Growing up I was taught that you must work hard for everything you get in life; and while that is often true, I have come to realize that it is not always so. The Bible clearly tells us that our own good works cannot get us to heaven, but that’s a hard concept for most people to understand.
As far back as chapter 11 of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, people were trying to get to heaven by their own self-effort. There we are told the people built the tower of Babel out of rebellion against God. This was mankind’s first attempt to get to heaven by the sweat of their own brow and on the strength of their own works; but if you know the story, it did not end well for them and they were unsuccessful! In reality, times haven’t changed. Most people today approach God in the same way. They may not consciously realize it, but they are actually thinking: “If I can only do enough good stuff, then I’ll get to Heaven!” But the Bible teaches that through good works are an important part of the Christian life, our works cannot save us. They cannot earn us a place in God’s presence!
Ephesians 2:8-10 clearly states: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
There is an important progression in this well-known verse. First of all, it starts off with grace — God’s unmerited favor which has been given to us as a gift. We are saved through faith in Christ. When we trust that Jesus has paid our debt with His own bloodshed on the cross and ask for His blood to cover our sin, we are rescued! We are saved, not only from the world and the prince that rules it, but we are also saved from the judgment of God — His wrath. And secondly, it all depends on faith! Remember Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness!
Salvation is the gift of God; a gift is not a true gift if you have to earn it. According to the text this gift is not given based on our own good works or efforts. We cannot earn God’s favor through what we do. Remember those misguided tower-builders in the book of Genesis? However, once we have trusted in Christ and received God’s favor, we will do good works. We will obey His commands and do His will out of gratitude and love – out of adoration for Him. God has prepared acts of service for each of His beloved children to carry out. But make no mistake: we do not work to become children of God. We work because we are children of God and loving children always care about their Father’s concerns, doing what pleases Him! Those who follow Christ will live changed lives, not out of compulsion or legalism, but rather out of gratitude and by the Holy Spirit who works within them.
The world’s lie has always been that you will be able to get to heaven by your own good intentions and efforts; but God’s truth is that to have life in His presence you need a Savior, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world! He is the One who has paid the debt for sin that you cannot pay yourself! And as we step into a relationship with Jesus, as we are born anew, we begin through the indwelling Holy Spirit to live the life God has planned for us. He has marvelous work for each of us to do in His kingdom. There is much He wants to do in us and through us. The works we do are important because they show our faith in Christ is real and attract others to Him; but they can never earn us a seat at His table. That is His gift to us because of the work of Jesus on the cross!
© August 2019