Does Grace Make You Lazy?

The gospel doxologically declares that because of Christ’s finished work for you, you already have all of the justification, approval, security, love, worth, meaning, and rescue you long for and look for in a thousand different people and places smaller than Jesus.

The gospel announces that God doesn’t relate to us based on our feats for Jesus but Jesus’ feats for us.

Because Jesus came to secure for us what we could never secure for ourselves, life doesn’t have to be a tireless effort to establish ourselves, justify ourselves, validate ourselves.

He came to rescue us from the slavish need to be right, rewarded, regarded, and respected. He came to relieve us of the burden we inherently feel “to get it done.”

The gospel announces that it’s not on me to ensure that the ultimate verdict on my life is pass and not fail.

This means you don’t have to transform the world to matter, you don’t have to get good grades to secure your own worth, you don’t have to be a success to justify your existence.

Because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak; Because Jesus was Someone, you’re free to be no one; Because Jesus was extraordinary, you’re free to be ordinary; Because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail. Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose.

But hold on…wait a minute…

Doesn’t this unconditional declaration generate apathy–an “I don’t care” posture toward life?

If it’s true that Jesus paid it all, that it is finished, that my value, worth, security, freedom, justification, and so on is forever fixed, than why do anything? Doesn’t grace undercut ambition? Doesn’t the gospel weaken effort?

Understandable question.

But the truth is, gospel grace actually empowers risk-taking effort and neighbor-embracing love.

You see, the thing that prevents us from taking great risks is the fear that if we don’t succeed, we’ll lose out on something we need in order to be happy and so we live life playing our cards close to the chest…relationally, vocationally, spiritually.

We measure our investments carefully because we need a return–we’re afraid to give because it might not work out and we need it to work out.

But, because everything we need in Christ we already possess, we can take great risks, push harder, go farther, and leave it all on the field without fear. We can invest with reckless abandon because we don’t need to ensure a return of success, love, meaning, validation, and approval. We can invest freely and forcefully because we’ve been freely and forcefully invested in.

The fear of not knowing whether I’ll get a return is replaced by the freedom of knowing we already have everything: because everything I need, in Christ I already possess, I’m now free to do everything for you without needing you to do anything for me.

I can now actively spend my life giving instead of taking, going to the back instead of getting to the front, sacrificing myself for others instead of sacrificing others for myself.

The gospel alone liberates you to live a life of scandalous generosity, unrestrained sacrifice, uncommon valor, and unbounded courage.

When you don’t have anything to lose, you discover something wonderful: you’re free to take great risks without fear or reservation.

This is the difference between approaching all of life from salvation and approaching all of life for salvation; it’s the difference between approaching life from our acceptance, and not for our acceptance; from love not for love.

So, what are you going to do now that you don’t have to do anything…

  • “What are you going to do now that you don’t have to do anything…” was the same closing line you shared after teaching Col. 1 at The Village Church almost two years ago. It was life changing then, and just the reminder I need today. Thanks!

    – Justin Risedorf

  • mark mcculley says:

    You don’t have to know or believe the gospel?

    Or are we assuming with the “now” that everybody who reads has already now believed the gospel?

    You don’t have to stop denying that God has an elect and a non-elect?

  • Ed Nugent says:

    Faith comes from hearing (Rom 10:17). In the free declaration of the gospel, the Holy Spirit does it’s faith creating work. The one who hears this message and believes will say, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!” The one who hears and does not believe is in no worse condition than before.

    We are not saved by faith. Rather we are saved by grace through faith. This may seem like nit picking, but the distinction is profound and has great impact on how and what we preach. A gospel based on faith is actually a man-centered religion with no assurance. A gospel based on the finished work of Christ for us (aka GRACE) is a cross-centered/Christ-centered declaration filled with assurance. This word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God!

  • Alex Krause says:

    As a moth to a flame the human tendency is self effort to be accepted. This needs to be resisted (the tendency). Paul, through the Spirit in Gal.5.1, says to stand fast in Christ’s freedom.

    As Christians we want to still work on our salvation (sanctification aspect) by trying self efforts as the Galatians were tempted to do. Rather we should cling to the Lord and know Him better.

  • Alex Krause says:

    To the admin. of TGC: have you folks considered updating the server? It is very slow compared to most other sites.

  • mark mcculley says:

    I agree that those saved are saved by Christ’s righteousness (His death and resurrection) and not because of faith. It is not enough to talk about calling and election, if election is simply to make sure that some sinners have faith alone. If the object of the faith alone is a false gospel which says that Christ loves everybody and desires to save everybody but that faith is some kind of condition of this salvation, then the faith alone is not in the true Christ but is instead in faith alone. We don’t bring faith to the true gospel, because the true gospel brings faith (hearing)…

  • mark mcculley says:

    chapter six if the Westminster Confession

    I. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

  • Ed Nugent says:

    So Mark, what is insufficient in the declaration of the gospel? Or are you saying that what Tullian wrote is false or incomplete?

