Image Credits: @jaylynnscraps
If you ask the average American Christian the way to get to heaven, most will respond with some variation of living “good lives” or being “good people.” That is the typical cultural mindset. Since the majority of Americans aren’t murderers or anything of the sort, most feel that they are in the clear, that they are “good enough.” But how is it really determined what is good enough? And if we do not actually know the standard of how “good” we have to be, how can we ever be at peace with our lives – won’t we live in constant fear that we have not attained the necessary “goodness” standard?
There are clearly serious issues with the vague answer of being “good people.” But even more than these logistical errors, the approach of earning God’s favor based upon goodness misses the very core of the gospel message, which we celebrate today on Resurrection Sunday. The gospel of Christ teaches that we can never be good enough on our own. We are told that we all fall devastatingly short of God’s standard because of an incurable malady of the soul called sin. Ephesians 2:8-9 reminds us that the sole source of salvation is the grace of God through Jesus Christ, as it reads: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
As sinful beings who are unable to meet God’s standard of perfection in our lives, we clearly have a problem. God calls us to holiness, yet we have rebelled in our sinfulness. The consequence of our rebellion is death and forever separation from the Creator. God, in His unconditional love for us despite our rebellious ways, sought a solution to the problem. He promised to send a servant, a deliverer to pay the price of our sins. He sent Jesus, who was both fully God and fully man, to the earth over 2,000 years ago to take that death penalty upon Himself. And He did not stay dead; rather, He conquered it and rose from the grave three days later. As fully deity and fully human (as demonstrated by the resurrection), He is the only perfect and permanent sacrifice for our sins. His death is the only bridge that mends the divide between God and man.
It is by God’s unending love and His display of mercy and grace that our sins can be forgiven; this strips us of any need to earn salvation by good deeds. But why do so many people still believe that their works can earn them a favorable standing with God?
I think that part of the issue lies in the culture we have fostered. American culture teaches that that for which we work, we will earn. If we do not work for it, we do not deserve it; therefore, we should not have it. The concept of a freely-given, completely undeserved gift can sometimes feel strange and disingenuous.