It is easy to forget that all the Christian life must and can be only in Christ — in union and comunion with him. We forget this because we easily fall to the idea that our life is a doing of some-thing or other as a bare act, which, if performed, satisfies God. Such thoughts dishonor our Lord and suffocate our faith.
Sin suffuses through the entire human life, because sin — in one aspect — is the absence of the life of God. The human being without God is twisted, unnatural, sullen, without true hope or love. Redemption is to be in Christ.
Consider Paul’s words here; note the language to “be found in him”:
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-
10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Phil. 3:7-11. Or in Colossians 3, our life is with Christ in God: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). Our Paul writes elsewhere: our life is now the life of Christ in us: I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20.
The Christian life can never be a life without Christ, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).
Sin is death necessarily. The death does not lie in the bare action — it lies in the Godlessness of sin. The Sahara desert has many attributes – especially that it contains no water. One dies of thirst in the desert, not because one does not move hand to mouth, open in the mouth and swallow. One dies because there is no water. Without water, the action is lifeless; it is a charade, a parody of drinking. Without God, even our best acts can never be more than parodies of life.
Yes it is worse to not do “good works” — and yet such good works will fall short of the beauty they were meant to convey:
VII. Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands, and of good use both to themselves and others; yet, because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the Word; nor to a right end, the glory of God; they are therefore sinful and can not please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God. And yet their neglect of them is more sinful, and displeasing unto God.
Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 16.
In short, our life must be in and through Christ. Our life must be in love and fellowship of union and communion — and that union and communion can be only be conveyed and received by means of a lively faith. As Romaine writes
“If we go on at all, it is by communion with him. We can receive only out of his fulness, grace for grace, to make us willing and able to go forward. Our fellowship with him is in every part and in every moment of our walk, and this is as necessary as our fellowship with the air and elements of this world is to every thing that concerns our natural walk. Our wisdom to guide our steps, our progress in the way, our courage and strength, our warfare and victory, every grace and every blessing is received by faith, and is the effect of our communion with Jehovah Jesus. We trust in his word, we rely on his arm, we wait on his faithfulness, and so go forward; for he makes good what he had promised to give us in our walk, which confirms the peace of God, establishes our hearts in his love, increases our faith, and thereby makes our daily walk more comfortable to us, and more glorious to him.”
William Romaine “Treatises on the life, walk, and triumph of faith.”