“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
OBEDIENCE TO THE GOSPEL IS A RESPONSE. We do not initiate the process; God does. Whatever we do, we do in response to what His love has done to make our salvation possible. And surely, God wants our response to be wholehearted. That is, each of the three components of our hearts should respond rightly to the gospel.
Intellect. Sin resulted from Satan lying to Adam and Eve about the character of God (Genesis 3:1–6), and ever since then, untruth has been at the root of mankind’s broken relationship with God. The gospel wants to put truth back in its proper place, and if our intention is to respond to God rightly, we’re going to have to study, learn God’s truth, and conform our intellects to that truth.
Emotion. This part of the gospel is emphasized nowadays, almost exclusively, but even in our emotional response to God we are sometimes dangerously imbalanced. God created us with a very wide range of emotions, all of which are healthy. As we see in the Psalms, we are to respond to God with all of our emotions — not just the warm and fuzzy ones, which most people like the best.
Will. In its most basic sense, sin is the rebellion of our will against God (1 John 3:4). The gospel proposes not only to forgive our past disobedience but to transform us back into persons who submit to the will of their Creator. So there can be no rightful response to God’s grace without obedience. As Jesus said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46).
There are, in fact, many ways our response to God might be less than wholehearted, but most of these come down to one thing: a response that is merely passive rather than active. In other words, we do not really respond to the gospel; we are content just to bask in the glow of thinking about how gracious God is. But that was not the response of the apostle Paul, and we need to ponder his words frequently: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”
“Those things, good Lord, that we pray for, give us also the grace to labor for” (Anonymous).