Just because the gifts of God are free does not mean following Christ isn’t going to cost you. Our works and efforts can never earn us the salvation and regeneration that Jesus acquired for us through his death and resurrection, but this does not mean you are not going to have to work. God gives us everything that we need for life and godliness, but this doesn’t mean we will not have to put forth effort in the sanctification process.
It is right to remind ourselves daily of how gracious and merciful our God really is. To know that God loves us because of who he is and not because of what we do is a great comfort and relief because we all know if it was based on our actions we would be lost. However, when we begin to talk about the free love and grace of God, we must not go beyond what the Bible teaches.
In 2 Peter 1:3-7 we learn that God “has granted us all thing that pertain to life and godliness.” However, it goes on to say, “For this reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with . . . .” The point is clear: the free gift of God is not an excuse to be lazy but rather the reason for why we should be putting such massive effort toward seeking and pleasing God.
Every athlete knows that if you want to be great you are going to have to put in the work. The big game is won in the gym before you ever step on the field. In 1 Timothy 4:7-8 Paul likens our training in the faith to athletic training. He instructs us to “train yourself for godliness.” Training is tough work. In Hebrews 5:12-14, we are told that the immature are “unskilled in the word of righteousness” and that the mature are discerning because they have been “trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
Like nothing else in life, Jesus freely gives us that which we could never earn on our own. But like everything else in life, if we hope to grow and mature we are going to have to work for it. Grace is when God gives us what we don’t deserve, but nowhere in the definition of grace does it say God isn’t going to require you to dedicate yourself to strict training. Working to mature is still under the canopy of grace because none of us deserve the right to work and mature due to our sin.
If you want to know God’s word, you are going to have to read it more than five minutes before you run out the door for the day. If you want know what the Spirit is telling you, you are going to have spend massive amounts of time on your face in prayer through your whole life learning to hear the Spirit, not just when your life is falling apart. If you want to be great at preaching, leading, following, serving, or anything else that is a gift from God, you are going to have put in the work and the time it will take to be trained.
Our working does not earn us anything as all good things are by grace, but God uses our working as a means of grace to transfer good to us.
Everything good is a gift from God, but nothing truly good, including the gifts God freely gives us, require nothing of us.