acceptable before God. Jerry Bridges puts it like this: ‘Your worst days are never so bad that they are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that they are beyond the need of God’s grace.’

– Warren Peel

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