James R. Aist
“I will not work my soul to save, for that my Lord alone has done; but I will work like any slave, because I’m loved by God’s dear Son!”
— William Henry Griffith Thomas
I suppose that if we could live a sinless life, then no one would need a savior; we could, in effect, save ourselves. But the sad truth is, we have all sinned (Romans 3:23). So, is it even possible to somehow qualify for heaven, and if so, how can we do that? There is a popular belief in today’s world that, in order to qualify for heaven when you die, you must live a sufficiently “good” life here on earth. To be clear, let me state this commonly held belief in a different way: we will spend our eternity in heaven only if our “good deeds” sufficiently outweigh our “bad deeds.” According to this way of thinking, heaven is a reward, or payment, that we earn for ourselves by doing good works. All major world religions, with one exception, teach this doctrine of “salvation by works” in one form or another. The exception is Christianity. But, unfortunately, many people even in Christian churches believe in salvation by works. Because what we believe about “salvation” will determine where we will spend our eternity – whether in heaven with God or in hell with the devil and his angels — let’s take a good look at why “salvation by works” is a false doctrine and how it is that you can, nevertheless, become “good enough for heaven.”
I Want to Be Judged by My Works; It’s Only Fair, Isn’t It?
Oh, really? Are you sure about that? Do you realize that God, who is himself perfect, requires you to be righteous (i.e., morally perfect) in order to qualify for heaven (Matthew 7:21)? Therefore, if God were to judge you by your works, then you would be found unqualified, because He would be judging you by both your good and your bad deeds, not just your good deeds; your bad deeds would disqualify you from heaven (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). That would be fair alright, but you would not spend your eternity in heaven! This is what we often refer to as “the sin problem.” Maybe “fair” is not what you want after all. But if not “fair”, what then?
God Has Made a Way
“Jesus doesn’t love us because we are good enough; He makes us good enough because He loves us.”
Being painfully aware of how our sinfulness disqualifies us for heaven, and determined to save us anyway because of His great love for us, God came up with a brilliant and clever way to qualify us for heaven, even though we cannot qualify ourselves by virtue of our works. He sent a Redeemer (His name is Jesus) to pay the penalty for our sins, which is death (Romans 6:23). This Redeemer was himself without sin (Hebrews 4:15), and, therefore, possessed, by virtue of his sinless nature, the righteousness (moral perfection) of God. And He made it easy for us to qualify for heaven along with Him. All we have to do is believe in Jesus; no works of any kind are required (John 6:29)! Our righteousness, then, is not self-righteousness, but it is the perfect righteousness of Jesus that is attributed to us when we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus doesn’t love us because we are good enough; He makes us good enough because He loves us. Now, from a purely human perspective, this plan may not seem to be fair, but it is merciful (i.e., we do not receive the condemnation that is our due because of our sins), it is gracious (we receive favor that we do not deserve) and it is effective (we have God’s word on it). And that is exactly what we do need to solve our “sin problem”!
The Gospel of Jesus Christ
We refer to this amazing plan of salvation as the Gospel (i.e., good news) of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God that brings salvation to all who will believe in Him (Romans 1:16; John 3:16), confess their sins and repent of them (I John 1:9; Matthew 4:17), and accept Him as their Lord and Savior (Acts 16:31), trusting in His finished work on the cross (1 Peter 2:24) to qualify them for heaven. This is God’s one and only plan to reconcile mankind to Himself — there is no other path to God (John 14:6; Acts 4:12) – and He is the only one who can establish the ground rules, because “Salvation belongs to our God…” (Revelation 7:10). You can find an excellent article that explains this Gospel in a different way by clicking HERE.
What Are You Waiting for?
God wants to save you (Matthew 18:14)! If you have not yet allowed God to save you, then right now would be a good time to do so. All you have to do is…
Repent (turn away from your sins): “The Lord … is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9);
Believe and Trust in Jesus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16);
Accept His Forgiveness: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1); and
Receive the Peace of Christ: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1).
What Just Happened?
If you went through these steps with genuine sincerity and conviction, then you have just been born-again and have become a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. Congratulations! I recommend that you read through the following articles to help clarify some of the remaining questions that you may have. Just click on the links provided below:
Repentance: Confess, Turn, Persevere (click HERE)
What Does “Born Again” Mean? (click HERE)
Becoming born-again is just the first step in your life in Christ. It is important that you begin now to actively live out your new life in at least the following ways:
1) Tell someone, perhaps a close friend or relative, that you have become a Christian, and share with them how it happened (Mark 5:19);
2) Get a Bible of your own and begin to read and study it daily. I prefer the New International Version. Begin with the Gospel of John, and then go to Hebrews and then to the Gospel of Matthew. Remember this: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17);
3) Begin to pray to God daily. Now that you are a born-again Christian, you have every right to “… approach God’s throne of grace with confidence…” (Hebrews 4:16). Thank Him for how He is blessing you, praise Him for His awesome nature and tell Him your concerns and needs. Take your time; you just may begin to find that He is speaking into your mind and spirit as you pause and pay attention; and
4) Find and begin to attend a conservative, bible-believing Protestant (not Roman Catholic) church weekly (Hebrews 10:25). Here are some general guidelines for finding a good Protestant church:
- Get your hands on a written statement of what the church believes. This may be called a “Statement of Faith”, “What We Believe”, “Our Doctrines” or the like;
- In that statement of faith, look for declarations that a) the Bible alone is the inerrant, inspired word of God, b) that salvation is by grace through faith alone, not by works (referred to as “merit” in the official Roman Catholic Catechism), and c) that the finished work of Jesus Christ is the all-sufficient payment of the penalty for our sins;
- Find out if the church is pro-life and considers the practice of homosexuality to be sin, as the Bible says it is. If these tests are not met, find another church, because that church does not really believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God;
- I recommend that you avoid liberal Christian denominations that no longer adhere fully to essential, historical biblical truth and practice, such as the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Methodist Church, the American Baptist Church, the Anglican Church, Seventh Day Adventist and the Episcopal Church; and
- By all means avoid cults that may appear to be Christian, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, and Universalist Unitarian churches.
(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)