Worried about your performance?

When thoughts like that entered the head of Martin Luther, he would return to his baptism. He would return to the promises of God. He would leave the place of uncertainty and doubt and go the place of assurance, the place where God had acted…for Martin Luther.

Thoughts of uncertainty (are we really doing what we ought to be doing, are we really serious about living a Jesus shaped life, are we really believers?) do come to us from time to time, if you are really a sinner.

If you are really a sinner, it would be quite normal to doubt, because you are at heart a ‘non truster’. A ‘non truster’ in God.

That is why God didn’t leave this thing up to you. That is why God took hold of the reins and tells us, “I’ll handle everything…just trust in Me.” That is why God baptised (yes God did the real baptising) you.

But since the law is written upon our hearts, and since ‘doing’ (to justify ourselves) is our default position, we do not trust God… by nature.

So if you seem to be not quite cutting it in the being faithful department, don’t worry about it. Worrying is the ultimate lack of trust in God, anyway (that’s why Jesus tells us not to do it).

If you are not quite cutting it, or if you are an absolute failure at cutting it…and you know it, you are actually right where you ought to be. If you think you are doing alright at being faithful, maybe not pefectly, but a lot better than your neighbor Joe who says he’s a Christian but gets drunk on Friday night and doesn’t go to church and watches football all day on Sunday…well, if you think like that…you’ve got a problem. A self-righteousness problem. A performance problem. A performance hang-up. And the performance that you are hung-up on, usually isn’t your own.

Jesus is after folks that know their need of Himself. Those that believe they are doing pretty well are like the Pharisee in the Temple that Jesus compares to the tax collector (scum). The scummy tax collector knew what he was and knew that he needed the mercy of God. The Pharisee was being faithful, doing all the prescibed works of the law, but his heart was far from God. He didn’t need God. This is the danger of preaching biblical principles for living. It waters down the law and creates modern day Pharisees. It creates self-righteous people. It creates phoney people. It drives people away from the one place that they might hear the gospel…some of them never again to return.

If you are worried about your performance you are worrying for nothing. Your performance stinks. You might be doing some good works and then again you might not. That is not the point. The point is that you have a Savior. You have someone who’s performance for you was perfect and it is finished. He has graciously decided to give to you new life through faith, and He has made that faith real for you in His Word…in preaching…in the Bible… in His sacraments… in the encouragement of one another.

When doubts come into my head via the world, my own sinful flesh, or the devil…I return once again to the font. To the place where my Lord and Savior Christ Jesus has acted for me…has adopted me…has made me His own.

Don’t worry…be happy!


10 Responses

  1. Amen St Stephen,

    In baptism we are in Jesus and are the beloved children of God in whom he is pleased.

    Thanks be to God. †

  2. Wow, what timing, Steve. Over the past couple of weeks Rural Pastor and I have been reading and studying together about baptism in the Large Catechism. My thoughts on baptism are so different than they were just a few years ago. It is God’s work and not ours. We can always return to our baptism, “Therefore baptism remains forever. Even though someone falls from it and sins, we always have access to it so that we may again subdue the old creature…Thus we see what a great and excellent thing baptism is, which snatches us from the jaws of the devil and makes us God’s own, overcomes and takes away sin and daily strengthens the new person, and always endures and remains until we pass out of this misery into eternal glory.” (p. 466, “The Large Catechism,” The Book of Concord) Thanks be to God!

  3. “So if you seem to be not quite cutting it in the being faithful department, don’t worry about it. Worrying is the ultimate lack of trust in God, anyway (that’s why Jesus tells us not to do it).”


    That was great Gospel, keep that up. I don’t know what I’d do if there were not great Gospel proclaiming layman such as yourself, back and forth feeding each other – so deplorable is a lot of so called “preaching” these days.

    Dr. Norman Nagel has this great sermon about James 2 that really pulls apart what James was getting at, very similar to what you are saying here. At the end he uses an analogy of faith being like lungs and the breathing the natural exercise of that living faith, a living lung. Lungs can be dead as can faith. In the conclusion he says that the one certainly not living (the real dead lungs) is the one most certainly unaware that they are dead. Taking away the analogy he is stating that the one certainly without faith is he who does not know he is without faith.

    That’s the perfect irony of how living faith really works, it is fully unaware of a kind of faith that in essence says, “I have faith”. “I have faith” is really the devil’s faith, false and delusion! Real living faith speaks thus, “I have no faith”. Which is simply Luther’s “I confess that I cannot by my own will or power believe in my faithful saviour Jesus Christ, but am called by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel.”

    Consequently, nothing greater bears witness against the delusional doctrine of “believers baptism” which produces nothing but this very false faith, to wit, “I have faith”. As is necessity to be baptized thus. That’s very different from sinners baptism that IS and comes TO YOU FOR YOU whether you believe it or not.



  4. “If you are worried about your performance you are worrying for nothing. Your performance stinks. You might be doing some good works and then again you might not. That is not the point. The point is that you have a Savior. You have someone who’s performance for you was perfect and it is finished”.

    Spot on – Abraham was justified because He trusted in the character and promises of God, no more and no less – that is our righteousness… trusting in the life and redemption of Jesus Christ is the only dress which allows access to the marriage feast –
    ‘His oath, His Covenant, His blood, support my in the whelming flood’.

    In that grace,


  5. St. David,

    We don’t hear enough about the great gift of baptism in the blogesphere (or elsewhere for that matter).
    You speak of it often, as do some other bloggers, but it never hurts to be reminded of what our Lord has done for us and how He gives it to us in baptism.

    – Steve (I know, I know… why can’t I make up my mind!)

  6. Ivy,

    What a blessing to have people with a right understanding of baptism in our lives to reveal to us the great things that God has done for us.

    I too was sorely lacking in my understanding (I still might have a ways to go), but faithful teachers and preachers of God’s Word, who are not bent on ‘our doing’, or a’free will’ theology, can unpack the scriptures in such a way as to get at the root of it all…God.

    I really enjoyed your latest post concerning baptism at

    Claimed, Gathered, and Sent

    Keep up the good work, Ivy! God bless!

    – Steve

  7. Howard,

    To be centered on Christ and His work for us is to clothed properly. Those that waver and drift into the project called ‘the self’ when it comes to the righteousness demanded by God, are playing a dangerous and useless game and might be (I hope not) ushered out of the wedding feast.

    In His Grip,


  8. Larry,

    You have described the problem rightly, Larry. There is a famine of the Word out there in preaching and teaching. Christ and His work are just quite not enough. We must somehow figure out a way to get into the game.
    The sacraments keep us out of the game…of righteousness. They keep us grounded in Him…in His work for us. They keep us off of the “religious treadmill”.

    Believers baptism keeps the old Adam in the driver’s seat. It is nothing more than “will worship”. Those folks (God bless them) mean well. But you know what they say about good intentions and where they can lead.

    I hope and pray that the Lord will lead these folks to a better understanding of Himself and what He has done for them, that they might be freed from their “religious yolks of slavery”.

    Thanks Larry! God bless you!

    – Steve

  9. Excellent post, Steve!

    I think the following link dovetails nicely with your comments here: http://amillennialist.blogspot.com/2005/09/justice-of-god.html

    Peace be with you,


  10. Nice job, Amillennialist, on the post about Luther and his awakening.

    Thanks very much. You’ve got a lot of gems over there on your blog. Keep ’em coming!

    Peace also be with you my friend,


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