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Is Christianity just accepting and celebrating what Christ did for us? Is nothing expected of us in return?
The little tract said if you accepted Christ and His sacrifice into your life you were guaranteed eternal life. But is this correct? Is committed Christianity just accepting and celebrating what Christ did for us? Is nothing expected of us in return?
The Scriptures reveal that Jesus taught just the opposite and even pointed out that becoming a committed Christian would be difficult: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Later in the same chapter, Jesus again emphasises, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! ‘” (verses 21-23).
These scriptures explain that doing God’s will and obeying His law are prerequisites for entering the Kingdom and that the Christian journey involves much more than acceptance and celebration.
In Romans 7 Paul commented on the struggle he was having with sin: “...But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin” (verses 22-25).
It is clear that God expects us to put effort and self discipline into our Christian journey of overcoming, but there is one important caution we need to keep in mind. Struggling to live a Christ-like life does not earn us salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly explains, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God , not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
No amount of good works or effort on our part will ever earn us eternal life! The opportunity to live forever is a gift bestowed upon us by God through His great mercy.
The fact that eternal life is a gift, however, does not negate God’s expectations of us. As the passage in Ephesians 2 continues, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works , which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (verse 10). The struggles we have to do good fits into God’s purpose that we struggle against our human nature and the urge to retaliate when mistreated.
Building righteous character through resistance to sin is so precious in God’s sight that character is going to be the basis for our reward in God’s Kingdom. As Jesus explains in Revelation 22:12, “I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” Simply stated, eternal life is a gift, but we are rewarded according to our works, and God promises to help us build His righteous character. As Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Our human effort coupled with God’s help makes it possible for us to be positive examples to those around us. This is precisely what Jesus had in mind when He said that we are to be lights to this world (Matthew 5:14-16).
The Good News magazine