The Old Testament primarily chronicles the attempt of a nation to relate to God on a contingency basis. "Ye shall therefore keep My statutes, and My judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD" (Leviticus 18:5).
Conversely, the New Testament's prevailing theme involves the gift of a free relationship of grace and truth offered to all, with emphasis upon an individual and personal bond with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith" (Galatians 3:11).
The Old Covenant failed to justify humanity, as God knew beforehand that it would. The law of Moses therefore served as a "schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ" (Galatians 3:24). It revealed the impossibility of a works-based contingency agreement between a perfect God and imperfect man. The law exposed the dominion of sin that rules the heart of Adam's lost race, leaving us with no hope of approaching God by our own merit and effort. "By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Galatians 2:16).
The New Testament succeeds in justifying all who come to God by receiving a relationship with Him as a "free gift" (Romans 5:15). "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ," providing undeserved and unexpected favor to humanity, and also the light of reality concerning God and ourselves (John 1:14). Grace and truth unveiled the righteousness that rules the heart of the Lord Jesus, and which God imparts to the believing heart as the freest gift ever given. "It was not written for His sake alone, that it was imputed to Him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead" (Romans 4:23-24). A certain hope is thus provided in the New Covenant because God takes upon Himself the doing of that which only He can do. "Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us... righteousness" (I Corinthians 1:30).
Under the law, man worked in order to relate to God. Under grace, man works because He relates to God. Rather than work and live, He lives and works. Relationship through Christ begins in this merciful dynamic of grace, and it ever continues accordingly. "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him, rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving" (Colossians 2:6-7). The order must never be reversed in our understanding of relationship with God. Certainly we expect "the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ," and we encourage each often to "maintain good works" (Philippians 1:11; Titus 3:8). We do so, however, always in the light of living relationship as the source and supply of all genuine devotion and obedience. We live, and then we work.
Tiredness and discouragement along the path of righteousness can always be traced, in some manner, to reversal of the Divine order and sequence. Our spiritual enemies ever seek to enshroud the wonder of relationship to God provided as a free gift. We must ever seek to remember and rejoice in the blessed wonder of Christ's merits being the basis of communion with our Heavenly Father. We "live through Him," and then and only then, we "do all things through Christ which strengtheneth us" (I John 4:9; Philippians 4:13).
"Then said they unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom he hath sent."