I grew up in the church. My father was a pastor and I was the dutiful first child, so I was at church every time the door opened. That meant Sunday School, Sunday morning church service, Training Union (helping church members grow in their faith), Sunday evening church service, and Wednesday Bible study. Then there was youth group, Vacation Bible School, summer camps, Women’s Missionary Union, and so on. Throughout the years, I’ve continued this pattern. If I count just the Sundays, that’s close to 4,000 days I’ve been in church.
That should get me into heaven, right? Wrong!
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)
What counts is that when I was five, I asked Jesus into my heart and became His child. While I’m sure that God is pleased that I’ve wanted to be in His house and with His people all these years, when it comes to my salvation, all my good works (like my faithful attendance at church) are like “filthy rags” in His sight. (See Isaiah 64:6 CEV)
Contrast my story with that of my husband’s brother, David. He also grew up in the church, but left in his teens and was adamant about having nothing to do with the Lord. Even near the end of his life, when my husband tried to talk to him about salvation, David would turn up the television louder to drown out my husband’s voice. But God arranged it so that just a few weeks before he died, he was put in a hospital room with a pastor. We soon received a jubilant phone call that David had asked Jesus into his heart. There was no time for good works, just an assurance that my husband would see his brother in heaven. Jesus verified this on the cross when He told the repentant thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” In Jesus’ parable of the labourers in the vineyard, the man who worked all day was paid the same as the one who worked for only an hour.
Does that mean we shouldn’t do good works? Of course not. As children of God, we should want to serve Him by serving others. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15 ESV) Our good works are evidence of our love for Christ. “Faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2:26b ESV)
Praise God that He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins so that we can invite Him into our lives and live with Him forever. But let’s be sure to show our gratitude for this marvellous gift by serving Him in love and encouraging those around us to come to Christ also.
Prayer: Father, we praise You for the gift of Your Son and for His death and resurrection. We want to let our light shine before others so that they may see our good works and give glory to You. Amen.
Copyright © 2023, by Sharon Cook <firstname.lastname@example.org>, first published on the PresbyCan Daily Devotional presbycan.ca
Apache Junction, Arizona, USA
Used with the permission of PresbyCan and author.