I recently had a friend who was disappointed in herself for a mistake she made. I could totally understand her feelings as I’m my own worst enemy sometimes as well, but it also kind of bothered me how she almost seemed to condemn herself for her accidental and very human behavior. She was a newer Christian, and as I witnessed her distress over messing up, I realized she was experiencing what a lot of believers do, even seasoned ones. She was placing too much value on herself and her actions.
Listen, I’m all about allowing a relationship with Jesus to change your life. I know it certainly has mine. I’m a totally different person than I was a little over a decade ago. I no longer smoke two packs a day, drink like a fish, or cuss like a sailor, but I’m under no impression that my decision to no longer do these things grants me Heaven Points. It doesn’t make me a better Christian or more favored by the Lord. Falling deeper in love with Christ over time has transformed my life and how I go about it, but it’s not what gets me eternal life. And if you’re trying to be a good Christian for eternity sake, then you’re sadly mistaken. It’s pointless to be a good Christian to get to Heaven. Sorry, but it’s true.
The wonderful thing about Christianity is that the Lord is full of grace. I look back at some of the things I did in my past, and I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without His great grace. While I was still knee-deep in sin and denying Him, the Lord still loved me. When He died on the cross, it was for me, even with the foreknowledge of all the stupid crap I’d pull. He loved me anyway.
We say that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and therefore His love for us doesn’t change. It isn’t conditional or based on my performance. He isn’t an angry father who looks down in disdain at my missteps, and He doesn’t rank me in favor because of my performance. There isn’t a bank in Heaven where my good deeds add up to cancel out my bad ones. His blood covered me, redeemed me, and continues to do so!
So, in that case, can I just run willy-nilly making mayhem and misery? Absolutely not! The Lord does expect a wisdom for behavior as I draw closer to Him, and I believe He blesses my life when I follow His precepts more closely. But He doesn’t cut me off when I drop an F-bomb or judge Sally for being a Lying McLiarson. I strive to speak life and truth because I’m grateful for how the Lord saved me, but I also understand that it’s not my ability to do that perfectly that seals my fate.
Because it comes down to this. It’s not about me! I can’t place the weight of my eternity on my own merit. I’ll fall short every time. Yes, I have the free will and choice to choose eternal life, but I don’t create my own doorway to Heaven. Jesus already laid down that bridge. If I try to base my Christian walk on how well I do, I’ll feel inadequate in every way, because according to human nature, I am. But God! His goodness within me helps steer me daily to be the best me I can be. So, I’m not a slave to sin, but I’m also not the savior of myself. I can’t place all my bets on my ability to be good enough. The battle for my soul has already been won.
I’m afraid a lot of people fall away from the Lord because religion teaches them that they must follow a certain set of rules to be good enough for God. You can’t do this, can’t do that, and if you do… uh oh! Yet the fact is, you’ll never be good enough. And if you try and place your salvation on your own thin shoulders, you’ll fall fast under the weight. Thankfully, the yoke of the Lord is light because He takes away the weight of sin. By trusting in Him, accepting His grace, and keeping your eyes focused on Him, you’ll find that you’re pretty good after all. His faithfulness draws you in and encourages and inspires you to lead a better, more productive, more loving life. But if you fall, and you most likely will, it won’t be up to your own strength to lift you from the mire.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
I don’t care if you’re the most apparently perfect Christian out there! If you tithe every week, never lie, and always wear “appropriate” attire to service on Sunday morning, it doesn’t matter like you may think. It’s not your ability to act like a good Christian, but rather your ability to be good in the fact that God’s grace saves. It saves all! Even the burly dudes with tats and a potty mouth. Even the chick with a short skirt and cigarette hanging out of her mouth. Even the depressed mom or anxious father. Even the divorced lady or the adulterous fella. God’s grace covers all sin, even the ones you think are especially horrible. Those who seek the Lord’s forgiveness will be forgiven. Let God deal with the sin that continues in their life. Let God deal with the sin that continues in your own. Let [no] man judge, but allow the Lord to speak truth to each in His perfect timing. Let us pray for one another, offer Godly counsel, and loving correction, but let us never forget that our goodness isn’t what sets up our salvation. Only Jesus can do that. You’ll never be “good” enough on your own, but through God’s power and strength, as we seek His face, we’re all good.