The shortest answer to this question is from St. Paul:
“Faith, Hope and Charity. But the greatest of these is Charity.” (1 Cor 13:13)
Indeed, our free-will choices of charity and good works make a difference. As St. James makes clear,
“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder” (James 2:19).
Firstly, we can see that it’s NOT enough to just believe in God’s existence. We have to RESPOND and accept God’s free ‘gift’ of Salvation with Faith and Hope.
Secondly, we must freely cooperate with God in accepting that ‘gift’, and we do so through our everyday choices — our ‘Good Works’ expressed from Faith and Hope (c.f. Gal 5:6).
That’s why St. James added,
‘You have Faith and I have works. Show me your Faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith… So you see that a man is justified by works and not by Faith alone” (James 2:18, 24).
True Faith is simply inseparable from works.
James concurred with Jesus:
“Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who DOES THE WILL of my Father who is in Heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy, cast out demons, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers’” (Matt. 7:21-23).
And with St. Paul:
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). For he will render to every man according to his works (Rom 2:6).
And St. John on the Final Judgment:
“I am He who searches mind and heart and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.” (Rev 2:23)
Originally posted on Instagram.