Religion v. The Gospel

The good news of Jesus Christ is the message that all who believe in Him are saved entirely by grace and not at all by our own efforts. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Yet many people today believe they are saved by living a “good enough” life. They think that if their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds God will surely accept them into heaven in the end. Some add to this “good enough” theology, religious efforts such as prayer, church attendance, giving to charity, etc. Whether it is just moral effort or good works combined with religious efforts, this is the path of self-reliant religion: I do good works in order to be saved.

In stark contrast to this works-based salvation, the Bible teaches that “None is righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10) and “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). You simply can’t be good enough to earn your way to heaven because the standard God uses for entrance into heaven is perfection not 51% goodness. “Therefore you must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)

But the amazing good news of the gospel is that Jesus offers us HIS perfection if we simply come to Him humble enough to ask for it. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13)

“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:20,23-24

That word “justified” means declared righteous: not only forgiven for all of your sins but actually given full credit for the perfection of Jesus. So we do good works as followers of Jesus not in order to be saved but because we are saved.

Working in order to be saved is a relentlessly exhausting uphill climb and you will never know if you have climbed high enough or worked hard enough. Working for Jesus because you are saved is not easy all the time but in contrast to self-reliant religion it is like a downhill stroll because Jesus has done the hard work of paying for sin and earning perfect righteousness, and He walks with us, giving us the desire and the power to obey His commands.

“For it is God who works in you” giving you the desire and the ability to live “for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).  May the gospel fill us with gratitude and joy to obey Jesus with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength!