I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. -Psalm 119:11
By Yodit Kifle Smith
What motivates your relationship with the Lord?
If you had asked me this during college, I would have answered that most of my motivation came from fear. Not the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10) kind of fear, but the fear that was supposed to be cast out by perfect love (1 John 4:18). The fear that one mistake and my place in God is terminated. One missed appointment of getting into my Word and God was upset at me. It wasn’t that I didn’t love the Lord and didn’t want to please the Lord, it was that I had misunderstood the unconditional love of God and was blinded to the powerful work of salvation and sanctification.
The simple yet profound truth of the Gospel is that the work of Christ in taking on the wrath of God on our behalf and dying in our place and resurrecting so that we would now have life in the Spirit is the complete work that could ever bring us into right standing with Almighty God. That means there is NO more work to be done because Christ has done it once and for all. (Hebrews 10)
However, the way we interpret that is while we know Christ has done this powerful work which we say we believe, we still somehow are deceived into thinking that we have to keep “doing” in order to stay in that place. So rather than stand firm in the “done” of Christ, we strive in the “doing” of ourselves. And that never leads us into fruitfulness. It leaves us in frustration and bondage to ourselves, when Christ has called us into freedom.
Does this mean that there is never work for us to do? Absolutely not! All throughout Scripture, we are reminded of the good works that we are to do in the name of Jesus. These good works were prepared beforehand (Ephesians 2:10) and are the expression of our love and obedience to Him. However, it does mean that our motivation changes. It means that we know the work that we do is BECAUSE of the work that has been done, not FOR it. Philippians 2:13 says, “It is God who work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
Salvation brings us into His saving grace and Sanctification keeps us in His saving grace, conforming us into His likeness. The work of the Spirit in us daily renews our hearts and minds to desire and seek what pleases God, not to earn His favor, but to bring Him glory. Without the Spirit of God in us, we desire everything contrary to the Spirit. But because of His Spirit dwelling in us, we are now free to desire His ways. That is the work of God in us that could never be done on our strength or might.
Paul rebukes the Galatians when he asks them this, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?...Did your receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3).
How often do we fall into that trap of trying to sustain in the flesh what could only begin and be sustained in the Spirit? When we find ourselves in that place, we must turn to the truth of the Gospel: the work is done in Christ. His good work is being done through us by the Holy Spirit. It’s a good work that brings us into more and more of who we are meant to be in Him: Whole. Redeemed. Beloved. Justified. Loved. His.
We no longer fear of what God will do because Christ did it on our behalf. And that’s why His perfect love can cast out the fear of punishment. We can now live in, through and because of His love unto joyful surrender and obedience to Him.
The weekly devotionals seek to encourage you to dig deeper into Scripture as you take the time to daily read, meditate, and internalize the verses in the devotional, along with the passages provided below to give greater context. Take the time to read them throughout the week (repetition is important) and ask the Holy Spirit to help you grasp what God is showing you about Himself, about you, and how to live in light of these truths.
Passages to read/memorize/meditate:
1 John 4:18
Questions to Reflect on: