Does it matter what I do? The pendulum of misunderstanding Christ and salvation is cheap grace on one side and legalism on the other. We are all familiar with the debate. Either we have experienced a Church that preaches Hell, fire and brimstone and we are afraid of God and His judgment, or we have experienced a Church that preaches grace and freedom and we think God is a big warm fuzzy genie in the sky who accepts us no matter what we do. The authors of Scripture painstakingly try to communicate the truth that God is balanced and just in exhibiting both wrath and grace. He forgives us, no matter what we do, provided we repent. We must fear and love Him. We must obey and commune with Him. He is God, the eternal judge who sends the unforgiven to Hell for eternity and He is also the loving Father who welcomes those who are found in Christ into an eternity of rest.
God is extremely concerned about what we do. He is concerned about it in the fullness: our motivation, our intention and our actions. If we do the right thing with the wrong heart, it is wrong. To do the wrong thing with the right heart is wrong, too. In order to please God, we must do the right thing, with the right heart.
But what does that mean? It means that our actions begin with our hearts.
“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”
– James 1.14-15
Our hearts are wicked. They desire pleasures and comforts. They desire to be the lord and god of our own little worlds. We want what we want, and everything we naturally do is for our own best interest or pleasure. When we come to faith in God, He has to replace us on the thrones of our hearts. We should weigh every decision, goal and choice in light of God’s glory and praise. Scripture teaches us that we should put God first and others second. We are last on the list of priorities in terms of serving. Our hearts must be aligned to the heart of God.
Then, once our hearts have been adjusted, our actions follow. If we love God, we seek to know Him. And the way that we get to know Him is through His Word. We read, we pray and ask the Spirit to reveal to us things in our lives that need to change and we ask Him for strength to obey.
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.”
– James 1.22-24
James teaches us that just reading the Word is not enough. We should have time with the Lord every single day. We should examine ourselves, our attitudes, our hearts and our activities, and then we must act on what God has to say about it. Simple self examination is not enough! Just reading the Word is not enough. It must transform us. James says that those who only read or hear delude themselves. If you get up every morning and read your Bible, but it finds no place in your heart and you do not change, then you are deluded. You do not know God.
Our actions matter. God transforms our hearts, and when God has transformed our hearts, our actions will be changed. Obedience is the result of a transformed heart that has put God on the throne. We will know one another by our fruit (Luke 6.44). If one does not obey Scripture and value it as the primary authority, he has not been transformed. If one obeys, but does not know, love and value God, he has not been transformed either.
Let us beware of the extremes on the grace pendulum. Let us not discredit grace in our zeal and let us not ignore judgment in our passion. Without one, the other cannot exist. Ask God today to transform your heart and let that be the catalyst for your obedience.