"...the only work that gives any of us access to heaven when we die is the work that Christ alone did for all those who will come to believe in him..."
Many may try to insinuate that we are preaching (writing) here a Gospel that is void of good works. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead it is a Gospel that says the only work that gives any of us access to heaven when we die is the work that Christ alone did for all those who will come to believe in him: The perfect life he lived, the atoning death he suffered and endured for all those who put their trust in him and not in themselves or their own works. (also see faith alone and dogma links)
What we are preaching here is the Gospel that comes straight from God's holy word, one that we could have never imagined on our own. It is a Gospel that came as a great shock to me personally--thus "Gospel Shockers." A Gospel that tells us we are saved by the One who did all the work, we are saved by Christ alone and our own works do not in anyway merit or help merit our salvation. It is a Gospel that gives all the credit for our salvation to the only One who can properly receive that credit--Christ and to him alone. All the credit for our salvation is his. None of it is ours.
As Christ plainly responded to the Jews who questioned him, asking: "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." (John 6:28-29)
He also told us how we are to view all our good works:
..When you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, "We are unprofitable servants, we have done what was our duty to do." (Luke 17:10)
We don't get to heaven on "credits" or "merits" we get to heaven because Christ chose us and gave us the gift of faith--to believe in him as God in the flesh and as our Lord and Savior. We get to heaven because he died in our place on the cross. We put all our trust in him and none in ourselves. If we put any trust in ourselves, we will rightly spend our whole lives worried to death that we may not go to heaven when we die. There are those who build great religious "systems" around just such worthless worries. And you know exactly who I'm writing about.
But, for the sake of argument, let's say our works do count toward heaven. Even if that were true, which of us--even those with great works--could ever bring ourselves to say: "Yes, we deserve heaven?" That's why its such a great relief to learn from the Bible that our certainty that we will be with Christ in heaven is in no way based upon anything we have done nor anything we will do. Instead it is based fully upon Christ, the work he has done and the promises he has given us. Such as:
He who believes in me has everlasting life. (John 6:47) and
I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Fatherís hand. I and the Father are one. (John 10:28-30)
We rely soley on Christ's righteousness ("right standing" before God) and not our own to enter the gates of heaven. "And their righteousness is from me, says the Lord." (Isaiah 54:7) ..and being found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Philippians 3:9)
Therefore, since we are justified ("made right" before God) by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)
All of this is Christ's work--not ours. He chooses those who believe, he gives them the gift of faith to justify them, Christ and Christ alone imputes or credits his righteousness before God to them. And the righteousness that he imputes to us is his own--not ours. He promises those who believe in him that we will never perish--our souls will never die and he promises us that no one can snatch us from his mighty hands. No one--not even ourselves! (John 10:28-30) He promises us that he will come again in glory to gather us to himself. What is left for us? We come to him with empty hands and even those hands he has given us. "What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?" (1 Corinthians 4:7)
Perhaps some will find in this Gospel a reason not to work. Perhaps
others will use it as a license to sin. But the fact of the matter
is (based on God's holy word--the Bible) that for all who truly believe in Christ as God in the flesh and as
their Lord and Savior, it is no reason not to work nor a license to sin.
No, as St. Paul indicates, Christians, though admitted sinners, are not ones who go around looking for sin and looking to live in sin. Though we do indeed sin, we seek to reject it and ask the Holy Spirit to more and more remove it from our lives.
"If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 8-9)
And so the gift of faith he has given us is not a license to sin, it is instead, the reason we seek forgiveness from him and a reason also for great rejoicing to the One who has defeated sin--the one who has already won the battle for us. The One who has conquered sin and death on our behalf. It is instead, a reason to use the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given us to do all good works that will glorify the One who has saved us, the one who has--for no apparent reason--poured his loved out on us and given us eternal life with him. It is instead, reason to fight the sin in our lives in gratitude to the One who has overcome all sin on our behalf. "...because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." (Hebrews 10:14)
And to think that he gives us even more than eternal life. Yes, for he tells us that there will be reward in heaven for the good that we do. This is where many get confused. They think the reward is heaven but no, Christ tells us "...your reward will be great in heaven." (Matthew 5:11)
In the meantime, Christ plainly warned us that those who believe in him will face persecution--and it could get rather hairy. "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted and shall kill you; and you shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake." (Matthew 24: 9)
Indeed he warned us that there may be great unrest at times in our lives if we truly believe in him and what he has done for us.
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law--a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'" (Matthew 10:34-36)
Yet throughout all this we will have an inner peace that only he can give.
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do no be afraid." (John 14:27)
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
And so we prepare for some persecution and whatever we suffer--be it in the workplace on a daily basis, or an end time martyrdom--we suffer and rejoice in anticipation of the second coming of him who has saved us. We have been told and we believe in the coming of a divine little child, we have been told and we believe he will come again as THE KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS--and He shall reign forever and ever! Amen!
We trust in him to give us the gifts he wishes to give us, to give us the works he wishes to give us and to give us the strength to do them. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)
And do these works then save us or in any way add to our salvation? No! While they will be rewarded in heaven, it is Christ and Christ alone who has saved us giving us a sure sign of that salvation, namely the gift of faith to believe he is truly who he said he is--God in the flesh, our very Lord and Savior!
"For by grace you are saved through faith and this is not from you, it is the gift of God, It is not from works, so no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
"In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will." (Ephesians 1:11) (This is a good verse to point out to all those who speak of the false gospel of the "free-will." There is no free-will in the true Gospel only those who are grateful and thankful that God's will prevails to secure the salvation of all he has chosen to believe on him!)
"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1: 13-14)
And the really ironic thing is that when he comes to separate the goats from the sheep, and give to his sheep their inheritance, his sheep will have pretty much forgotten any good work they ever did--because for them it was not about their good works but about glorifying the one who had saved them! "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?" (Matthew 25:37)
And finally, let me ask you. How many good works did the thief on the cross next to Jesus do? And yet that very day, he was with the Savior in paradise. (Luke 23:42-43) Let us seek first his kingdom and his righteousness... (Matthew 6:33). Let us love one another as he first loved us. (John 15:12)