George Washington, General Orders, Headquarters, New York (2 July 1776)
"This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?"
Perhaps the most difficult balance for a Christian to strike is that of good works and faith.
"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." James 2:17
Because of the glorious grace of God, shed upon us freely by the faith of Jesus Christ, we are free from the tyranny of religious rituals, traditions, and works as a means to appease and win favor with God. Yet, faith is revealed in our actions. What should those actions be?
"O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off." Psalm 139:1-2
Perhaps the question should not be what actions reveals our faith but what motivates our actions? We, being fallible creatures, know not what follows our actions. God, being infallible and all-knowing, understands the heart behind our actions and judges accordingly.
In our pursuit of holiness we quickly create lists of dos and don'ts. Paul rebuked Peter for returning to the religious exercise of separation from the Gentiles. A work of the law Peter sought to use to justify himself in the eyes of the Jews.
Yet Paul saw that being dead to the law and alive in Christ meant his actions must reflect his life in Christ, who fulfilled the law when He died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and rose again.
"For brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in on word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Galatians 5:13-14Contending for the liberty we have in Christ is superior to all the rituals, acts, and abstinence of religion, which enslaves. But we do not fight with harsh words, accusational statements, and angry countenances. Our contention for liberty is in love: "thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
How are you showing your faith? Are your works reflecting the love and grace of God? Or are you executing works, rituals, religious abstinence in order to live the life of a religious mercenary who believes he will be paid for his good works by God with blessings?
"And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as he gave us commandment."
I John 3:23