“The Things…” Rarely a day goes by where I don’t hear one of my friends, family members, or even myself make a comment involving those words. It has become a sort of trend to hear or say “I did the thing(s).” At that statement, the focus of the statement is on the word “thing.” It is the focus.
But I don’t think that society is the only thing to be impacted by this thought trend; have we as a church associated ourselves to strongly with “the things” as well? For as a church, satisfaction/comfort is often associated with merely doing “the things.” Doing the right things. We say “I’m a Christian.” Which means we don’t do all of these “things” that the world does. So as long as we do the right things and don’t do the wrong things, everything is fine. We’re obsessed with the things! When we consider how we are doing in our walk, we consider whether or not we have done the good things and whether or not we have avoided doing the bad things.
We’ve begun to look at our faith as do’s and don’ts, without even realizing it. But we certainly aren’t the first generation to do so. In the Gospels we find a group of men who do just that. Pharisees. Stoutly religious and dedicated to their faith, but it became about doing the things. The things became so important to them that they created more things just to feel good about doing them. And then they went so far as to impose those things on an entire nation and suppress them. Israel was crushed by the impossible burden that “doing the things” was; until the arrival of Christ. Christ’s message was, abbreviated significantly, “Stop focusing on the things!” Because it was never intended to be about the things. When the Israelites first received the Law, they struggled to keep it, and for hundreds of years, generation after generation rose up and failed to keep the Law. This failure to keep the Law led to the struggles that are contained within the Old Testament. In fact, the entire purpose of the Law was to prove that it could not be kept! Christ brought a message that was a new teaching to them. All of history has struggled with gaining a proper grasp of this truth. In the days of Moses and in the days of you and me, it has never been about the things! Being a Christian is not about doing the things. It’s about what has been DONE: Christ’s sacrifice on the cross… In Matthew 7 we find what I believe to be some of the saddest verses in the Bible. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (ESV) These people will be crying out to God and say “Lord, we did the things!!!” We prophesied! We cast out demons in Your name! We did all of these things! To which Christ will respond “I never knew you…” But God… We did the things… We thought that was what you wanted… We did the things.
The things… Interchangeable with good deeds. Or works. We did the good deeds. We did works. “But its not by works that we are declared righteous. So that we have no ability to boast.” Eph. 2:8-9
But do “the things” have a place?
Though the things were never meant to be the ultimate priority, “doing the things” is the indication of a faith that is alive and prospering! The book of James declares this message throughout its chapters, though perhaps it culminates in the second half of chapter 2: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works… …Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone… …For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” Faith without works is dead. When one’s heart is truly in tune with God’s heart, “the things” will be done! Our faith is shown to be ALIVE by our works. If we claim to love God but don’t do the things, then we lie! “Whoever says “I know Him” but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” Brothers and sisters, if we claim to follow Christ and fail to do the things than we aren’t what we claim to be.
Let’s stop making our focus on doing the things and instead make our focus first on true followers of Christ. Only then will the doing of “the things” have worth.