Thursday, September 24, 2015

Do It Yourself Salvation

Ask yourself these three questions:

1.   Are you a good person?

2.  Have you kept the Ten Commandments?

3.  Do you think you are good enough to deserve Heaven?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you are going to spend eternity in a very hot, dark place of never-ending pain and misery called Hell.  Don't fall for these lies.  Confess your sin to God, repent, and trust only on the merits and finished work of Jesus Christ to save you.

A few years ago I had an opportunity to spend an evening with my Father-in-law, Al while our wives were out together.  During the evening, he initiated some conversation about my faith.  I knew that Al was not a Christian, but he considered himself a fairly good guy, certainly worthy of God’s favor.  I answered several of his questions and then showed him how he could know for sure that he would be right with God and in His favor when he died.  I carefully pointed out that, according to the Bible, salvation is a free gift of God’s grace and cannot be earned by our merit or our works.  It is given only to those who will accept it by faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Al stumbled on that point.  He had been deceived by the errant teachings of his church and so It seemed, to him, inconceivable that the reward of eternal life in Heaven in the presence of God could be his without costing him something.

In the end, he concluded that it just couldn’t be that simple.  “You have to DO something!” he argued.

It occurs to me that there are at least three common misconceptions people have about how they can qualify for heaven.

1.   The Rating Game -- Some people think that God will use some kind of comparison system to sort out the good from the bad.  They believe they are basically pretty good, and when compared to so many others, a loving God will certainly see fit to allow them entrance to Heaven.  After all, who wouldn’t agree that Adolf Hitler deserves eternal punishment in Hell?  But surely, by contrast, Billy Graham must have a special place reserved for him in Heaven.   But the Bible makes no such provision; it is clear that we are all sinners and deserving of God’s wrath.

Romans 3:9-11   What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

Romans 3:23    For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God;

2.   The Balancing Act -- Then there are those who believe that God is like the statue of the Blindfolded Justice that symbolizes our country's judicial system.  He simply weighs our lives in the balance.  Holding the scale in one hand, he systematically sorts all our good deeds into one basket and our transgressions into the other.  If the good outweighs the bad, we get our pardon. 

Psalm 14:2-3   The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand and seek God.  They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Isaiah 64:6

Isaiah 64:6     But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteous acts are as filthy rags;

Genesis 6:1-8      And it came to pass when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them, wives of all which they chose.
And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.
There were giants in the earth in those days; and also, after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.  And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
And it repented the Lord that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart.
And the Lord said I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth Me that I have made them.  But Noah found grace (that means undeserved favor) in the eyes of the Lord.

3.   The Merit Badge -- Finally, some are convinced that they can earn heaven the way a Boy Scout earns a merit badge.  They believe that God has some religious requirements and a few suggested options that, when completed, will entitle them to the reward.  

    Wouldn’t it be great if God had just outlined the requirements for salvation on a simple checklist so that we all knew exactly what was expected and we could chart our own progress? 

    Think about it.  A suggested checklist could be comprised of three sections.  In section one, God could have included all the basic requirements like baptism, church membership, and communion and, as each of those events was completed, we could simply place an X in each item’s corresponding box.  Section two could give us some optional ways to accumulate additional points.  We could earn points each time we completed a reading through the Bible or by attending a reasonable number of church services each year.  And then in section three, God could have allowed us to choose from a list of optional service electives that could accrue to our benefit in the event that we might fall slightly short of the other requirements.  In this section, we could record the times we spent praying, working in charity rummage sales or singing in the choir.  Or we could earn extra credit for the money we gave.  With a clear description of the minimum requirements and a simple method to calculate points, we could go to work at our own individual paces and we would know when we qualified for our final rewards.

Isaiah 64:6     We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

The problem with these misconceptions is that they all have roots in the same presumptions that my friend, Al, had.  They assume that we, by our own religious efforts, can gain favor with God. But His Word is clear; God is perfect and Holy and He requires absolute pure sinless perfection.  Can you qualify?  I can't. I know myself.  I know that I am a sinner.  I know what I am capable of.  I also know that regardless of all the sin in my past, I could never live a perfect, sinless life in my future.  I need God's mercy and grace.  And that is exactly what He has provided for those He is saving. 

Ephesians 2:7-9     That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Most people will agree that Billy Graham, in comparison to other people, is certainly worthy of God’s favor and the rewards of Heaven.  But on this very subject, he was very careful to ensure that no one misunderstands how he qualifies.  Listen to his words: 

“I'm not going to heaven because I've preached to great crowds of people.  I'm going to heaven because Christ died on that cross.  None of us are going to heaven because we're good.  And we're not going to heaven because we've worked.  We're not going to heaven because we pray and accept Christ.  We're going to heaven because of what He did on the cross.  All I have to do is receive Him.  And it's so easy to receive Christ that millions (Just like my friend, Al) stumble over its sheer simplicity."

And this from Pastor/Teacher, John Piper   -   

"This is my confession ---
I was born into a believing family through no merit of my own at all.  I was given a mind to think and a heart to feel through no merit of my own at all. I was brought into the hearing of the gospel through no merit of my own at all.  My rebellion was subdued, my hardness removed, my blindness overcome, and my deadness awakened through no merit of my own at all. Thus, I became a believer in Christ through no merit of my own at all.  And so I am an heir of God with Christ through no merit of my own at all.  Now when I put forward effort to please the Lord who bought me, this is to me no merit at all, because:
…it is not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

…God is working in me that which is pleasing in his sight. (Hebrews 13:21)

…he fulfills every resolve for good by his power. (2 Thessalonians 1:11)

And therefore there is no ground for boasting in myself, but only in God’s mighty grace.

Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:31)

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church at Philippi, listed all of his bona fides; he noted that he was of good Jewish stock, a well-respected Hebrew, devoted, zealous in the work of God, a man who diligently studied the scriptures and tried to keep God's law.  And, about ALL OF THAT, he said it is ALL DUNG!  It counted for nothing.  He considered himself the chief of sinners. 

Apologist and theologian, Paul Little, often reminded us to “Put the cookies on the bottom shelf.”  In other words, we should be careful to present God’s Good News in simple terms.  The night the jailer asked the apostles, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” their immediate reply was simply, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” 

And it is that simple.  In fact, it is so simple that people not only get tripped up over it, but many consider it to be pure foolishness.  The Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth explained that he was not called to baptize but to preach the Good News.  His fear was that our religious works might obscure the simplicity of the Gospel and render it ineffective.  In 1 Cor. 1:18, he wrote,   “I know very well how foolish the message of the cross sounds to those who are on the road to destruction. But we who are being saved recognize this message as the very power of God.”

The proper response to the Gospel; the only way to have your sins forgiven is to repent of your sins and believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the death penalty you deserved.  And He rose from the dead on the third day, according to the Scripture, so that we can have eternal life.   


Ron Livesay said...

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV). Every way that seems right to a man can be summarized by one "way": "I must DO something to earn salvation." It is a deadly teaching, but so many have fallen for it.

Alec said...

Another great post, WMG. Thank you.

Have re-blogged an excerpt with link to the full post here at