Deuteronomy 26:16-19 “This day the Lord your God commands you to do these statutes and rules. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have declared today that the Lord is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep His statutes and His commandments and his rules, and will obey his voice. And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as He has promised you, and that you are to keep all His commandments, and that He will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that He has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the Lord your God, as He promised.”
Some years ago, one of my coworkers and I were discussing spiritual things, and as we talked, he asked me the following question about living for the Lord: “How much do you need to do?” In other words, he was asking me how much a person has to do to be in good standing with God. It’s an interesting question, and probably reflects the attitude many people have about religion. It’s like asking what the minimum amount of “religion” is that will be enough in the end. What does one need to do to be accepted by God? How much should they give? How many good works should they do? How often should they go to church? etc., etc.?
However, all of those questions start from the wrong premise with respect to the truth of the Christian faith. You see, Christianity is not a matter of “dos and don’ts” although many people look at it that way. It’s not a matter of earning favor with God by accumulating some quantity of “merits” to be weighed against our “demerits.” As I asked my Amish neighbor awhile back, after she told me that she believed that God would one day weigh the good in her life against the bad and thereby determine if she qualified for heaven, “Well, how good do you have to be?” Her answer was “That’s a good question. How good do you have to be?” But she was at a loss for an answer, for if that’s how the Christian faith really works, how could anyone ever know?
The truth is that Christianity isn’t about how much we do to earn favor somehow with God. No, it’s all about how much God did to make a way for us to be forgiven and accepted in the heavenlies. The only reason anyone is ever acceptable before God is because Jesus paid the price for their sins by the sacrifice of His precious blood on the cross. “It was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” And before Jesus came, it was no different. Why did God bless Israel in the way He did? Why did He call them His chosen people? Was it because of how holy and righteous they were? Was it because of what a great nation they were? Hardly. God told them why in Deuteronomy 7:7-8 with these words: “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” It was a pure act of grace that caused the Lord to bless Israel. It was not because of who they were, but because of Who He is, that they were blessed.
And that’s the same for you and me if we have put our faith in Him. As we are told in Titus 3:4-5 “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy.” And so “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Likewise, we forgive because He has forgiven us and we give because of how much He has already given us. It’s all an act of gratitude with the recognition that we can never do enough to repay Him for the awesome things He has already and eternally done for us. Because of this the question isn’t “How much do we need to do?” Rather, it’s “How much can I do?” “What can I do?” “Help me to do all I can to glorify You!” and “Thank you for the privilege of doing any of it.” It’s an attitude expressed in the verses above of being careful to obey God “with all (our) heart and with all (our) soul” for it’s that kind of commitment and obedience that He is due. May God open our eyes to the great things that God has done for us, and may our response be one of wholehearted love, wholehearted obedience, and everlasting gratitude all the days of the life that He gives us
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