When we relate to someone, we always refer to them based on what they can do for us and what we can do for them. Every relationship we have on this earth has this element of mutual give and take. As long as we do what our employer wants us to do, we can expect a paycheck at the end of the month. If we refuse to do our job, we cant expect and demand a paycheck at the end of the month. When we stay faithful to our spouses, we can expect them to remain committed to us. What would happen if we believed we would be paid at the end of the month, but we never actually did anything to earn our paycheck? What if we thought we were married, and we believed we were happily married, but we never actually contributed anything in the marriage? We all know a passive faith would not give us a paycheck and would not give us a happy marriage. If we want something in this world, our faith has to show itself in what we do and how we live our lives.
This even applies to a parent-child relationship. We dont get to decide when we are born and to whom we are born. But we do know that as long as we obey our parent’s rules, we can expect them to treat us with fairness and love. If we misbehave, we know we can expect our parents to chastise us. Should we go on misbehaving, we know the relationship with our parents can be severely damaged and even broken beyond repair due to bitterness and unforgiveness on both sides. And we know when that happens, we can not expect them to bless us with anything until we have corrected our actions and repented back to obedience.
Everything I have just said builds the foundation for how we relate to another human being. We never question if we get our paycheck as long if we know we have contributed and done what was expected of us. We never wonder if our spouse remains faithful to us as long as we know we have provided to the marriage and shown our love in words and deeds. We never ask if our parents will give us what we need as long as everything is ok between us, and there is no need to correct our behavior. Why? Because we know that as long as we have done our part, we can expect them to do their part. If, for some reason, they fail at doing their part, we know we have a right to ask for what they owe us. Should our employer fail to pay our agreed salary, or our spouses fail to remain faithful to us and our parents fail to meet our needs, we know we have the right to say “you owe me, I have fulfilled my part of the deal. I have earned this”
When it comes to our relationship with Yehovah (God), we are told it is a sin for us actually to do something; we should never try to do anything we should receive and believe. Mainstream Christianity tells us this is how grace works; you can’t earn grace so you can never work for your healing, your provision, or earn any help from Yehovah. The only thing you can do is have a passive faith in Jesus dying for your sins, and then when you need something, ask in prayer, and it will happen.
This understanding of grace robs us of the very basis for our faith. We need to have faith, and without faith, it is impossible to please Yehovah or receive anything from Him, says the Bible. Because you know you have contributed the best you can at your work, you have a basis for believing your employer will pay you your monthly salary. Because you think you have provided in the marriage, you have a basis for believing your spouse will remain faithful to you. But if you are supposed to stay passive in your relationship with Yehovah, you have no basis for the faith you need.
The Bible says in Deut 28, Isaiah 56:3, John 3:16, 1. John 2:6, 3:4, 3:7, 5:3, Matt 6:25-34, Rev 12:11, 14, if we obey Yehovah, we can know for sure He will do His part and heal us, provide for us, protect us, fight for us and meet all our needs. Should we choose not to obey Yehovah, we can know for sure He will do nothing for us in return. So, according to the Bible, obedience is the basis for our faith. When we know we have been obedient, it is easy to believe He will do His part and give us what He promised.
Our relationship with Yehovah is best compared to a parent-child relationship.
A child does not get to decide when it is born and to whom it is born, so it is fair to say it has done nothing to earn life. How its relationship with its parents will develop is something the child has to decide for itself after it is born.
We did nothing to earn Yehovahs gift given to us in the cross and the Blood of His Son Yehoshua (Yeshua/Jesus). How our relationship with Yehovah will develop is something we decide for ourselves after we have accepted Jesus.
When we receive the gift of the cross and repent from our sins, all our intentional and unintentional sins are atoned for. As a consequence of accepting this gift and because we are grateful and want to show our love for Yehovah, we choose never to sin intentionally again.
Now that we have entered into our relationship with Yehovah as our Father, we know from the Bible (Deut 28:1-13, Ex 19, Matt 5,6:25-34, John 14) we get to decide how that relationship will develop. If we want our relationship to Yehovah to work, we have to do our part and what Yehovah expects of us. We have to show our faith in action by what we do and dont do. (James 2:10-26, 1. John 2:6). So if we want Him to heal us, provide for us, protect us, meet our needs, and so on, we have to make sure our relationship with Yehovah works the way it should. How? By showing our love for Him in obedience (John 14.). If we dont do our part, we cant expect Him to do His part and meet our needs. (Deut 28:1-45)
Perhaps this sounds like legalism?
You know that as long as you do your part in your relationship with your parents and behave, they will do their part and give you gifts and whatever you need. If you misbehave, you know you can not expect them to act as if everything is normal and keep on giving you gifts and help. As responsible parents, they first have to address your behavior and make sure you correct it. Why? Because that is the loving thing to do if you are a parent, you make sure your child behaves in a way that is acceptable and respectable in society. If you refuse to fix your behavior, your relationship with your parents might get damaged beyond repair, and they might find it hard to trust you.
If you behave according to their rules, your relationship works as it should. If everything works at it, should your behavior guarantees gifts and help from your parents. This is why it is fair to say you have done something to get something from them; your behavior earned their gifts and their blessings. So it is not wrong to say you have earned your parents’ help.
This is also how the Bible describes our relationship with Yehovah after we are born again. As long as we behave (do not sin intentionally), Yehovah is free to be our God and bless us as His people (Deut 28:1-13.) If we misbehave (we sin unintentionally), He has to do the responsible thing and correct our behavior. Why? Because He knows that if we do not alter our behavior, unintentional sin becomes intentional, and then our relationship with Him will be damaged beyond repair. If He continued to bless us, heal us, provide for us instead of correcting our behavior, it would be irresponsible and unloving of Him.
This is why it is fair to say we can earn our healing, earn our provision, earn help from Yehovah by our behavior. As long as we behave according to His rules (the law of Moses), everything between Him and us remains healthy, and He is free to bless us and meet our needs(Matt 6:25-34).
How do you avoid this turning into a “checklist” of behaviors guaranteeing your healing, provision, protection?
So what is the difference between a good employee who excels at their job, and an employee who checks a behavior checklist to make sure they are not fired and receive the monthly paycheck? What is the difference between a spouse who loves you, respects you, and wants to remain faithful to you and a spouse who is faithful and does all the right things but has no love for you?
The difference is motive, the right employee and the trustworthy spouse wants to do a good job and wants to remain faithful out of love.
John 14 says the same thing if our motive for obedience is love; we avoid it turning into a “checklist” and legalism. If our motivation for obedience is to get something, we have fallen into legalism.
So how can you love Yehovah, whom you have not seen?
It is easy to love Yehovah when you have understood your need for salvation and atonement. When you see yourself as the sinner you are, you will quickly realize you are in desperate need of a Savior. Perhaps you dont believe Yehoshua (Yeshua/Jesus) has ever existed? But there is one thing you can’t deny; you can’t deny the fact that you have sinned in the past, and it was deliberately. Nobody forced you to lie, to steal, to hate, you chose to do all those things because you wanted to.
When you see yourself as a liar, a thief, and a murderer (the Bible says hate is murder), you see yourself in desperate need for atonement.
If you take the first step of faith and reach out to Yehoshua (Yeshua/Jesus) by confessing your sins and repenting from them, declaring you believe He died for you, Yehovah will reveal Himself to you, and you will know He is real.
When you understand the gift of the cross, it is effortless to love Him and to show your love for Him in obedience to Moses.