Make it Known
A Sunday School teacher I had as a teenager (Ms. Brenda Woody), who happened to be a longtime teacher and coach at my school, once described the relationship between faith and works in the following way (paraphrased),
“Say there’s a man who claims to be a basketball fan. Maybe he even believes he is a basketball fan. But he doesn’t play basketball. He doesn’t watch basketball. He doesn’t donate time or money to basketball clubs. He’s not that familiar with the rules of basketball. He can’t tell the difference between pictures of George Mikan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, or LeBron James. He doesn’t have a favorite team or make time to watch them. He doesn’t even own a basketball. Is such a man really a basketball fan? No, he’s not.”
I’ve thought back to that statement many times in the approximately 10 years since I heard it. The more I think about it, the more accurate I think it is in describing the relationship between saying and/or believing you’re a Christian and actually being a Christian. If you truly are a Christian, you will fulfill the Great Commandment and Great Commission. That involves baptism, studying the Bible, prayer, and fasting. You’ll at least try. Really try. You might not always succeed, but you’ll truly, genuinely, make an attempt to do so.
But the deeds themselves are not enough to be a basketball fan either. You can hate basketball and still do many of those things. Even the demons know the truth of Christ, and tremble (James 2:19).
God requires what you do to be done in the right spirit (Micah 6:6-8, Joel 2:12-13, Mark ch 7), but He makes clear that being in the right spirit is made known to Him by your actions. Psalm 139:23-24 and Jeremiah 17:10:
23Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
10I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
God searches your heart and mind by your actions, to see if there is any wicked way in you. There will be no real, pleasing “fruit” of your doings unless these things are done in the spirit. Do the things for God that He commands, and do them in the right spirit. Make it known to God that you’re a fan in this way, and He will lead you.