    I’m Lutheran, not a Calvinist, so we obviously have differing views on election. But from your perspective, how does declaring the negative side of election serve the gospel? You sound as if you want to make sure that some people know that they are going to hell and that there is no hope for them. Why not just preach Law & Gospel and let God sort it out? If faith comes through hearing the word of Christ then shouldn’t we as Christians speak that gospel word as loudly and as often as we can, and then let the Holy Spirit do his thing!

  • mark mcculley says:

    I neither completely agree nor disagree. And I know that not all Lutherans are the same as Forde in denying the wrath of God being satisfied in the atonement. Forde very clearly taught that only human wrath was involved in the cross.

    I certainly agree that we need to talk about both law and gospel. The question becomes: what is the gospel? For some, the gospel is the announcement that all sinners have been justified and “now” they just need to know about it. Over against this universalism, for some the gospel is ultimately about one person having faith and another not having faith. But my concern is that we look instead to the object of faith, to what Christ has accomplished on the cross.

    Has Christ simply finished something which is “objectively availabe” depending on what a sinner does with it? A Lutheran emphasis on the effectual call of the Word fits very well with a Calvinist view of election as that which causes sinners to believe. But my concern is that we give attention to the person and work of Christ, before and outside out believing.

    In short, the gospel is not about the abrogation of divine law. It good news is about Christ’s satisfaction of divine law in His death. But if we teach in our gospel that the ultimate difference is our faith alone, then we are in effect saying that some for whom Christ will not be saved by Christ’s death.

  • the Old Adam says:


    We are lazy, naturally.

    The gospel forgives that laziness, and by God’s grace, frees us for service for our neighbor. When we feel up to it (sometimes when we don’t)…and are not being lazy.

  • jeremiah says:

    ‘Why do you call me Lord, Lord but do not do what I say?’

    I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. – Paul

    We are elect for obedience – Peter

    Make every effort to supplement your faith with…… – Peter

    Sit in the finished work, walk by faith in the Spirit, stand against the enemy. Not just sit in the ‘correct’ theology.

  • st jean says:

    @Old Adam
    This is true we are can be lazy about our salvation or even indifferent to those around us. And we are forgiven, then we move on from there.
    I once told my grandmother that I loved her and she replied by saying, prove it by sending her a letter.
    you are right we can’t just sit in our good orthodoxy (in good conscious)while our neighbor was in need.

  • Cara says:

    I am Lutheran and find that, beneath the surface bluster, Lutherans have the exact same view of election as Calvinists. Lutherans simply do not pull it all the way to its logical conclusion that yes, some people are not elect. The Holy Spirit does NOT enlighten all.

    This is ONLY difference on election betwixt Lutherans and Calvinists. Read the Book of Concord on election.

    Now, modern Lutherans are put in this uncomfortable position due to their belief that baptism always saves(regenerates). Even Martin Luther didn’t believe this.

    From hence flows modern Lutherans trouble with perseverance of the saints and irresistible grace, for if baptism always regenerates, then some of those regenerated babies, who grow up to deny the faith, did not persist and did resist.

    American Lutheranism really gunked up their old confessional theology with a lot of ‘innovations’, designed to appeal to the American psyche.

    We’re, save for the Lord’s Supper(and even there we’re not basically far apart), the same as Calvinists, on election, depravity, perseverance,irresistible grace by the saints’. The atonement would seem to be a point of contention, but really it is not, at the end. God clearly limits it by not enlightening all.

  • Mitchell Hammonds says:

    Cara I think the doctrine of “Election” is different between Lutherans and Calvinists. I am a former Calvinist converted to Lutheranism. What I find completely different is in the assurance one gets from “Election.” The Calvinist begins with the sovereignty of God and wonders if the the atonement was even meant for them specifically (Limited Atonement) – that’s my case anyway. However, with the Lutherans they begin with the Cross of Christ. What does Christ “taking away the sins of the world mean?” Just that… they’re taken away. So how is it applied to me personally? The Sacraments (tied with faith of course) where the Holy Spirit does his work “to us.” Hence the Lutheran understanding of why the Sacraments are so important – without them we left to grope within to know whether or not we have truly attained what was promised.

    Unless you’re Jeremiah of course who has “kept all the commandments since his youth.” In my case I sin against God daily so my Christian existence is by faith – in Christ alone. Now I simply live the best I can (whatever that is) knowing it never measures up – I’m forgiven daily.

