How much of your faith is a “good luck” charm, how many of your prayers are said in such a way that they are seemingly a “magic mantra,” something that if said in the right way will achieve the desired goal, at least that’s what you hope.
Hope, I believe, is what most who call Christ Lord have, not the assurance of faith, it goes beyond “If I do this, then He will do that” mentality, but not very much, it is the inverse of Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” For these individuals faith is the substance of things seen, the emotion of “feel good,” the prayer of the “magic charm.” They have a faith of works, based in a “hopeful” attitude, and I do not think that many of them even know it, but that form of hope is only assured by the routine, the unseen faith must at least be glimpsed occasionally, and the words must be placed in the proper intonation, a sense of forced humbleness and awe.
There is a fear of the bully on the playground within these people, and that bully is God. If they do not perform well, if they do not remain subservient, if they do not do things in the exact way, or pray in the proper form with just the right words, the King will find displeasure with them, He will either not listen or be angry. It is the foundation of all works-based religious organizations, but they are not who I am speaking of here, this person sits in the pews of your church. They do not want, they need the routine, the order every Sunday must remain the same, their Bible studies, if they have one, must be performed at the same time each day, any deviation will cause the spell not to work. In the closest terminology that I can present, they are superstitious Christians, and God is the provider of the magic show.
Staying in His “good graces” means following the routine, adhering to the prescribed precepts they believe are pleasing to Him, never losing His favor by stepping out of line. They do not fear God, they fear God. The fear of the Lord is reverential trust and a hatred of evil, but those individuals are more like small children who are afraid that their Father will beat them, who will punish them immediately if they do not do everything exactly right every time, at best they hope for a scowl or perhaps to not even be noticed.
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16) This is the attitude of a loved servant, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matt. 7:7) This is the way of a child who knows his Father loves him, “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) This is the assurance of the child of God.
The fear that these people have goes beyond the fear of punishment, it believes that everything they do is not good enough, that if they get into heaven it will be by the “skin of their teeth,” and that at any moment the Almighty may strike them down in one way or another because they did not follow the proper procedures. They do not fear the Lord, they fear the Lord. It is a life of walking on eggs, as it were, and if even one of them breaks, the wrath of God will fall upon them. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)
This is a verse of assurance, it tells us that we are not guilty, no matter how we feel, no matter what we do “wrong,” that forever and always we are loved. The chains that hold those individuals are made by themselves, they are the ones who will not accept grace, they rarely accept forgiveness, they are timid when they should be strong, they are easily led when they should by now be teachers, (Heb. 5:12) they are not only unsure of themselves, but of their salvation, and so they have produced a chain of works that must be counted each day, link by link. Humble servitude cannot be forced upon anyone, either you serve in love without fear, or you are serving because of fear.