(Thanks to my dear friend and brother in Christ, Larry Voas, for the story, and the inspiration.)
Dwight L. Moody, the 19th century evangelist, once had a discussion with a Mormon missionary during a long train ride. At the conclusion of their theological consideration, Moody told the man their differences could be summed up by the letters, n - e. "You believe that salvation is a matter of "Do," said Moody. "I believe that it is a matter of "Done."
"But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God" (Hebrews 10:12).
Throughout its pages, the New Testament confirms Moody's bold affirmation of a salvation too great for sinners to ever earn or accomplish. Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ purchased our redemption for us, at the cost of His own life. Indeed, any notion that adds effort of our own to receive or maintain salvation besmirches the atoning work of the Lord Jesus and the salvation thrice referred to in the book of Romans as a "free gift" (Romans 5:15; 16; 18).
We live from "Done." We do from "Done." Our works, if spiritually genuine, are always the fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit, Himself freely given to us as Christ's gift of grace (Luke 11:13). We do not work to our salvation, but from it. It could be no other way, because the standards of God are too high for our attainment - "as for God, His way is perfect" (II Samuel 22:31). The Lord Jesus therefore did for us - and does for us - that which we could never do. He died as our Sin-bearer. He rose again as our newness of life, and life-giver. And He ascended into the heavenlies as our great High Priest, who "ever liveth to make intercession for us" (Hebrews 7:25).
The more our hearts and minds receive this light of freely given grace, the more they are motivated and empowered to love God in a manner that befits the grace He gives. "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him" (Colossians 2:6). In the very moment, however, that "Do" fails to be understood in the light of "Done," we stand upon the precipice of sin and failure. Commands viewed apart outside the dynamic context of grace actually stimulate sin in us - "But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence (fleshly desire)" (Romans 7:8). Therefore, we must heed the admonition of the writer of Hebrews, who declares that only God's freely given gift in Christ provides both the fact of our salvation, and the fruit thereof...
"Let us have grace, that we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear."