“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 ESV
I have been striving for the vast majority of my walk as a Christian. I strived to read at least three chapters of Scripture every day. I strived to pray every night before I fell asleep. I strived to become the teacher’s pet in Sunday school by offering all the right answers to the questions no one else was willing to answer. I strived and pushed and stretched in every area of life that I could get my hands on. And it was a real blow when I realized that for all the work I was putting in, I wasn’t even close to reaching spiritual perfection. I fell flat on my face every single time.
Was I not doing everything that Christians are supposed to do? How much time did I have left to get myself together before God would throw up His hands and abandon me? These questions plagued me for years.
It’s sad to think that so many people have this mindset and are thus convinced of their devotion to Christianity. If we would stop listening to that deceitful inner voice that tells us we have to earn God’s acceptance and instead begin to humbly study Scripture, we would see that a faith justified by works and human merit flies directly in the face of the true Gospel. Heaven forbid we make light of the grace and power of God by telling Him, “Just stay over there, and I’ll make my way to You.”
Charles Spurgeon put it wonderfully when he said, “It is not sanctification that saves, but salvation that sanctifies.” Our works of righteousness are like filthy rags in the sight of God (Is. 64:6) because sanctification is not really about signing up for more Bible studies or changing all of the presets in your car to Christian radio stations; our innate depravity as a whole is the problem. We can’t measure up to the standard by ourselves. We are undeserving of His unmovable love. And praise God that Jesus Christ has atoned for that depravity, so we can now be transformed from the inside out to His image through the power of the Holy Spirit and in light of His grace.
Father, thank You for the reconciliation and redemption that You have gifted to me through the work of Jesus Christ! I confess my inability to accomplish this by my own effort. Help me to repent of such pride and self-reliance. I want to be obedient to You out of genuine love instead of trying to earn Your love through my own shallow acts of righteousness.
In what ways have you tried to earn or prove your salvation (even to yourself) by your own works and merit? Can you identify any specific times where you realized you cannot live up to God’s standard by yourself? Have you bought into the lie that you must somehow earn or work to keep His love for you? Read Romans 8:31-39.