Good Deeds and the Good News.
The Good News should be proclaimed everywhere, but strangely, many Christians find their tongues suddenly paralyzed when it comes to announcing it. You have probably asked a passerby on the street for directions to the bus stop or the nearest bakery. Were you trembling with fear, pale, and your heart pounding at that moment? Of course not. So why do you experience all these symptoms when you have to tell a stranger what Jesus has done for him?
God wants us to share the Good News with our fellow beings. Jesus himself told his disciples to go and proclaim to the whole world what he had done for all of us. Think about it: who would want this to remain a secret?
Yes, there is an enemy lurking around us, and his favorite tactic is to inspire us with fear and reluctance to share the wonderful news of God’s free gifts. But if we are absolutely certain of what God has done for us, if we have accepted and cashed some of those generous thousand-euro checks, then, brimming with joy, some will still worry: what qualities will we tell everyone about it?
Does God demand from us, when our sins have been forgiven and we have received the free gift of eternal life? Regarding this, Paul writes to the Romans:
“Now, let’s consider this: Is this happiness reserved for those who have faith in Christ and also observe the Jewish laws, or is it granted to those who do not observe these laws and only have faith in Christ? Let’s take the case of Abraham. We have just seen that he received these blessings through faith. Was it only through faith? Or did he also observe the Jewish laws?” (Romans 4:9).
And Paul decides: Abraham did not follow the law simply because it had not yet been given!
“So it is clear: God promised to give the whole world to Abraham and his descendants, not because Abraham obeyed divine laws, but because he believed that God would fulfill his promise” (Romans 4:13).
To us too, God has promised an inheritance, not as a reward for good conduct, but in response to our faith in him. You may not be satisfied with God’s plan. However, it is the solution to your problem.
The Jews stubbornly believed and claimed that they were not sinners. Many Christians misunderstand the answer Jesus gave to the Jews. He asserted that God’s law is much purer than they imagined. They thought, for example, that they did not commit adultery. Jesus, however, explained to them that every married man who looks at a woman to desire her (or any man who looks at a married woman) has already committed adultery with her. Jesus retorted that it would be better for them to deprive themselves of sight than to entertain this occasion of stumbling. Jesus knew the thoughts of man well.
If someone is determined not to sin, he finds within himself a second nature that wants to sin, and one does not escape from this inner conflict.
So what was Jesus trying to tell us? That we would need to make even greater efforts to observe the law? Certainly not. He simply wanted to show us how much we need him. Every parable, every teaching of Jesus tends to make us understand that we need a Savior.
Believing in Christ is the only way to observe the whole law, declared Paul. You can try to chastise your body to tame it and actually succeed in following some of these laws. What will you have accomplished? Nothing at all. Jesus explained it clearly: if you do not perfectly observe all the laws, you are just as guilty as if you transgress them all. Christ was not trying to discourage you but to encourage you! He said he would give you the means to get out of your problem.
“Christ gives to those who trust him everything they have tried to obtain by observing his laws” (Romans 10:4).
When Jesus enters your life, you still have a physical body with desires that are not all pure. But here is the big difference:
“When someone becomes a Christian, he receives inside him a new, brand new being. He is no longer at all the same as before” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
You may look like the same person, but you are no longer the same man.
“Your body will die because of sin, but your spirit will live, for Christ has forgiven you” (Romans 8:10).
Inside yourself lives a completely new spiritual being because Christ now dwells in you, through the Holy Spirit. Your physical body will die one day, but you will not die. You will live forever, with Christ.
I have spoken to thousands of people who go to church, and I have asked them: “What do you think you need to do to go to heaven?” In the United States, I asked this question to Bible-based Christian communities, and everywhere I heard the same answer: ninety-nine percent of the people talked to me about what they must do. Observe the commandments, go to church, give alms, do not harm your neighbor, etc… an endless list of what they strive to do.
People who go to church have heard and believed this lie: our salvation depends on what we do.
No wonder the Good News has not spread faster! Who would want to come to church to receive one euro and then go and talk about it to others? Are you still convinced that God has only given you one-euro gifts? Do you still think that, to receive God’s blessings, you need faith – plus something?
“If you still claim that God’s blessings are for the deserving, you empty God’s promises for those who believe of their meaning, and faith is worthless” (Romans 4:14).
“But,” writes Paul, “the fact is that if we try to obtain God’s blessing and salvation by observing his laws, we will always be under his wrath, for we will always fail in observing them” (Romans 4:15).
Does this mean that God gets angry when we try to do good and keep his law? Certainly not. But he knows very well why we strive to observe his law. If we do it out of fear of being punished, all our efforts are in vain. If we strive for obedience to deserve some of his blessings, it is still a waste of time. So why even try to do something good? Or, on the contrary, why not remain as bad as we are since, anyway, salvation is free? It’s absurd, of course.
We must do good, for the sole reason that we love God and desire to please him. If we fully understand what his wonderful gifts are for us, we will respond to his love by loving him in return. To try to do good to deserve God’s favor, to apply to do good to merit God’s favor, you will never learn to love him or benefit from his gifts.
“Now, God has shown us a way to go to heaven not one of good conduct but a completely new way (not so new, however, for the Scriptures have spoken of it for a long time). God asserts that he accepts us and acquits us, he declares us ‘not guilty’ if we rely on Jesus Christ to remove our sins. And we can all be saved in this way, coming to Christ, whatever our past actions or situation” (Romans 3:21-22).
Here is the condition: “rely on Jesus Christ.” Believing that we are deserving or “not too bad” is doing exactly the opposite. What did Jesus do for us?
“God sent Jesus Christ to take on himself the punishment for our sins. He used the blood of Christ and our faith as means to save us from his wrath” (Romans 3:25).
These two factors are essential. One cannot go without the other. Christ did what was necessary, but it will be of no use to us if we do not believe on our part. If we get entangled in “doing,” we will never be free to believe.
“He was delivered to death because of our sins and he rose to make us right in the eyes of God and fill us with his goodness” (Romans 4:25).
“Sin reigned over men and led them to death, but now it is the goodness of God that reigns, giving us to be righteous before him and to inherit eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord” (Romans 5:21).
It is clear: we have to choose between the goodness of God on the one hand, and his just judgment on the other. We are offered on the one hand the free gift of eternal life, and on the other death.
This text is an excerpt from the book “Power of Praise” written by Merlin R. Carothers.