Every religious system including (sadly) the practicing Christianity of many people uses the working notion that one must earn salvation. Judaism and Islam have their Laws: Keep the Law and you earn your way into God’s good graces. Catholicism and many Protestant forms of Christianity have the same practical approach to their religious beliefs regardless of their theology: Be “good”, confess your sins, and God will love you and let you into Heaven.
In addition to being completely inconsistent with the teachings and sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth, these religious systems have another glaring flaw: No matter how hard you try to please your “god”, you never really know where you stand with Him. Think about it: Even if you keep every rule, law, or tenet of your particular faith there’s no real way of knowing whether or not you are “in” with your god. You will always have the nagging fear that you need to work just a little harder to be sure that your salvation is secure.
Think for a moment about shopping at Target or Macys. Let’s say you find a bread maker you really want to buy but there’s no price tag on the box and no price displayed on the shelf. No problem, right? Just pick up the box and carry it to the nearest price scanner, scan the bar code, and find out instantly how much that little appliance is going to cost you.
Too bad religion doesn’t work the same way, huh? You can’t walk into a church and get “scanned” to determine how much it’s going to cost you today to “buy” your salvation with good works.
Which, of course, is the whole point behind grace, the Gospel, and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. As Andy Stanley is fond of saying, God doesn’t want anything from us, He wants something for us. There is literally nothing we have that God wants. He doesn’t want our sin, brokenness, petty thoughts or miniscule good deeds. He’s the Creator of the universe; He already has everything. He isn’t impressed by our sobriety and He’s not threatened when we act out.
Instead, He offers us grace, something we could never earn nor ever afford. None of our self-righteous “Christian” behavior earns us grace: No amount of hand-raising, singing, volunteering, tithing, or neighbor-loving earns the forgiveness of our sins. If these things did work we would always wonder if we have done enough of them: Should we give more to the church, sing louder, or serve more often?
Thank God that none of our works can earn grace. We don’t need a “price check” on our souls because God freely gives us grace. What a relief!
Are you ready to abandon the self-righteous notion that your “good Christian behavior” is worth anything? Are you ready to accept the free gift of God without believing you’ve earned it or deserve it more than anyone else?