“But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” -Romans 7:6
”By faith we receive blessings from above, from God; through love we give them out below, to our neighbor." -Martin Luther
Grace has done its work. You have heard the gospel in a whole new light. You have come to understand the outrageous power of a grace that comforts, a grace that transforms, and a grace that loves you just as you are. You have been told to rest and told that there is nothing left for you to do because “it is finished.” These are the mind-blowing truths of the gospel. This is our hope – we have a Father who has saved us while we were in our worst of worst ways and continues to love us in our mess (Romans 5:8). For this we can rejoice!
Yet in all of this gospel goodness and freedom from the law you may be left asking one question: “If Christianity is not about doing but rather about resting then how will anything ever get done?”
Perhaps what we need to do is ask a different question, “Now that you are free, what will you do?”
Christ came to serve the church, his bride, and he did it perfectly. He knew that you and I would shy away from waking up early to bake muffins for the women’s retreat, he knew that we would often find it inconvenient to pick up the elderly woman who needs a ride to church, he knew that every time we would be asked to work in the nursery we would want to jump off a cliff. So he did it all. He became a man in order to serve us and he not only served those around him perfectly but he served us in his obedience to the Father. Facing what he did not deserve, he served us by picking up his cross and carrying it to his death. He served us by being spat upon, mocked, and tortured; all to be our replacement, our representative, our sin. What did his service gain him? A terrible death and a separation from his Father so that we would never have to know that pain. Not only did he serve us in his suffering, but he also served us in giving up his record. He took upon himself our record of poor performance and replaced it with his perfect, complete resume of righteousness. He did this for us. Christ is our righteousness. Christ is our freedom.
Now that we know that we are free from having to serve we are free to serve and with great joy. Why? Because Christ fulfilled the demands of the law (love God and love your neighbor as yourself), and, thus, the Law’s condemning voice is silenced (Galatians 3). We no longer need to fear God’s displeasure because in Christ we are already pleasing to him. We no longer need to use others as a step stool to further our own righteousness, because our service to others does not earn us merit with God. We no longer have to use our good works and our service to others to prove ourselves worthy, to feed our incessant desire for approval, or to “pay God back.” The pressure is off. Our good works, which flow from our faith, are not for God, they are for our neighbor. In other words:
We have been freed from the curse of the law, and we are liberated to a life of good works. We have been given a new desire to love our neighbor (whoever they are); a desire that comes not from fear about what will happen but out of gratitude for what has already happened.
The Gospel isn’t about us and what we are doing for God. It’s not about earning more brownie points in heaven. It’s not about being able to look back at the past week and count all of our works of service. It’s about Christ and what he has done for us. It’s his undeserved and unearned love for us that compels us to want to shower grace upon those who (also) don’t deserve it. The more we look to the cross and relish in the amazing act of love that was bestowed upon underserving sinners (us), the more we will move toward our neighbor in service and love; this is what grace does. Grace is dynamic and not static; it will move us toward others. We serve because Jesus first served us.
“It is not that the righteous person does nothing, but that his works do not make him righteous, rather that his righteousness creates works” -Luther