A Life of Duty or Dependence?

As Americans or people in the western world, we are all too prone to measure our spiritual life by what we know and what we do, rather than by Who we know!

I’ve gotten this backwards in my own life. I can start moving too fast and act as if He is a far-off God for whom I must perform, rather than our gospel God who promises to be with us and in us. It moves my relationship with Him from a mere idea to a reality.

The key question we must ask in terms of active faith is “where is the source of our spiritual activity and obedience?”

The apostle Paul addresses this idea in his words to the Galatians:

For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.

But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. (Galatians 5:4-6, NLT)

Active faith is not faith that tries to justify itself before God by rule keeping. Rather, active faith is transfixed with a pursuit of intimate relationship with God that is offered to us in the gospel. Here, we exchange duty for dependence: relying wholly on union with Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit.

When we get this backwards it leads only to Old Testament religion which lacks the power of the gospel! However, active faith that is grounded in “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) will yield a powerful life of natural obedience, produced by God and evidenced by a life of love.

Ian Thomas, founder of Torchbearers put it this way:

“A living faith breathes with the activity of Jesus Christ …That is the work of God. It is your living faith in the adequacy of the One who is in you, which releases His divine action through you. It is the kind of activity that the Bible calls “good works” … “Good works” are those works that have their origin in Jesus Christ – whose activity is released through your body, presented to Him as a living sacrifice by a faith that expresses total dependence … (cf. Romans 12:1-2).”

Faith “that expresses total dependence” is grounded in the indwelling power and presence of Jesus Christ. So our lives reflect the power, service, and love Christ—which is compelling to others.

Comments:

  1. Thank you Doug! Right on my brother!
    It is all about that “One Thing” as in Psalm 27:4 and Luke 10:42. I have been meditating on this “One Thing”. Thank you for sharing. Great title for the article.
    Kamel

  2. Thanks so much for this. Please I will like to have this daily and I will also love if you could check on my spiritual life i.e my quiet time and how I am carrying on with the work of god

  3. This is such a beautiful reminder! Thank you so very much!
    May God enrich and enlarge our walk with Jesus Christ – and in Him – daily!

  4. “… Old Testament religion … lacks the power of the gospel!”

    The power of the gospel is present throughout the Old Testament. Genesis 3:14-15 is gospel. Romans 3:28 and Romans 3:31 – 4:5 talk about Abraham’s faith in the message of the gospel. The Old Testament consistently points forward to Christ. The New Testament points back to Christ.

    The New Testament tells us the Old Testament proclaims the gospel message:
    Luke 24:27, John 5:39, Romans 1:2.

    The entire Bible shows us God’s consistent message and love for us so beautifully! Two books I have read explain this clearly: The People’s Bible – Genesis by John C. Jeske, and Connecting Sinai to Calvary by John C. Jeske. Jeske was a brilliant professor of the Old Testament. His books make it easy for lay people to understand what God was doing throughout the Old Testament.

  5. Thank you for the reminder that the motivation for our acts of love rests in the Savior and not in an attempt to earn our way to heaven. It is beneficial to check our motivation so we are sincere when we interact with others.

    A phrase that caught my eye in the article was “Old Testament religion… lacks the power of the gospel.” Many years into my Christian walk I learned the power of the gospel is present throughout the Old Testament. Genesis 3:14-15 is gospel. God immediately promised a Savior.

    Romans 3:28 and Romans 3:31 – 4:5 talk about Abraham’s faith, which was in the promise of the Savior, not in Abraham’s obedience to the Law.

    The New Testament tells us the Old Testament proclaims the gospel message:
    Luke 24:27, John 5:39, Romans 1:2.

    The Old Testament consistently points forward to Christ. The New Testament points back to Christ.
    The entire Bible shows us God’s consistent message and love for us so beautifully!

    When I learned this I saw God’s love for us more clearly, which brought me a great deal of joy and strengthened my faith. I want to share that joy with your readers today.

  6. Wow! That says it so beautifully! Yesterday I was meditating in James in the 5X5X5 program, and went to the Internet to see how they train big horses. It showed how the took a wild stallion and in 3 hours he was riding it! But it all started with his outstretched hand establishing trust. With faith, like you say, our focus must be on the source of our faith – Jesus – and looking to him instead of the problem or project that I’m trying to inject more and more “faith” in my own efforts, and not with the power that comes from Christ. Thank you so much for this enlightening discourse on faith!

  7. In Christianity is seems natural for most of us to slowly shift from a “relationship” to a “religion.” But, part of our spiritual walk is to cultivate that relationship with our Savior and to focus on that. Thanks for this post.

  8. About twenty years ago my wife, Ann, made a strange statement. She said, “I am pursuing a new direction in that I want to be IN Christ and not what I can DO for Christ. What an odd thought. Right. As a trained Navigator, I was pragmatic. I looked for sermons and workshops that were practical. Things I would be taught on Sunday, so to speak, I could apply on Monday. There was a growing paradigm shift as stated by Doug, Ian, and, oh, Paul. God gave me a life verse decades ago that is being fulfilled by His grace. HOWEVER, in line with the above essay, right behind that has been a keystone verse for the last decade: ” Oh, our God, will you not judge them, for we are POWERLESS against this great nation who are coming against us.nor do we know what to do, BUT, OUR EYES ARE ON YOU! Pretty much sums up my life along with, “not many of you were wise, not many of you were mighty…”

  9. Sooo good! Am I relying on God’s word (faith) or self? I needed this question to come to the forefront for pondering and to put things in perspective.

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