Doing What We Ought To Do

I recently heard some great messages on selected passages from the Book of James. One of them that stood out was James 4:17 NIV

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

In the past you may have heard preachers throwing around these two fancy, ecclesiastical phrases:

The sins of commission
The sins of ommission

It is helpful, however, to understand these two classifications of sin. The sins of commission are overt, sinful acts—idolatry, lying, stealing, murder.

The sins of omission are things we fail to do even though we know we should do them. This is what the James 4:17 passage speaks of.

So the question naturally arises: Which type of sin is greater or has more devastating consequences?

I think initially I sided with the sins of commission. Afterall, aren’t these the sins that will damn us? That may be true, but didn’t Christ come as the great substitution on our behalf so we might be forgiven for stealing, lying, or committing adultery?

Now I can see that the far greater sin falls on the omission side. Our ugly, obvious sins may very well damn us, but if we fail to do what we know we should—place our faith in Christ and surrender to Him—then we’ve missed the whole point of grace and His sanctifying work. We would be committing the greatest sin of all.

If you are like me, you may be focusing too much on your overt sins and focusing very little on areas often neglected—spiritual practices and disciplines. So here is a list of ideas I’ve compiled to help me focus on the things I ought to be doing. I admit, I’m not a perfect example, and I’m not consistent on all of these. I regret now that I didn’t do more of these things in the past. For 2015, my aim is to focus heavily on these things:

  • Read the Bible and meditate on it.
  • Worship and sing praises to God.
  • Continual prayer and thanksgiving.
  • Fast from food, TV, social media, etc.
  • Holding devotionals with my family.
  • Prioritizing and setting realistic goals.
  • Taking my family to church every Sunday.
  • Sharing my faith with others.
  • Quality family time each week.
  • Seeking peace with others.
  • Forgiving others and asking for forgiveness.
  • Spending quality time with my spouse.
  • Joining a small group or discipleship group.
  • Finding good mentors in my life.
  • Managing my finances.
  • Forgetting the above practices doesn’t seem as awful as looking at pornography, cursing, drinking excessively, or robbing a store, but, oh, the devastation that results if we neglect them. Not doing what we ought to do may be shackling us to the very sins we want to escape.

    Not saying that doing the above in a formulaic way will change your life. We have to do these things through faith and the power of God’s Spirit. Grace may not be based on “do’s” and “don’ts”, but make no mistake that our spiritual growth does depend on what we do and the choices we make. And oftentimes it can be under-minded by what we fail to do.

    What about you? Do you agree or disagree with what I said here? Also, do you have more spiritual practices to add to the list?

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    3 Responses to Doing What We Ought To Do

    1. Pingback: Doing What We Ought To Do | A disciple's study

    2. Mike says:

      Hi Scott. Had to bow out for awhile. A year to build what is hopefully our last home and another year to finish it. 🙂

      In general, I liked your post . . . and agree with it. Having been down that road though, I can now see the error of both. I think we do, naturally, try to get rid of the bad stuff, and we should. Once we have, we then try to start adding the good; and that’s good too.

      For me, each were my attempt to get God to be pleased with me. I found, though, that you can’t get rid of enough or add enough for that to happen. For me, both roads ended in a dead end.

      What I found was that it was not as much on me to get rid of or add, it was up to me to stay full of God (which some of your points lead to).

      I boiled it down to this. We were given a new nature immediately. Feed that new nature and it will grow. Neglect feeding it and the old one will spring back to life. It is not as much on us to resist evil or even add the good that we might then be close to God; it is on us to stay close to God that we might then resist evil and add the good.

      Sorry if this is a bit too much. Had a little extra time on my hands this morning and was in the mood to do a little writing. Hope all is well.

      • Mike … Thanks for the comment and great to hear from you. I agree with you about either feeding or neglecting our new nature. For me at least, I face the most temptations and attacks when I neglect to feed my nature. I’m reminded of a passage in Matthew 12:44 about the demon returning to a house swept clean and unoccupied and put in order. The word unoccupied struck me as interesting and, perhaps, a key word for that passage. As you mentioned, the key is being full of God, because God filling us with the right things always pushes out the darkness and the bad. If we simply try to stop sinning without being filled with God, we lose every time. We simply create a vacuum that may pull in more evil into our lives. That’s what I was trying to convey in this post. Hope you and your family are all doing well. God bless!

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