It’s the quintessential struggle for a Christian. The dichotomy of Truth vs. Grace. In the spiritual life of a believer, it can seem like the “Chicken or the Egg” conundrum. (even though it’s not really)
When you only read these scriptures, you may believe that obeying commandments is what “saves.” If I can only do what’s right, God will accept me.
John 15:10 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
John 14:21 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
But then there are so many Scriptures that say you cannot be justified by your works. So it doesn’t matter if I keep commandments, they won’t save me anyway?
Galatians 3:2-5 Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Galatians 2:16 …know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
And, well… the entire book of Galatians, actually!
But it’s actually more of an “If, Then” statement. (remember those from 7th grade Math?)
1John 2:3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
So IF we believe, and have accepted Jesus by faith, we will naturally want to please Him and allow the Spirit to work in us to produce holiness.
So I bet you’re wondering why I launched into that theological monologue to begin this post! Not the most riveting prose, but this conundrum can sometimes creep into our everyday lives when we become believers, and affect our careers, our lives at home, and more.
I became a Christian in college, and when I look back, I really noticed some trends that I need to learn from. I always say “the mundane IS the spiritual.” In other words, everything I do should be a spiritual sacrifice to God: washing the dishes, changing a diaper, cleaning my house (ouch), or serving in the PTA.
I remember that after I became a Christian, I spent a lot less time in the practice room (music major) and more time “fellowshipping” (is that really a verb?) with the Saints… in the student union lounge. Oh, yes, we would pray and share struggles, encourage each other, mostly laugh, but was that really what God wanted us to do? Being a music major is a very intensive program, you’ve got to work to stay on top. I was a good singer. I was in the Chamber Singers, Opera Theater, got some solos, I played Amahl in “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” By the way, my roommate and I were double-cast in the role, and I think “AAAAMAAAAAHHL” is still echoing somewhere in our apartment walls!
But I really slacked off in those last two years, and sometimes I wish I could go back. My husband says the exact same thing, although I didn’t know him then. It may have just been our particular Christian circle, but I know it was common. We thought the “spiritual stuff” was SO much more important. These days, I think about this Scripture in Psalms:
2 Praise the LORD with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
3 Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully, and shout for joy.
4 For the word of the LORD is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.
You’ve heard people who can’t sing jokingly say, “Well, it says make a joyful noise to the Lord, right?” I’m not saying everyone has to be a great singer, but to those he called to make music He said, “play skillfully.” No one can play skillfully unless they work at it, spend time honing their skill and learning from others. You see, in David’s day, the musicians who played worship to the Lord were specially chosen and took their job very seriously.
I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like if I had kept my focus on my work as well as fellowship. And I wonder what kind of testimony it would have been to the non-believers around me?
I’ve come to believe that pursuing excellence- in what God has called us to- is honoring to God. Of course everyone can’t be good at everything. But if God has called you to something, do it all the way! If I’m on the worship ministry at church, I need to be willing to practice until it’s right, rather than saying, “Well, at least we’re making a joyful noise!” When working on my blog, or my business, I can’t use God’s grace and protection as an excuse to rest on my laurels.
And I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I need to do a better job keeping my house in order. Not so I can impress the neighbors, or tell other moms how great I am. Not even to give me peace when I wake up with no dishes in the sink. But simply to glorify God – because that is what He has called me to.
Of course I have to make sure I keep the “chicken before the egg,” the “horse before the cart.” Any excellence in me has to be derived from my faith in Jesus Christ, and His work in me. Anything else would be “like filthy rags” compared to God’s glory!
I know there is so much more to write on this subject, but my deep thinking skills have come to an end for the night. Please share your thoughts in the comments. Do you have any insights or anything to add?
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.