It is one thing to know, and quite another thing to do. You can open the scriptures, read and study, and become quite knowledgeable concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You can become an expert on the life of Christ, the acts of the Apostles after he lived, and even the entire history of Judaism leading up to His birth among men. You can fill your mind with wonderful stores of useful and beautiful knowledge.
But all of that would only fill your mind with good things. To actually do the will of the Lord is another step.
In Romans chapter 12, we read what we must do that we might “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” And the TODO list is not a list of things to learn, or feel, or think. It is a list of things to do: prophecy, teach, exhort, donate to the poor, be affectionate, hard working, continuing in prayer, rejoicing with those that rejoice, weeping with those that weep, being honest with all men, feeding our enemies, and overcoming evil with good.
That is a long list of things to do.
In the Book of Mosiah, chapter 4, we are told a long list of things to believe in, including repentance. But the prophet Mosiah is careful not to leave it at that; at the end of his exhortations, he adds: “and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them.”
To know is not enough. Even to believe is not enough. We must do the will of the Lord, as Christ did when He set the ultimate example for us, by suffering and dying for our sins. In Matthew chapter 7, at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, Christ teaches that “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
Grace, and the Next Steps of Doing
At this point, some Christians may be tempted to dive into a discussion about the merits of Grace and works. In Martin Luther’s famous work “On the Freedom of a Christian,” published in 1520, Luther set forth the idea that a Christian was not obligated to obey any law, being justified by Grace. What is not often recalled is that Luther also put forth the idea that the true Christian, though free through the Atonement of Christ, was absolutely and unavoidably destined to be the “servant of all.”
Though Luther’s words are interesting and inspiring, they do not represent scripture, revealed by God to His prophets. Certainly, as Luther points out, none of our “works” will save us. They simply do not have that power. Christ alone can save us. But the true Christian knows that does not excuse us from doing the will of the Lord. Rather, it frees us from the bonds of sin, which impede our ability to do any good thing, and through the grace of Jesus Christ, enables us to act.
And so with Grace, not in opposition to it, we move forward, knowing that our sins cannot stop us, if we are with Christ. We move forward with confidence, knowing that we might understand and do the will of the Lord in our own lives, by following His teachings as found in the scriptures, as revealed to His servants, and as revealed to us personally.
Progression is Not Perfection
As I have struggled and strived to understand and do the will of the Lord in my own life, I have learned that progress, not perfection, is the key. Sometimes I think that we humans believe that we have to be perfect before we can say we are doing enough. You see it in every aspect of our living. Knowing we are children of God, and heirs of God and join heirs of Christ, as we read in Romans 8, we tend toward perfection. I think those desires are good. Yet I believe that even a lifetime of perfect effort by any of us won’t produce perfection.
And that being the case, I believe that it is enough to do the will of the Lord, as he has taught us. It’s a hard lesson for me, but I think it’s important. Doing His will demonstrates my love for Him. It demonstrates my willingness to be obedient, and gives me opportunities to grow and to help lift others. In the end, His grace is sufficient for me, and my obedience is a demonstration of my gratitude.