Far too many in the church today believe Jesus saved them to make them “good”. They’re missing altogether the deeper message of our salvation. They have reduced the Bible to a book of rules and shrunk their faith to a “things-to-do” list. For those who may be trapped in this gross misunderstanding of the Christian faith, let me say this, “Jesus did not save you to make you good; He saved you to make you His!” And out of the Gospel-truth of being His, good behavior and good works naturally flow! Titus 2:14 states that Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good”.
Our goodness flows out of our relationship with Jesus Christ, not the other way around. There is nothing within us by nature that causes goodness or contributes in any way to continuing it. Once Jesus saves us, we are His for good and for bad; for richer and poorer; in sickness and in health. “Behold, I am with you always,” Jesus promises us, “to the end of the age.” (See Matthew 28:20). When we understand this Gospel-truth, we no longer have to keep trying to work our way into His continued acceptance. Our acceptance is based not on what we do, but on what Jesus did on our behalf.
“Work harder and do more!” is the slave driver’s pitiless cry to the Christian who has not yet been seized by the truth of the Gospel. These miserable saints fail to realize that by working to prove their love for God, or to pay for the love He lavishes on us, they are more tightly focused on themselves than they are on God! And this is precisely what the devil wants God’s people to be doing. The dominating forces driving these individuals are guilt and fear. They feel guilty over their past and fearful about their future. They look back and see the countless times they fell short of God’s mark and are consumed by an overwhelming sense of indebtedness. They believe they must repay God in some way for all He has done for them. To be blunt, they feel they need to buy God’s love.
They look ahead, fearful about a future that will be marked by not measuring up (that is, not proving their love for God) and suffering the consequences delivered by the hand of a God who will inevitably come looking for a little payback! In other words, they believe God is going to exact His pound of flesh from them. When we mistakenly base our relationship with Jesus on our good works, we live lives of quiet desperation and utter despair. Does any of this resonate with you?
The way out of this mess is by going deeper into the gospel. All others religions say, “Do!” Only Christianity says, “Done!” Because of what Jesus has done for you, you don’t have to fixate on what you are doing for Him. It is only when we see our salvation as being more about whose we are rather than what we do that we will begin living a life that is pleasing to God. Good works flow out of an understanding that, even without them, I am still loved and accepted in Christ. Remember this: Jesus doesn’t call us to “Do more and try harder”. Instead, He calls us to, “Come near to God and He will come near to you” (James 4:8).
This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!
Rev. Tommy Boland is the men’s minister and sports minister at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. He also teaches adult Sunday school. For more information, including Bible study resource materials, please e-mail [email protected] or visit www.tommyboland.com.