And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace – Romans 11:6
The idea of grace versus works is one that has been the central theme of many theological debates. There are many religions around the world who hold fast to the idea that works are required to attain salvation. Christianity maintains the stance that it is by grace we are saved. The biblical evidence is overwhelmingly on the side of salvation by grace, but even those of us who cognitively understand that we are saved by grace don’t always live that way. If we did, it would completely transform our lives.
A lot of people have exchanged the word “works” with the word “good”. How often do we hear people say things like, “Just be a good person and everything will be okay?” If we think that our being a good person is what is ultimately going to make us right with God, then we have simply come up with our own religion. It would be a life consistent with every other false religion in which a formal set of works has been developed as the criteria for earning salvation. If people from those churches were to come knock on our door, most of us would snub our nose up at them. Some of us would probably even tell them, “It’s not about works, it’s about grace!” We would do so without even realizing that we are living from a works-based understanding just like them. The only difference would be the list of things that make us “good” people who deserve salvation.
For example, many works-based religions would say that you have to give so much money to the church, attend church services so many times a week, become a member of that specific church, spend so many hours knocking on doors to tell people about that church, etc. Many of us bible-believing Christians would look at them and think, “that’s crazy and not biblical!” However, in the very same thought be running through our own list of why we are “good” people. Our list might look something like this:
1. I am generally kind to others, especially those who are kind to me.
2. I show respect to those who respect me
3. I work hard to keep a job and provide for my family
4. I am willing to support friends and family members when they are in need
Everyone’s list would probably look a bit difference, which is a huge problem in itself! We sometimes sit there and run through these checklists as if they make us right with God. Then we watch the news and see all the terrible things that other people are doing, and it gives us even more assurance in our own works. We see how “evil” those other people are and how “good” we are in comparison. This attitude is so detrimental to our walk with Christ. It keeps us in control of our salvation, rather than giving Him the reigns. It is no different than a formal man-made works-based doctrine.
The Bible says that if we have broken any one of God’s laws or commands we have broken them all (James 2:10). Period. Jesus even takes it further. He says that if we even look at a woman lustfully then we have committed adultery (Matthew 5:28). He says that if we are angry with a brother or sister we have committed murder (Matthew 5: 21-22). This means if we have done either of those things, along with a few others, then we are just as much of a sinner as the person who has created the most sickening crimes we have watched on the news.
This may be tough news to swallow. However, it’s the greatest news that has ever reached this earth! It is the story of God’s love and redemption! The Bible says that the purpose of the law was to make us conscious of our sin (Romans 3:20). It was to show us that we are not capable of living up to His perfect standards without Him. It was to draw us back into the loving, intimate relationship He originally had with Adam and Eve in the garden. He wants to be our God and us to be His people! Our Father is far more concerned with us being God’s people rather than “good” people! Good just flows naturally out of relationship with God, and then it is His definition of good rather than our own.
Our righteousness pales in comparison to His. His righteousness is all powerful, all consuming, and life transforming. Don’t exchange this incomprehensibly great gift of righteousness that was freely given by God’s grace and mercy for a cheap knock-off version based on works! That knock-off version might keep us in control and make us feel more comfortable, but it keeps us from walking in the empowered freedom that God designed all of us to walk in. What is it in your life? What are you holding on to that makes you feel like a “good” person, but is keeping you from being a surrendered “God” person? Repent and hand that off to God today, and feel the weight lift of your shoulders. Turn it over to Him, and let His overwhelming grace free you to live your life for your God given purpose!