"So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord...... who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." (2 Timothy 1:8-10, NIV)I think that one of the greatest spiritual misunderstandings is placing too much emphasis on what we do. So many people, so many religions feel that they must somehow "earn" God's favor. And they look at the world and view the "condemned" vs. the "saved" based on some guideline of performance. And this reasoning works both ways. "I have done such & such...and that guy down the street has committed such & such a sin, therefore we are not acceptable to God." Or it could be, "I have done this good thing and that guy down the street is really nice and helps in that such & such a way, therefore we are good and God will save us." But neither way is accurate.
When it comes to our spiritual standing with God, what we do is not the issue, rather it is who we are. We are not unacceptable to God because of the specific sins we commit; we are unacceptable to God because we are born sinners. I have inherited my filthiness in the same way that I inherited fingers & a liver. It is programed into my genetic makeup and has been passed down since Adam. It is part of being human in this fallen world. Therefore I am not any more acceptable to God than Adolf Hitler. Our sin is spiritually equal because it is not about performance. It is who I am (clothed in my sinful nature) and not what I do (specific sins) that condemn me.
Since our condemnation is not based on our performance, neither then is our salvation. Since I cannot separate myself from my sinful nature there is no way for me to "perform" or "work" my way into being acceptable to God. Since I am incapable of earning it, my salvation is dependent entirely on God's grace (undeserved favor) and Christ's finished work. I can perform my socks off, feeding entire starving countries, never telling a lie, always sacrificing my comforts for others...etc, etc. (anything you can think of that is good) and it is all useless because I still am grody to God because I have failed to rid myself of the inherited sin. "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6, NIV) or as Chuck Missler translates it "are like used menstrual pads." to God. (How do you like that imagery?)
The only way to rid ourselves (spiritually speaking) of the condemnation that proceeds from our sinfulness is to accept that Jesus took our deserved condemnation upon His (undeserving) self and let his perfection replace our sinful nature in God's eyes. We are only acceptable to Him because/if we are covered in Christ. It is because of "who we are" (Christ's) and not because of anything we did.
There are many applications that could proceed from this line of thought. Some people out there may still be trying to "earn" salvation and need to accept what Christ has done on their behalf. Some of you may be saved but still feel as though there is something you must "do" in order to deserve it. (Sorry, none of us could ever possibly "deserve" God's favor.) Some may not see clearly their sinfulness and believe that they are "good enough" for heaven. Or perhaps there is a thought somewhere in your mind that your sin is "better" than someone else's sin. Some sinful acts may carry greater earthly consequences but spiritually there is no sin that is "cleaner" than any other. Your sin nature which caused your "white lie" is just as damning as someone else's sin nature that caused them to murder.
I have struggled with several of these at one time or another in my life and am learning more every day what it means to be saved by grace, "through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9, NKJV) I thank God every day that He saw our helpless filthy state and loved us enough to make a way for us to be with Him anyway. And I pray that I continue to learn that my works are meaningless if they are not His works by the Spirit.
"if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:13-17, NKJV)
Praise God that it is "who I am" that matters
and that I am a child of God!
and that I am a child of God!