03 Mar Well Done, Good and Faithful
Grace. What a priceless concept. For so long, I had the audacity to think that I had a pretty good understanding of it. I always knew that it was something to be meditated on and thankful for, but I honestly thought that I had heard pretty much all there is to say about how it transforms our lives. I thought that I understood the grace shown to us through the cross so well – but, last summer, the Lord showed me that I’ve only just begun to understand.
Here’s the issue – far too often, I fall into a “works-based mentality” – living as if I have to work and strive and perform in order to earn God’s favor. I still have it in my head that the Lord is sitting up in heaven watching my every move and listening to my every word, grading me for everything I do. As much as I intellectually understand that this is wrong, in my heart I imagine that there is some sort of unconquerable bar that God is waiting for me to clear, a standard I must meet if I’m ever going to be a really “good” follower of Christ.
Ever since I was little, I’ve loved the idea that when we get to heaven, as we finally enter the presence of Christ unhindered, He will declare to us “well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21-23). But despite all of my anticipation for that day, I have always viewed it as a goal I am working to attain; as a reward, of sorts, for meeting the standard for Christian living. This pressure definitely puts a damper on the excitement. But it does a lot more than just that – it also robs me of the freedom and joy that God desires to give us in his abundant grace!
This is where, last summer, I finally began to see that my understanding of grace has been skewed. Because here’s the truth – in Christ, that bar has already been cleared. Scripture says that because of the cross, from the moment we begin to follow Christ, our identity is found fully in Him. This means that when God looks at us, He no longer sees our sin, our flesh, or our shortcomings. Now, the Father looks at us and sees Christ and His perfect righteousness.
In Christ, we have already been declared “good and faithful” servants, because Jesus purchased this identity for us on the cross when He took our place. He stamped this identity with His blood on His robes of righteousness, and clothed us in them. So no matter if we feel like we’re at our best or at our worst, that identity will not change.
As many times as I’ve heard this truth, it never really clicked until last summer. Since then, I have found incredible freedom and peace as I stand in this grace (Romans 5:2). I no longer have to be paralyzed by my performance, or constantly compare myself to my brothers and sisters in Christ to gauge if I’m being “good and faithful” enough. Instead, I can rest in the assurance that I am already seen that way in Christ, and live so that He gets the glory for that. I no longer have to try to hide my weaknesses, but can “boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, in her book Because He Loves Me, sums it up perfectly with this:
“The truth that many of us have lost and desperately need to find is that Christianity isn’t essentially a program to help moral people be better. No, it’s a relationship based on the premise that we aren’t good now and will never be good in this life. We need someone to be good in our place, to suffer what we deserve to suffer, and to live the righteous life we should have lived. Our Redeemer has taken our sinful identity so that we might receive his righteous one!”
May we all continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) and embrace the freedom and joy we have as cherished children and fellow heirs with Christ!
Sarah Gray is a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a member of the Summit College Student Leadership Team.