Hard work pays off! Everyone knows that intuitively! Right? We are all taught this throughout our lives. Isn’t it? People say, “If you want something in life, then you better start working now!” People give a lot of prominence to achievement through hard work. There is pride in ownership! We can see that influence from schools to workplaces to motivational conferences. People are encouraged and challenged to put more of their energy, time and effort to gain what they want—be it grades, a fit body, work, business, adventure, fulfilling dreams or you name it.
Now, there is nothing wrong with working hard to achieve some things in life, but it becomes a problem when the same mantra is applied to our relationship with God. People think that they can pay off their bills to God by working hard. This understanding is common among all the peoples of this world, regardless of race, religion or class. We human beings are generally inclined to think that if our good works outweigh our bad ones, then God will let us go unpunished for our misdeeds. That’s why “religious” people work hard to do good (which might differ from religion to religion) to please God, hoping that they will be forgiven of their wrongdoings.
While this seems to be the commonly accepted norm, Christianity differs here. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Bible teaches that humans can in no way earn forgiveness for their sins by working hard or doing good. However, they can receive it and own it fully. That’s the good news in the Bible for all. Though it is true that the salvation the world longs for cannot be earned, it does not mean that it cannot be attained. It is possible to attain it through the One who earned it for us and offers it freely to us without any partiality. It is a gift given by God to those who believe in Him.
A gift is something that people cannot earn or demand, but need to receive it when offered to them. That is what happens to those who trust in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who lived on their behalf and died in their place as a substitutionary sacrifice to turn away the wrath of God from them. All those who repent of their sins and put their trust in Christ will receive this gift of forgiveness and eternal life freely and fully. It will be theirs, though unearned.
As Christians, we know all these truths and we do believe them. Don’t we? However, do we truly believe them daily? Daily is the keyword here. If we do not remember this truth daily, then there are good chances that we might slip into that old idea, that we have to work it out for ourselves. That’s what happened to Christians in the churches of Galatia. Paul was amazed at the way they quickly deserted Christ and turned to another gospel which is of works (Gal. 1:6). Even today if we do not guard our hearts and minds, we might slowly slide into believing that our devotional life, or our service to our local church, or our charity towards others, or any such work of ours—other than the finished work of Jesus on that cross—might bring us approval from God.
I see this tendency in my own heart. If I turn my eyes away from Jesus, then for sure I will slip into that. As I talk to other Christians, I see patterns in their lives that show that they have slid into that mindset. So, let us daily and constantly remind and indeed (as some good authors say!) preach to ourselves and others the Biblical Gospel—that justification is by grace alone, through faith alone and in Christ alone. Let us all remember this great truth daily, till our last breath!
Photo by Zoe Holling on Unsplash
Charles P. Thaluri serves as the pastor at Symrna Bible Church. Hyderabad, Telangana.