The following commentary addresses the third point advanced by Myron S. Augsburger in “The Contemporary Relevance of the Anabaptist Faith” (Brethren in Christ History and Life, August 2000), which is: “Celebrating Grace as a Dynamic Relationship with the Resultant Transformation of Life.”
Augsburger writes, “For the Anabaptists a central theme was Paul’s words, “If anyone is in Christ he/she is a new creation; old things have passed away and all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). The old was the life of self-centeredness transformed into a new life of Christ-centeredness. Anabaptist theology was not focused so much on freedom from guilt as on freedom in the new life in Christ (emphasis mine).
This morning, in our church service, we discussed legalism and lethargy and how both are seriously detrimental to one’s spiritual journey. Spiritual legalism and lethargy are twin sides of the same sad religious coin. Neither will take you anywhere good. The point is to rise above both and live somewhere far beyond the serious spiritual limitations accompanying each. That said, I also spent much time emphasizing the fact that we can do nothing to make God love us more or accept us more than he already does. There is nothing we can do to that will make God love us less. This was all settled by Jesus Christ. The Gospel is a 100% free gift; we need only embrace it by faith.
Yet, that does not mean we should use this scandalous freedom to do whatever we want to do. In fact, if we are truly “in Christ” we will not want to do such a thing. Those who are “in Christ” will not want to use their freedom as an excuse to do whatever they want to do. One who is living “in Christ” has centered his/her life in Christ, and are changed/changing in covenant with the Lord. If one is using their freedom in the Gospel to do whatever they want to do, then they are not “in Christ” and have exchanged the true Gospel for a lie.
The above excerpt from Augsburger seems to be in agreement. The Anabaptist focus upon the freedom in the new life in Christ, rather than freedom from guilt, includes a deep emphasis upon discipleship. Discipleship is a maturing process, but the Christian’s relationship with God is already settled. We can do nothing to make God love us more or less, but that does not exempt us from discipleship. We must use the freedom we have in Christ to grow in maturity in Christ and with one another. Spiritual legalism and lethargy have nothing to do with this, save thwarting the whole process and marking us for spiritual failure.
So, our relationship with God is settled in Christ Jesus. We are saved. We are children of God. It is settled, but children have to mature and grow. That is what discipleship is all about; that’s what what the freedom the Gospel provides us with is for. Our new life in Christ is a life of freedom and discipleship. Those living in Christ will produce the fruit of discipleship; those who are not will produce no fruit.