Thursday, August 28, 2008

How Good is "Good Enough?"

by Mark E. Larson
www.cvillechurch.com

Do we understand what it means to be saved by grace? Though many claim to depend on the grace of God for their salvation, many continue to live life as if they must earn their way to Heaven. “Am I good enough?” “Have I done enough?” “Have I pleased God enough that I may enter Heaven?” Out of concern for your eternal salvation, have you ever asked yourself these kinds of questions? If so, you may not understand salvation which is by grace - a favor bestowed freely by God, a gift we did not deserve.

“The Gospel of the Grace of God” (Acts 20:24)

The gospel teaches that salvation is by grace (Eph. 2:5). Therefore, to leave grace out of the gospel is to teach a perverted or contrary gospel (Gal. 1:6-7). Yet, that is exactly what we do when we ask the question: “Am I good enough to be saved?” Such a question does not put trust in God’s grace, but “confidence in the flesh” or our own good works for our salvation (Phil. 3:2-3). Just as “salvation by grace only” or “salvation by faith only” are falsehoods, so is “salvation by works only” a false doctrine which can cause us to be lost.

Our understanding of the gospel of grace is absolutely essential. For the attitude we bring in our service to God has the power to justify or condemn us eternally (Luke 18:9-13).

Must Our Good Deeds Outweigh Our Bad Deeds?

There are many New Testament passages that teach that we will be judged according to our deeds (Mat. 16:27; Rom. 2:6; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:6-10; Col. 3:23-25; Rev. 2:23; 20:12; 22:12; etc.). Does it therefore follow that our good deeds must outweigh our bad deeds on Judgment Day? Muhammad thought so as taught in the Koran: “Then, he whose balance (of good deeds) will be (found) heavy, will be in a life of good pleasure and satisfaction. But he whose balance (of good deeds) will be (found) light will have his home in a (bottomless) pit.” (SURAH 101:6-9, The Holy Quran). Is this what the New Testament also teaches? If so, by what standard or measurement do we use to determine if our good deeds are “heavy” enough to merit our eternal reward?

The Gospel is Not a Meritorious Law System.

According to Romans 2:5-11, our obedience is of great importance to God, yet God will in no way “strike a balance” by rewarding Christians whose goods deeds outweigh their bad deeds on Judgment Day. Further in the text, the apostle explains how a person could be right with God (justified) if it was only through our keeping the law (any law; Rom. 2:12-16): “For not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified (v. 13). How good is “good enough” to be right with God? Only perfect law-keeping would be “enough”! Yet, no one has been able to do this (Rom. 3:10, 23).

God’s Justice is satisfied only by the Blood of Jesus Christ. Since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) how can God’s justice be satisfied? Only through the blood of Jesus! “Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith…” (Rom. 3:24-25ff.). “The law of faith” declares that we are “justified by faith apart from works of [the] law” (v. 28) – any law-keeping in attempt to merit our salvation. No one can achieve righteousness (a right standing w/ God) by their own efforts of good works (Phil. 3:9). All need the blood of Jesus to be right with God.

Justification by Faith vs. Justification by Meritorious Works

“Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:3). Unable to boast by his “works” (i.e., unable to meet the “full quota” of good works), Abraham was justified by faith! (Rom. 4:1-5). Abraham’s faith in God was not faith alone, but an obedient faith which trusted in God for salvation (James 2:20-24).

“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt” (Rom. 4:4).

The person who “works,” who does not put his faith in the Lord for salvation, is one who labors to earn his reward (i.e., righteousness before God). His reward is not a favor, but a debt owed to him based on personal merit. The serious problem in this approach is that a person would have to obey the law flawlessly to gain his reward! There can be no other kind of worker that God owes a reward! Yet, there is no such worker among men (3:23).

The Blood of Jesus is the Source of Our Righteousness.

Since we sin or fail to perform good works perfectly, we cannot be right with God unless we are forgiven of our sins. And forgiveness is found only through the blood of Jesus (Eph. 1:7). Our sins will be charged to our account unless we go to Christ in faith for the forgiveness of our sins. Only then will we be righteous: “Just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account." (Rom. 4:6-8). To whom does the Lord credit righteousness to his account? To the person whose sins are forgiven! When a person responds in obedient faith to the gospel of Christ, their sins are covered the debt of sin is cancelled! (Acts 2:38). Only in Christ can we be righteous before God (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ, not our works, is the source of our salvation (Heb. 5:9).

In What Sense will we be judged According to our Works?

God does the saving, not us (Tit. 3:5), but we must come to Christ to be saved. Sins we committed in life and did not repent of and receive forgiveness for will remain in the “record books” and be held against us at the Judgment (Rev. 20:12), unless we obey the gospel to have our sins washed away (Acts 22:16; cf. 2 Thes. 1:8). Once in Christ, we must demonstrate our faith by our works of obedience (Jas. 2:14-26). Our deeds in life demonstrate our faithfulness or unfaithfulness to God (2 Cor. 5:6-10). God is faithful to forgive Christians, but we must confess our sins with a penitent heart to be forgiven (1 Jn 1:9; Acts 8:22). This is a requirement of continued fellowship with God (1 Jn 1:5-10).

How good is “good enough”? No one is good enough without the grace of the Savior!

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