Answering the Question, “What Can I Do?”
When hearing the message of true grace, where one discovers that Jesus’s work on the Christ completely makes him or her perfectly righteous for eternity and where we make no contribution, students often come away with one question: what do I do now? In some camps, the answer sometimes is “nothing.”
What people often mean by this is that Christ calls us to die, surrender, and submit. The love of Jesus compels us to submit our lives to God, who then does a work on us and through us to make us into people that bear the fruit of the Spirit and more closely resemble the image of Christ.
My experience has taught me that simply saying, “nothing, just submit” leaves most young Christians feeling a bit helpless. I certainly am not going to feed their human, law-driven fervor by giving them a list of things to do and not do. Simultaneously, I need to recognize the reality that students enter a real world, with real scenarios, and real decisions. How do I give kids something practical, that is drenched in grace and points them to the Cross?
Here’s what I say we can do, in light of our marred will and grave limitations as sinners:
Remember- First and foremost, we encourage kids to remember the Gospel always. Remember that Christ loves them perfectly and that His work on the Cross means they measure up in every way. The one thing they need is perfect love, and Jesus provides that. “Remember” is the most used verb in Deuteronomy, where God invoked the Israelites to remember how He had brought them out of slavery in Egypt and provided for them in the wilderness. Christianity is, by its nature, a retrospective religion, where we constantly look back and remember God’s goodness and faithfulness. In a more New Testament and Lutheran sense, deepening in the knowledge of our justification promotes our sanctification.
Repent- While the debate remains on just how free our will is before and after salvation, scripture suggests that our will gains greater power to deny sin. Augustine says in the later coined “Four-Fold State of Man” that man is able to not sin (posse non peccare) after salvation. We can encourage students to say “no” to sin in the moment and to repent from sin (living under our own control) in a broader sense as well.
Relate- A wise old man said to me once, “Never talk about sanctification outside the context of relationship with Christ.” From there he quoted Christ’s “I am” statement in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches, apart from me you can bear no fruit.” As creatures made in the image of God, we have the ability to pursue relationship. Once Christ brings us into right relationship with God, we are able to engage in this relationship with Him.
In my eyes, these three concepts help students to have a clear vision for practical Christian life, while directing them to Jesus and His love as the means for transformation.