“Lord, who can dwell in your tent? Who can live on your holy mountain?” (CSB – Read the chapter)
What matters more in the end: What we believe or what we do? What is it that ultimately determines who gets to be with God and who doesn’t? The content of our thinking, or the outflow of our behaving? That’s a little like the chicken or egg question. How do you decide one from the other? You can’t really. But can I go out on a limb a bit and suggest that the Scriptures seem to give maybe a fraction more weight to one over the other?
Let’s start with a firm foundation. There is absolutely no question that we are saved by grace alone through faith. No amount of works can contribute to this process. At all. It is purely the gift of God in response to our belief in Jesus. We believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, by that belief confess His Lordship, and we are in. Period.
There’s that word again. It keeps showing up lately, doesn’t it?
While what we believe is the foundation stone and the chief determiner of who gets to be with God and who doesn’t, we regularly see things in the Scriptures like David writes here or Jesus Himself says in Matthew 25 about the sheep and the goats. David asks the question of who gets to be with God here and then goes on to say not a single word about what that person believes. Instead, he lays out a list of things the person does.
The person who gets to be with God lives a blameless life. He is right with God and with people. She does not slander her friends or neighbors. He is committed to the people of the Lord. She is courageously honest. He practices justice in all his dealings. These are all things we do. When Jesus talked about the sheep and the goats, what determined one from the other was things like visiting the sick and the prisoners, taking water to the thirsty and food to the hungry. More doings.
What we do matters. A lot. We have to believe the right things. There is no salvation without that. But right beliefs that aren’t flushed out through right behavior aren’t right beliefs we can trust. They are only words or, worse, emotions, that will do little to nothing for us in the long run.
So make sure you have all your theological ducks in a row. Without that set you’re not just in the wrong boat, you’re in the wrong ocean, and will never get where you’re trying to go. But, once they’re all lined up, make sure you set them to swimming or you’re not going to get anywhere and the ducks will prove to be little more than worthless cardboard cutouts anyway. Then what good did all your theologizing do you? Or as we saw from James recently, right belief without right behavior is meaningless.