Not a Try Harder Two-Step. Yet, that is an easy pit to fall into. I think this mainly happens when we see the gospel as a requirement for conversion but not for sanctification. So what happens is we embrace the message of salvation and receive God’s free gift of grace. But then compliance kicks in. There is holiness to achieve, habits to break, transformation to accomplish. So we set goals, engage in disciplines, participate in activities. The comparison game only fuels the accomplishment seeking – the need to do more, try harder, achieve and look the part. Success secures confidence but failure brings shame. Repeat cycle.
What a tiring way to live and not the abundant life that Christ came to give us. The gospel is not just for conversion but is the very foundation of Christian life. You are a Christian because of the irresistible call of a loving and gracious Father, who accepts us through belief in the Son and secures us through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. We are already sanctified (set-apart) and made holy upon conversion (Romans 6:3-6).
Our problem is not working harder but recognizing our position. It is identifying with who God has called us to be, “walk worthy of the calling by which we’ve been called” (Ephesians 4:1). Surely there is a responsibility on our part but that should be in response to the people God himself has called us to be. He leads, we follow, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God at work in you both to work and will for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13) He is at work because every Christian has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who bears witness to reconciliation with the Father and the testimony of the Son (Romans 8:9, I Corinthians 12:3). When we drift, he has a way of bringing our focus back to him. But we are his.
The gospel is very much the fabric of sanctification. We have been made right through Christ who has provided a one time sacrifice of sin for sin of all times (Hebrews 10:10-13). We cannot set grace aside to earn acceptance from God, i.e. our own righteousness. If we do then we’re essentially setting aside the gospel to embrace a different gospel, which is really no gospel at all (Galatians 1:7-8; 2:21). The gospel-centered life is one lived by faith, trusting in the completed work of the cross and the hope of the resurrection where there is redemption.
Christian, if you have been called by the Father to place saving faith in the Son, then you have the security by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14; 2 Corinthians 2:5). Stop believing the lies that you are not acceptable to God unless you do x, y, and z and need to work harder. Look to Christ, see what he has already done, embrace his love for you. Read Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1 and get it into your heart that you are accepted, not because of what you’ve done but because of what God did. Turn that into a dance, where he leads and you follow.
I saw this post today and thought it was some good food for thought.