Grace, Obedience, and Liberty in Christ
Only too well I understand what a slippery concept grace presents to our fleshly and legalistic minds. When I try to explain it, I fall into what sounds like either mystery or mechanism (Philippians 2:12-13), so I have to resort to analogy.
Think of yourself as a ten-year old, getting ready to go fishing or to summer camp the next day. Can you remember how excited you were, how your stomach trembled and your heart pounded at the thought of that wonderful place and all the fun you would have? The problem wasn’t forgetting anything, it was eliminating half the things you wanted to take and were sure you would need. Every preparation had to be perfectly right.
That is the heart and mind we must bring to Christian obedience and duty. That is liberty in Christ.
Do you remember the best teacher you ever had, the one you loved and respected the most? Whatever that teacher assigned, you did it with all your heart and might, because the worst thing on earth would be for you to disappoint that teacher. You wanted to please that teacher more than anything on earth, not to make a grade, but to show that teacher your respect and love.
That is the way we have to obey God. That’s how we must both serve and lead in family, church, and state.
Our obedience has to be alert, cheerful, and diligent. "Alert" means that our eyes and minds are always "standing at attention" like an eager servant, searching for opportunities to help. It also includes taking initiative, not waiting until our leaders bring us ideas to improve and broaden the service and holiness of our congregation, but bringing our own ideas to them, and then carrying them out without anyone standing over us to keep us working.
"Cheerful" means that we discipline ourselves to embrace our obedience with all our hearts. When we find that rebellious thought that whines, "Why me?" we capture, examine, and execute it. We are actively working to love our duty, because God himself has given it to us. Cheerful also means that we never backbite, never grumble aloud, never gossip, never harbour evil suspicions about others’ motives or performance.
"Diligent" means that we keep at our obedience. We continue with full assurance and hope that God will bless our efforts, even when we have to stoop down for the hundred and twelfth time to pick up our broken tools and start all over. By little steps or great, we continue working at what God has given us to do. Diligence means disciplining our hearts not to lose heart.
Our obedience has both an inward and outward face. The outward face consists of all necessary outward acts. But at the same time that outward work goes on, an inward obedience must conform our feelings and thoughts to Christ. We are actively disciplining ourselves to love what God loves because he loves it. We are disciplining ourselves to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and to take every thought captive to Christ, putting down every breath of rebellion within ourselves.
In short, we are disciplining ourselves to do it and to like it. That is that service to God which is perfect freedom.