Once there was a girl who grew up in a good Christian family. From the time she was young, she served in her dad’s church. When she graduated from Christian school, she enrolled in Christian university where she studied hard and eventually met and married an evangelist. For years she and her husband traveled the country, serving God together.

One birthday in her early 40’s, her husband wrote her a message for all to see, ending with:

“May God bless you with many more years of service to Him!!”

Maybe she smiled fondly as she blew out her candles. Or maybe . . .

. . . deep down, she grew weary thinking about the years and years of service she probably has left. And if she were honest, she just wanted to eat her cake and ice cream in peace.

A distorted gospel

Oh, how the enemy loves to distort the good news of the gospel! He cackles with delight when he can slip a righteous-sounding to-do list into what we hear from the pulpit or from well-meaning leaders. The list might include: pray a certain way, focus on sin management, never skip daily devotions, help with the latest outreach, be part of the Bible study, volunteer for such-and-such a ministry, join the prayer team, sign up for the meal chain, witness to your neighbors, lead a life group . . . .

The subtle danger is the to-do list never ends. Once you pick it up, you’re a slave to it, and you might begin to believe all that doing is something God expects of you.

Which is why Christendom is full of well-meaning, exhausted people with full schedules and empty hearts.

Saved to be slaves

Of course, serving God can be beautiful and good! But “doing” is never the whole story.

Being a good servant of God is NOT:

  • why Jesus sacrificed His life for you.
  • the reason you were created.
  • the “measuring stick” of Christian growth.
  • what God desires most from you once you accept Christ.

“Serving God well” is not even meant to be the main plot of your grace story!

Friends of God

The happy news of the gospel is that Jesus came to reconcile us to God. We used to be God’s fierce enemies, enslaved to sin and desperate to prove our own worth. (Romans 5:8-11) But Jesus bought us back with His blood. He justified us, gave us His righteousness, and introduced us into God’s family. (1 John 3:1)

Now instead of fearing God’s wrath or trying to prove ourselves, we are entitled to close relationship with our Heavenly Father. So close, in fact, that God Himself calls us “friends.” (John 15:15, Romans 5:11)

Right now you are a friend of God! Not because of anything you’ve done. Not because of how well you serve. Not because you check off some Christian to-do list, but because of Christ. You are now a joint heir and co-adventurer with Jesus! (Romans 8:15-17)

Permission to live free

This glorious news means you have permission to breathe a huge sigh of relief. Feel free to lay aside the never-ending list and ease up your schedule. God reconciled you to Himself so He could enjoy you, not employ you. Relax into the truth you have nothing to prove today and no Divine Boss to appease.

When you let the Holy Spirit renew your mind with this grace truth, today turns into a precious gift from a loving Heavenly Father. A day where you’re learning to experience your true identity. A day that turns into adventure as God leads you in the “doing” — not so you can prove your godliness, but just for the joy of joining your Friend in His marvelous work.

And on your next birthday, by all means dig into your cake and ice cream with gusto! Let your heart rest in the knowledge of what Christ has already accomplished so that abundant freedom is yours today.