  • PAUL says:

    I was raised under a check list mentality when it came to my standing with God. It was always about my vertical relationship with God and was told by those in charge “here’s The List”. Depending on how I added up to “The List” determined if I was gloriously saved, marginally saved…spiritual slacker…or not saved at all. This put me on the proverbial Christian tread mill. When my eyes were opened to the Gospel of Grace that all changed. I had been set free. Free from to do list, paddle harder, swim faster, make that tread mill spin. At last I had something to rest in. It Is Finished. I was truly set free from worrying about it. But wait, then I hear “The gospel alone liberates you to live a life of scandalous generosity, unrestrained sacrifice, uncommon valor, and unbounded courage”. My default response is, how do I know I am doing that? Here’s your check list. Oh boy, I’m starting to get that familiar anxiety again. Does anyone else ever feel this way sometimes? God Bless

  • Mitchell Hammonds says:

    Absolutely! This is exactly my problem with relabeling “legalistic obedience” (Bad) as “Gospel Centered Obedience” (Good). In the end your asking me to perform and it is never there. Either way I’m left to look for proof in what I do or don’t do. I say “simply live”… live a decent life knowing full well it never measures up yet you are not condemned for not measuring up. That’s the reason for needing a Savior in the first place. We need to live a decent and moral life – that’s a good thing to do. Oh and eventually you find yourself “not living decent and moral life” and you’re forgiven for that too. We are all “Christian failures” in and of ourselves. I’m righteous by faith alone in Christ alone.

  • jeremiah says:

    Mitchell, if scripture challenges you then please address it. It bears no fruit and doesn’t strengthen your position to belittle or mock the person who brings scripture to the table in a discussion.

  • Richard Bates says:

    The problem with doing things for and toward God out of love for him, is that love looks like law keeping, even though the motive may not be law keeping. Only God knows a person’s heart completely.

  • the Old Adam says:

    Obedience of the (to the) law…or the obedience of faith?

    This gets so gunked up in Christianity that it isn’t funny. The law (what we do) makes us worse.

    The freedom of faith and forgetting about ourselves is what Christ wants for us…has won for us.

    But we just don’t want to leave those Christian self-improvement projects alone.

    I’m asking you to. I’m telling you to. Leave them alone. They will get you so self-focused that the gospel will just dissolve away.

  • Colleen Chao says:

    Thank so much for this, Tullian. My husband and I are listening through your 2010 series on Colossians and being richly encouraged. Thank you for your faithfulness to the Word and to the service of the saints, which flow FROM your finished salvation! ~Colleen for Eddie too :)

  • James says:

    Listened to the latest sermon today and though I would like to express my opinion I reserve myself… but know that it was a far comparison to the former was real meaty in substance. I heard a sermon once (reflecting on your recent sermon) that pastors actually resent(inwardly) though a positive response from a member or listener (great sermon pastor)but after review and silent response’s I understand though foolishly late.
    Recently I became a stepfather to my wife’s children from Vietnam and am frowned upon with our Vietnamese pastor because…hope to see you soon I’m local but not that close but nontheless I plan to bring us to CRP. Kids (not really 18 & 20)are also wanting to venture out…I know you can’t answer each & every request hope to be their ths Sunday.

  • Paul ST Jean says:

    it is never ending, I need to be set free on a daily basis.

  • Paul ST Jean says:

    I listened to the sermon on the 24TH “But God” and I heard two different things. forinstance when he (T.T.) spoke about someone tying up a donkey and walking three miles I first heard (he tied up a donkey( he used another word for donkey) and dragged it (the donkey) three miles but when I listened the second time he really said he tied up a donkey to a tree and walked three miles. believe it or not I remember that more than anything else. Goes to show you where my mind is.

  • John Dunn says:

    Obedience to the Law and fulfillment of the Law are two radically opposing realities. The former is not of faith and is empowered by the flesh. The latter is of faith and is empowered by the Holy Spirit.

    For the New Covenant saints, it can never be obedience OR conformity to the Law/law. How can the saints be obedient to something which has been put to death for them, to something they have been released from (Rom 7:4-6)?? To something that Christ has perfectly fulfilled for them in their place (Rom 10:4).

    The Law was laid down for unjust (to condemn, to kill), not for the saints to model their lives after (1 Tim 1:9). For the New Covenant saints, a little bit of Law-keeping obligates them keep the whole Law perfectly (Gal 5:3).

    But it’s not obedience to the Law that we now pursue, but obedience to the Spirit and *fulfillment* of the Law through Spirit-wrought love and faith (Rom 13:8, Gal 5:14, Gal 5:22).

  • Paul ST Jean says:

    @john Dunn
    thanks for being a voice of reason
    “like” your posts thank God for the +fulfillment+ but I need to do something don’t I? (just kidding)(+_+)

  • Paul ST Jean says:

    @john Dunn
    Gal 5:22 is a list isn’t. I was told that we need to do that (the list of fruits) with Gods help.

  • Jeremiah says:

    Paul, Gal 5:22 is a list but not a list of what we must do.

    It is a list of what the Holy Spirit does, He brings forth this kind of fruit in the life of those who are the children of God and who walk in the Spirit. According to the passage our ‘to do’ is to walk in the newness of life of which we have been born into. It is new life simply living.

  • Paul ST Jean says:

    I was told by someone at my church we can do it; that is Gal 5:22 with Gods help. Anyway, I can’t,so what must I do? Wait on The Holy Spirit. these fruits must be manifest in Christians, and what do I do if they don’t show up. Wait? I am patient, kind, gentle, etc. to a certain point.

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