“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’” (Matthew 7:22)
Consider the difference between a heart of “faith” and a heart of “works.”
The heart of works gets satisfaction from the ego-boost of accomplishing something in its own power. It will attempt to scale a vertical rock face, or take on extra responsibilities at work, or risk life in a combat zone, or agonize through a marathon, or perform religious fasting for weeks — all for the satisfaction of conquering a challenge by the force of its own will and the stamina of its own body.
The heart with a works-orientation may also go in another direction and express its love of independence and self-direction and self-achievement by rebelling against courtesy and decency and morality (Galatians 5:19-21). But it’s the same self-determining, self-exalting works-orientation — whether it is being immoral or mounting a crusade against immoral behavior. The common denominator is self-direction, self-reliance, and self-exaltation. In all of this, the basic satisfaction of the works-orientation is the savor of being an assertive, autonomous, and, if possible, triumphant self.
The heart of faith is radically different. Its desires are no less strong as it looks to the future. But what it desires is the fullest satisfaction of experiencing all that God is for us in Jesus.
If “works” wants the satisfaction of feeling itself overcome an obstacle, “faith” savors the satisfaction of feeling God overcome an obstacle. Works longs for the joy of being glorified as capable, strong, and smart. Faith longs for the joy of seeing God glorified for his capability and strength and wisdom and grace.
In its religious form, works accepts the challenge of morality, conquers its obstacles through great exertion, and offers the victory to God as a payment for his approval and recompense. Faith, too, accepts the challenge of morality, but only as an occasion to become the instrument of God’s power. And when the victory comes, faith rejoices that all the glory and thanks belong to God.
By John Piper