Your work didn’t save you
There was a plan set in place long ago before Jesus could grow even a single chest hair that removed our ability to boast in our own work. The plan was simple: we would be justified by faith in the finished work of Jesus and have not a single opportunity to boast in our own self-help religion.
We are not saved by our own striving or our own good works. There is nothing we can do in order to make God happy with us or love us more. The simple truth is this: God is irrevocably in love with us and he’s thrilled when he thinks about us!
In Song of Songs 1 God gives us our identity: “You are so thrilling to me. To gaze upon you is like looking at one of Pharaoh’s finest horses–a strong, regal steed pulling his royal chariot (SoS 1:9).” You are thrilling to God! There is nothing you can do to save yourself or make yourself more desiring to Him.
Anyone who tries to convince you that you need to work out your salvation or carry your own cross or strive for perfection is giving you spoiled revelation. You can add not one iota, not a single dash, to the message of the finished work of the cross. Jesus paid the price that removed all our sin. He did this single-handedly without the help of you or anyone else. The truth is this: GOD SAVED US SINGLE-HANDEDLY!
You are only justified by faith
Romans 3 gives us a clear, wild-eyed look into our new sin-free existence.
21-22 But now God has shown us a different way to heaven[f]—not by “being good enough” and trying to keep his laws, but by a new way (though not new, really, for the Scriptures told about it long ago). Now God says he will accept and acquit us—declare us “not guilty”—if we trust Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, by coming to Christ, no matter who we are or what we have been like. 23 Yes, all have sinned (sinned: past tense); all fall short of God’s glorious ideal;24 yet now God declares us “not guilty” of offending him if we trust in Jesus Christ, who in his kindness freely takes away our sins.
25 For God sent Christ Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to end all God’s anger against us. He used Christ’s blood and our faith as the means of saving us from his wrath.[g] In this way he was being entirely fair, even though he did not punish those who sinned in former times. For he was looking forward to the time when Christ would come and take away those sins. 26 And now in these days also he can receive sinners in this same way because Jesus took away their sins.
But isn’t this unfair for God to let criminals go free, and say that they are innocent? No, for he does it on the basis of their trust in Jesus who took away their sins.
27 Then what can we boast about doing to earn our salvation? Nothing at all. Why? Because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds; it is based on what Christ has done and our faith in him. 28 So it is that we are saved[h] by faith in Christ and not by the good things we do.
We are accepted by God and have been acquitted of all our sins! Is it fair? No! Of course it’s not fair. That’s why this gospel is such a scandal! A perfect, loving Father sent his perfect, loving son to be a once-and-for-all sin offering for us!
There is nothing we can do to save ourselves! God saved us single-handedly!
We were sinners, Paul tells us. Sinners…past tense. You are no longer a sinner. You are a saint. Sure, you may sin occasionally, but you aren’t living in sin. You aren’t camping out in the land of sin.
In fact, because of Jesus and the finished work of the cross, you get to choose righteousness instead of sin! Your sin nature is gone. If you struggle with a particular sin, just choose to stop struggling! You get to do that because of Jesus!
Our salvation is because of Jesus alone. We can boast in nothing. Our salvation is not based on our good deeds, but on Jesus and our faith in him! And having faith in Jesus is not work. It’s easy! Faith often looks a lot like doing nothing, like rest!
Choosing righteousness is not you working out your salvation, it’s you acting like a Christ follower!
Do you not feel saved? Who cares?! You gave him your life, so you’re saved. Salvation isn’t a feeling, it’s a fact. You are saved because Jesus did all the work necessary for you to get that way. Even having faith in Jesus doesn’t come from you. He gives you the faith necessary to believe him!
No amount of striving, beating yourself up, fasting, or Bible reading will prove anything to God. You cannot save yourself. Jesus even tells us that if we want to make ourselves righteous, we are going to have to dismember ourselves in order to do it! See Matthew 18:9 about plucking out your own eye if you don’t believe me.
This week remember: you are saved by grace and that grace is yours free. You are saved because of Jesus and you have faith in him that you are saved. Even your faith isn’t anything you could have conjured up. Jesus has given you the faith necessary to believe him.
You are enough. You are made holy. You are seated in heavenly places. You have been co-crucified and co-resurrected with Christ! When Christ died, you died with him. When Christ resurrected, you shot out of the grave with him. You are a walking dead person! And dead people don’t sin (Romans 6).