Many people wrongly believe that Christianity is simply a new set of rules and guidelines for how to behave. More recently, due to the widespread emphasis on missional living, it’s the “missional to-do list” that now determines our personal righteousness. In both cases, people find themselves feeling more like spiritual slaves than gospel-freed children of God.
This is because we easily buy into worldly thinking that claims our identity comes from what we do instead of what God has done.
We have wrongly believed that we’re human doings instead of human beings.
In the beginning, when God created humanity, he created us in his image and likeness and declared we were very good. Adam and Eve could have lived lives trusting in and resting in the work and word of God about themselves.
However, the evil one came along and questioned God’s word and work and deceptively convinced them to put their trust in his word and their own works. This was the beginning of moving from faith-based righteousness (identity based upon faith in God’s word and work to define us) to works-based righteousness (identity based upon lies from the evil one and faith in our own works).
And Adam and Eve aren’t alone. We can all tend to do this. We move from human beings to human doings by giving into the lure of believing lies about God and ourselves and putting our hope in our own works to define us.
But the problem is we all fall short.
Based upon our works alone, we all are lacking. If our sense of being — our sense of identity — comes from what we do, we will be filled with pride when we succeed and shame when we fail. Just like Adam and Eve, we will try to cover up our inadequacies with the fig leaves of good works or hide in the bushes of guilt and shame.
Unfortunately, for many, this is what Christianity has become for them: a missional drive to perform for, or a religious façade to hide behind.
The gospel offers us something far better.
In the gospel we are once again told that God has done a good work and spoken a better word over us.
Jesus is the better word and better work.
Through faith in Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection on our behalf, we are who we are — forgiven, loved, accepted, very good — not because of our work, but because of God’s work in and through Jesus Christ. God speaks over our lives “very good” because Jesus, who is the true and better human, is now our identity.
God’s word is true and his work is very good.
The gospel doesn’t call us to behavior modification — or to a missional to-do list. The gospel calls us to identity transformation and a missional done list. Our identity is based upon faith in who God is, what he has done through Jesus, which leads to who we are.
We don’t do what we do out of our need to become. We do what we do because in Christ we already are. We are a new creation created in Jesus Christ for good works that he prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Our “being in Christ” leads to our “Christ-like doing.”
We do what we do because of what we believe he has done.
We love because we are loved by him first.
We serve because we were served by Jesus first.
We are on mission, not mainly so that God will be pleased with us, but because he has already sent the Son on mission to make us decisively pleasing to the Father.
He is ultimately pleased with us because of Jesus, who loved, served, and was sent to die in our place. Everything we do comes out of what we believe about God and his work. This reality doesn’t negate good works or prevent missional living and keep us from desiring to please our Father. It actually produces good works and informs and leads into missional living.
We don’t have to do anything to become someone, but we get to and want to do what we do because of what God has done to and for us, and is and will be for us, and who we now are in Christ.
Think of it this way: What God has done to us he now wants to do through us to the world.
Our new being in Christ leads to our new doing for Christ by his power.