For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:14-17)
Now more than ever, our culture tells us to look to our careers for our sense of self-worth and identity. This, of course, leads us to work out of a sense of fear rather than freedom.
I don’t think anyone summarized this idea more honestly than Madonna when she said, “My drive in life comes from a fear of being mediocre. I push past one spell of it and discover myself as a special human being but then I feel I am still mediocre and uninteresting unless I do something else. Because even though I have become somebody, I still have to prove that I am somebody. My struggle has never ended and I guess it never will.”
What Madonna is looking for—what we’re all looking for—is a verdict for our lives. We’re looking for someone to say once and for all that we are valuable and worthy—that our very existence is justified. If Madonna can’t find that in her work after becoming one of the most accomplished people in her generation, you and I never will.
So, if we can’t find this verdict and identity in our work, where can we find it? We find it at the tomb Jesus walked out of that first Easter morning. On Easter, Jesus secured the most important verdict of your life: Forgiven and, through faith in him, free from the penalty of death because he has conquered it.
But our verdict is more than just “forgiven.” Think about a courtroom today. If a defendant is handed the verdict of “not guilty,” they are sent back out into the world to re-enter society on their own. But that’s not how God’s courtroom works. Through Jesus our advocate, we are granted a verdict of innocence. But then the judge, God the Father, does something even more radical: He invites you and me to come home with him to share the inheritance of his Son. We aren’t just forgiven. We are given a new identity as “co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).
What does this mean for our work? It means that we can work out of a sense of freedom rather than fear. If we, like Madonna, view our work as a means of chasing an ultimate verdict for our lives, we will never be satisfied. We will constantly be paranoid and afraid because we know the verdict always hangs in the balance. But if we work in response to a secure verdict that is handed down by our Creator, we can work freely as a joyful response of worship.
In light of your secure identity as a co-heir with Christ, don’t put yourself back into the courtroom today. Yes, we should be ambitious to do our most exceptional work for the glory of God and the good of others. But Easter assures us that regardless of what we accomplish today, court is adjourned. The jury has left the building. Our identity as adopted children of God is secure.