One of the hardest things for Christians to understand is the concept that we are saved by grace alone and not of good works, we keep our salvation through grace and not of good works...and yet we are still supposed to do good works. It is hard for us to rectify these in our minds--we rather prefer that either we are saved by works (do a checklist and figure out if you passed or failed), or that we are saved by grace and don't have to do good works (so just be a hedonist). This concept that we are saved and freed from works, and yet expected to do them, is tough to understand. I have written about this many times before, and you are free to read all of those.
Today, though, I go to have lunch with a good friend and great pastor, Josh Hurlburt. In a sermon last week, Josh used as good an illustration as I have heard of this expectation to serve out of freedom, based on identity. I am now going to shamelessly steal his description, though give him full credit of course.
William did nothing to earn all of those titles in his name. His parents were Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and is the grandchild of the Queen. He did nothing to earn that position, but was granted it by sheer nature of his birth.
And--assuming he does not abdicate the throne--no action of his will cause him to lose his position. His brother did not stop being a prince because he once dressed as a Nazi for Halloween. Had he chosen to skip his military career, he would not have ceased to be prince. Had he been a stutterer or lustful or mean-spirited or incompetent, he would not have lost his position. (Indeed we can find such kings and princes at ease in Britain's history.)
You see, Prince William did no works to become the heir to the throne, nor does he do any to keep it today.
But, as Josh told (and it is reported by People magazine via Wikipedia, so it must be true!), seven-year old Prince William had a sweet conversation with his mother and brother. About eight years before his mother's fatal car accident, Prince William stated that he wanted to grow up to be a police officer so he could protect his mother. His brother Harry (at the time about five years old) spoke up though: "No, you can't. You have to be King."
You see, William did not choose to be born a prince and the heir to the throne. And he did nothing to hold onto the position once he got it. But as Harry pointed out, William's identity carried with it expectations. His identity as Prince meant that his life had a different path from yours or mine. It had less freedom--and far more reward. It had a series of expectations with it of how he would behave...for his behavior reflected on his entire family, and his actions affected an entire nation.
Such is life for the Christian, as well. When you put off the old you and become a new creature in Christ, you become the co-heir of Christ, inheritor of all that God has. You become a Time Lord, an infinite being whose life will never end and who will reign with Christ. You did not earn your salvation, and you cannot keep it through your works. But your new identity comes with expectations.
As Paul sets out in Ephesians 4-6, live a life worthy of your calling. Be humble, rather than seeking glory. Be gentle, rather than violent. Be patient, rather than anxious about the future. Try to keep unity with other Christians, even if you disagree. Study the teachings of His apostles so you are not tossed about by competing philosophies and theologies. Seek sexual purity, rather than the pleasures of worldly things. Be honest with each other. Do not hold grudges but be compassionate and forgiving. Seek out any bitterness or anger and get rid of it. Live wisely. Love your family and build them up rather than tearing them down.
Will doing this make you saved? No. Will doing this keep you saved? No.
But you have a new identity. This is who you are now, and you need to understand the expectations. You cannot just be another policeman any more...you have to be a Prince.