Have you ever wondered what a gracious response to the grace that we have been given in the Gospel of Jesus Christ looks like? To simply say obedience is to not say enough. The Pharisees, you will remember, were obedient down to the tiniest detail, yet they reserved for themselves the wrath of God. And yet, at the same time, we know the Bible commands our obedience. Jesus said, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father” (John 14:21). It is our obedience that demonstrates our love for Him.
So what is a gracious response to the grace of the Gospel? It is obedience that flows out of a grateful heart. In his newest book, Jesus Plus Nothing Equals Everything, Pastor Tullian writes, “As we continue working out our life of obedience in light of Christ’s obedience, one thing is clear: the issue is never whether or not to obey. We know the Bible has plenty to say about keeping God’s commands. That’s indisputable. But what motivates our obedience, what animates our obedience, and what prompts us to obey? Is it fear or faith? Is it guilt or gratitude?” A gracious response to God’s amazing grace is a desire to live a life of obedience—not because of what we hope to get (rewards), or what we hope to avoid (consequences), but because of what Jesus had already done on our behalf.
When the motivations of our heart are rooted in gratitude (not guilt) and faith (not fear), then we are gripped by the truth of the Gospel and the finished work of Jesus Christ. And that is why we need to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day. The Gospel first relates what Jesus has done and then paints the picture of how we are to respond to it. What God in Christ has done for us always precedes what we in Christ are to do for God.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16)
The transforming truths of the Gospel lead us to a total transformation of all that we think, do, and say. The Gospel frees us to be what we are (Christians) because of what has already been done both for and to us. Because we are already saved, we want to do what is pleasing in the sight of the One who saved us. To reverse this (doing in order to be saved or to find God’s favor) is to distort the Gospel and make it of no effect. This is trying to live in our own strength, which inevitably leads to disappointment, discouragement, and ultimate defeat.
But this is not for you! Because we are already His, we should act like we are already His. Our obedience does not gain us additional affection, blessing, or love. We already have all of it—all of His affection . . . all of His blessing . . . all of His love. This kind of obedience is absolutely freeing. We obey out of devotion, not duty. The Gospel takes us from being slaves to being sons, sons who are to delight in pleasing the One who paid so great a price for so great a salvation.
In the end, we serve because we have been served, we forgive because we have been forgiven, and we love because we have been loved. All that we do, we do because of what Jesus has already done for us. This is a gracious response to grace.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!