I’m sure most of you have heard the conversation that took place in one home on a Sunday morning. It seems that Bob really didn’t feel like getting up and going to church that day. After offering several “good” excuses to his wife for why he shouldn’t have to get out of bed, he said, “Give me one really good reason why I need to go,” to which his wife replied, “Because you are the pastor!”
That may be an amusing, ridiculous scene, but let me ask you: Why do you go to church? Why do you read and study your Bible? Why do you tell others about how to have eternal life in Christ? Why do you teach a Sunday School class? Having just retired after pastoring for nearly four decades, it is an interesting feeling to just attend church with no specific responsibilities or obligations. Why should we continue to attend church and study our Bibles when we are free now to do whatever we want to do? Well, we do it for the same reason the apostle Paul gave in II Cor. 5:14: “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” As a pastor, I was reimbursed financially, that is, I was “paid to be good.” Now I have to “be good for nothing!”
What should be our motive for serving Christ? Is it because we are under the Law and have to work hard to obtain and stay in the favor of God? Well, if that’s our thinking, then we don’t understand what grace is all about. Paul wrote a letter to the churches in Galatia (Asia minor) that he had established on a missionary journey. After he had left, there were false teachers called “Judaizers” who had entered the churches and were teaching that works were necessary for salvation as well as sanctification. They tried to convince the congregations that Paul’s gospel was not correct and that he was not a genuine apostle. Paul’s answer was to proclaim the doctrine of justification by faith plus nothing and of sanctification by the Holy Spirit, not the Mosaic law. All theologies that teach salvation by faith plus human effort are forcefully negated by Paul’s letter which is in our Bibles as the book of Galatians. Paul wrote: “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). In his letter to the Ephesians and to the Romans, Paul made it very clear that we are saved solely by grace (Eph. 2:8,9), justified by faith alone (Ro. 5:1), and in his letter to the Galatians and Colossians he emphasizes that we are to walk in the same manner, that is by faith, in grace, not by works. To the Colossians he wrote: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Col. 2:6). He asked the Galatian believers this question: “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the 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?” (Gal. 3:1-3).
But, while we have been set free from the law through faith in Jesus Christ, it does not mean that we are now free to do just as we please, for we “have been bought with a price” and are therefore to “glorify God” with our whole being (I Cor. 6:20). We are not free to live for ourselves, “but for Him who died and rose again on our behalf” (II Cor. 5:14). In his letter to the Galatians, Paul said, “For you were called to freedom, brethren, only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh” (Gal. 5:13). Even though, as believers, we are “new creations” in Christ (II Cor. 5:17), we still have our old sinful flesh which continues to be in rebellion against God. So, as those set free from the bondage of sin by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, we are no longer under penalty of sin and through the indwelling Holy Spirit we can also be free from the power of sin in our lives. The secret, Paul said is to “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). Peter wrote: “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God” (I Pet. 2:16).
As a “retired” pastor, why do I still go to church, read my Bible, witness to friends, teach a Bible study? Is it to stay in God’s favor? Is it to assure myself of a place in heaven? No, it is because the love of Christ controls me. It is not because of a “yoke of bondage” to the law of works. We were saved solely by the grace of God and that is how we live the rest of our days here. It is not because we’re working to keep God happy with us. It is because “the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Ro. 5:5). We can be “good for nothing.” It is “no yoke” that makes us be good. “The fruit of the Spirit (within us) is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; AGAINST SUCH THINGS THERE IS NO LAW” (Gal. 5:22,23). A Spirit-controlled person needs no law to cause Him to live a righteous life, because the motivation comes from within, not without.