The Bible is full of commands for us to obey, but without the grace to do them, we just load ourselves up with impossible to-do lists accompanied by large doses of guilt.
For instance, we are to rejoice always. How can we do this when we don’t feel like rejoicing? We can pretend until it gets too hard, and then we can snap at the kids. The Bible tells us to love our children. How can we do this when we are tired and the kids need our attention and patience? Patience wears thin quickly when we are looking to our own resources and clamping down on our own annoyance.
If we think that we can live the Christian life merely by having lots of high-sounding biblical principles, then we are guaranteed a face plant. And when we face plant, we can thank God that He has kindly shown us our weakness, so we can turn to Him for strength. We are needy creatures and we need a Savior. When we look to Christ and ask for His strength, He freely gives us all we need. This includes a cheerful spirit, even when we don’t feel like it, love for our neighbor when our neighbor is unkind. Jesus carries our burdens, comforts our sorrows, refreshes our spirits, raises us from the dead with Him.
We must not simply reduce the Christian life to a list of rules about courtship, marriage, and childrearing. No matter how many books we read or how many seminars and conferences we attend, if we are not looking to Christ, it is all a bunch of nothing. But if we have grace, then good teaching will point us to Christ over and over again, and we will become more like Him with each new principle that we learn and apply. This is our sanctification. Being and doing are two different things, and the one must precede the other. First we are to be attached to Christ; then we do what He commands. This is how we work out what He has worked in.