8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
I posted the above on Facebook not long ago. This morning, I wish to unpack it by just a bit. Many of my friends struggle with holiness. They lie awake with concern that God will not consider them worthy on the Day of Judgment. I remind them of the basic Gospel message, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him will not parish but have ever lasting life.” (John 3.16)
Belief, or faith, on Jesus Christ, along with repentance from sin, is the sole requirement for salvation. Romans 10.9 says “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Once you do, you will be ‘born again.” 1 Peter 1.3 says “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation.”
Some of my friends share a concern that their life now does not show enough good fruit to enter heaven. Yet, most understand to some extent that one cannot enter into heaven through good works. For those who remain confused on this point, I remind them that no matter your good deeds, past or future; a cop will arrest you just as fast if you break a law. You cannot undo your crimes, or pay for them, with previous good deeds or promised future ones.
Yet, I have good news for them. In fact, that is why we use the word ‘gospel,’ which means ‘good news!’ God sent His Son, Jesus Christ to live a holy, perfect life among us. He alone fulfilled the law in both word and spirit. He led the only perfect life. By all rights, He should have been the only man never to taste death, the penalty for sin. Yet, he went, to the cross, and even to hell, in our place.
But, the best news of all is that He rose from the grave! The cornerstone of the Christian faith, Jesus’ resurrection, not only demonstrates our Lord’s power over the great enemy, death, but shows us what we can expect in our future. The believers, in Christ, will also join Him in heaven.. The author of 1 Corinthians wrote, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
Some may feel I have left the main subject on a side track, as I asserted that I would write about sanctification, not justification. Yet, I feel that the above leads to just that! Because, the first true step towards sanctification that a believer must take is to rest and place faith in the knowledge that their salvation is not earned by any personal effort or merit. They must place their hope, their faith, and even their sanctification in the hands of Jesus.
Then, and only then, can true sanctification begin. For, the moment that a man, through His own effort, attempts to please and honor God, he falls down a fatal slope, for he does so in the flesh. And no man can please God with that approach. (See Romans chapters 4-9). When we are born again, we become sanctified. He became sin for us so that we can become righteousness. 2 Cor 5.21 says “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Again, read Eph 2:8-10, from at the top of this blog entry. This is one of my favorite passages. Many stop at verse 9, but I like including the following verse. It underscores and highlights that Christ molds us into holiness. We do not become ‘good’ in God’s eyes through our own efforts! By faith, we repent of sin, accept Christ. Then, through His Spirit, we become born again… a new creature!
In John 3.5, Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”
After we are born again, through the Spirit, we mature through that same Spirit. We move to greater “good” works that truly please God. It is not faith plus works that saves you…but faith, and faith alone, which, in turn, not only justified, but sanctifies. It leads to holy living. Galatians 5 reads, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.” Not the capitalization here. These fruit which God finds truly sweet come from the Spirit (of God). Sanctification, true holy living, comes from a life submitted to His control, not through an internal effort to follow an outside code.
For this reason, Jesus says in Matthew 11.30, “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” We can rest in Him, for He has done all of the heavy lifting! And this is why we praise God…this is why I praise God. He has given us the most precious gift of all! And I will spend the rest of my days singing, writing, drawing, and giving for His Glory from a heart of thankfulness! Will you join me?