Rick Thomas writes about how we often confuse performance and obedience with "pleasing God." An excerpt from his article which struck me most was his description embodied in a Christian named Sandra.
Sandra is a Christian. However, she is not seeking to please God by trusting (faith) in Him. She is still performing, but this time she is performing for the Father, hoping to get a good grade.
Rather than accepting what is pleasing to God–the works of the Son, she tries to please Him by her obedience. For example, she says she feels more spiritual by going to church. She believes her activity for God gives her more of God. She feels more spiritual when she is doing.
She also says that if she misses her prayer time, Bible reading, or a church meeting she feels less spiritual. She will read her 4.25 chapters each day, even while brushing her teeth so she can check it off.
Sandra is convinced that if she has her morning prayer time and things go well for her during the day, then she will partially contribute God’s favor on her based on her prayer-time-obedience.
As you might imagine, if she does not have her prayer time and things do not go well for her during the day, she feels as though her lack of prayer (disobedience) caused her day to go bad. Sometimes her friends affirm her theology of legalism when they observe her bad day and say, “You must not be prayed-up today.”
As you can see, when her biblical counselor gave her a list of things to do in order to please God, Sandra initially was excited about the list. Any people pleasing, self-reliant, performance-driven person would be.
However, as time went by, she could not juggle her list of spiritual disciplines with the rest of her life. Eventually discouragement and depression set in–she could not keep up. From her perspective, God was not pleased with her–basing this on her poor performance.
According to Sandra’s functional theology she could control God’s pleasure by what she did rather than what the Son did. Her understanding of Christ’s work was limited. She believed the Gospel was for her salvation, while her obedience was the primary thing needed for her sanctification.
How many of us are like Sandra, whose life in Christ is often measured by the work done? That we base our growth by the number of times we've read the Bible or the span of time we spend in prayer?
All of us feel a sense of accomplishment when we achieve something by our works. I'm not saying it's wrong to try to achieve something but let us be cautious on how our works can oft times spiritually rob the joy of Christ's accomplishment when he said, "It is finished."
I encourage you to read the whole article here.