Many long years ago, as I attended classes leading up to ‘confirmation’ at my home church, I remember our pastor reiterating many times that, ‘we don’t earn our way to heaven’. He explained that what we ‘should’ be doing as we tried to do good, to be faithful, to be kind and generous, etc. was exhibit our ‘gratefulness’ to God for the gift of salvation.
I’m not sure that I totally grasped what he was saying. Perhaps because most things I’d been told had seemed almost to be ‘commands’ to do and be what God would have me be. I think I was trying to follow the ‘rules’ and by so doing, earn God’s approval of my actions.
Now, as the years have passed and I look back on my thoughts from those years, I realize that even as adults we are sometimes acting as though by giving and serving, we are somehow pleasing God and ‘earning’ our way into His ‘grace’.
I do believe our actions do either please God or displease Him, but I am also convinced that our salvation rests upon a sincere belief that Jesus died for folks like you and me, because without His gift we would be ‘lost’.
I can still hear Rev. Schoppe saying that if we truly believed that we were to do good and strive to live as God would have us do, then our first step was to acknowledge that we can’t ‘earn’ salvation. But…because of Jesus’ death on the cross, salvation is there for us.
And, his second point was…if we have been given such a tremendous gift shouldn’t we want to ‘do good’, ‘be good’, love each other and in many, many ways seek to live a life that exhibits our ‘thankfulness’ to such a loving God.
In one of the devotionals I read daily, I read about another individual who tried so hard to do all the things that God would have him do and by so doing he assumed he would be offering ‘gifts’ to God.
His pastor asked him if he could think of any ‘gifts’ that God didn’t already possess. Of course, he couldn’t provide such a list of gifts.
So, the pastor reminded him that God isn’t ‘bought’, but that God’s love and the gift of grace is ‘free’.
As I read the article I was once again a thirteen-year-old girl studying for her confirmation and hearing her pastor try to explain the same concept.
God’s gift of grace is free to all of us, but when we accept such a gift, doesn’t it follow that we want to ‘try’ to live a life that shows our gratitude.
If we have been so blessed, wouldn’t we decide that we will choose to do certain things that exhibit our acceptance of God’s gift of grace?
I know I have used a verse from Micah before when writing, but it is one of my favorites.
It is found in the Old Testament book of Micah and it seems to me it is the answer to questions people then were asking about gifts to God and burnt sacrifices given.
It says, “He has shown you, O man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
To me, those words incorporate a lifestyle. It was certainly the way our Savior lived. He went about doing good…he healed the sick, cared for the poor, fed the hungry…and, He was always walking in “God’s way and in response to God’s direction.
But, in the end, He was crucified and His death becomes our promise of salvation.
We don’t earn it. We respond to it. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”
I think I will close by sharing a quote from my devotional, “Daily Bread”. It is “Good works are not the means of salvation but the result.”
Because we have been given so much, we should long to give in return…not to earn salvation, but to express ‘thanks’ for such a wondrous gift.