Tonight I will be preaching from 1 Peter 1:13-17 on our call to be holy and what that means for the believer in Christ. This morning I came across this quote from my favorite theologian D.A. Carson and this article from the Resurgence.
D.A. Carson Writes:
People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.
You will not grow in the Christian life through stasis. You must move. But move where? Move how? What is “grace-driven effort” and how is it different from some other kind of religious or spiritual effort?
I think grace-driven effort springs from parking ourselves at the gospel and beholding. People who behold (super)naturally move into mission. They can’t not run and tell that.
We don’t graduate from the gospel. We hold true to it.
Here is one of my favorite passages from Paul. He is talking about pressing on and moving forward, upward, Godward, but notice how he begins and ends this thought on spiritual effort:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. – Philippians 3:12-16
The beginning of this passage affirms that what has been attained was not by Paul’s causal effort but Jesus’ causal effort: “Not that I have already made it my own; Jesus made me his own.” And the passage ends with Paul saying: “Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”
We don’t graduate from the gospel. We hold true to it. And the gospel alone propels us out and empowers us to press on. Grace-driven effort is effort that flows from the joys and wonders of worship, flowing from beholding the amazing gospel of God’s grace.