Christianity isn't based on "doing" the right kinds of things. Christianity isn't based on "acting" like the right kind of person. Living the Christian life is an inside job. That’s where the Pharisees got it so wrong. It drove Jesus around the bend that they couldn’t get it through their heads (hearts actually) that keeping rules and adhering to do’s and don’t’s do not a Godly person make. Over and over and over Jesus said, “You have heard it said (names a rule) but I say (gives and example of a God driven nature or attitude).”
The Old and New Testaments are perfect examples of what counsellors do all the time. First, like the Old Testament, the counsellor highlights what isn’t working, hasn’t worked and never will work. If the client disagrees, the counsellor gets them to keep doing the current behaviours longer and harder until the truth begins to sink in.
God gave to people exactly what they wanted and thought they needed - lots and lots of rules or guidelines. Oh sure, many people say they hate rules. That's not true. What they mean is, they hate other people’s rules, but they go right out and make up a list of their own regarding how they should behave. And in reality, God’s Older Testament rules were unique for the time when compared to the societies that surrounded the Israelites. He said, “You want to please Me by keeping rules like all your pagan neighbours? Well here’s the set that I want you to keep. Knock yourselves out." As we know, they didn’t and couldn’t keep the rules and God wasn’t pleased.
The only thing that rules, or God’s law can do is show us how we can’t keep God’s law. The Law can only show us how far we are from where we need to be.
Once our failure to get what we want by doing what we’re doing is firmly entrenched, the counsellor or in this case, the New Testament God provides a better way; a way that will work.
It’s the same with changing our character. We can’t do it through hard work or discipline or coming up with our own set of rules. Of course these things will take us part way but they can never do the job the way it needs to be done. That’s why Jesus seems to be so irritated throughout the Old Testament. He can hardly believe that we don’t get it. Keeping rules, does not produce faith. Only faith in Creator God produces the ability to do what’s right. A changed heart produces a new character. Filling our souls with a love of God forces out our pride, arrogance, and corrupted self-love. These are the things that are forever making us stumble in our efforts to become better people. Love, God’s love crowds out evil.