Section 6: Salvation — Part 1
Week 1: What Is Salvation?
Day 5: We Are Saved through Faith
We saw yesterday that salvation is ultimately a gift from God. Yet the Bible makes it clear faith in Christ is a requirement. Why is faith necessary? When we turn to Christ in faith aren’t we doing something? And didn’t we say there is nothing we could to do earn salvation? What gives?
Salvation isn’t something we can earn. It’s a gift we accept and we accept it by putting our trust in what Christ has done for us rather than our good works. Maybe you’ve heard of a certain way of catching monkeys. You take a jar and place food in it and you make the opening just large enough for the monkey to squeeze his open hand through it. When the monkey reaches in the jar and grabs hold of the food he finds he can’t remove his hand. To grab the food he had to ball his hand into a fist, which now no longer fits through the opening. He is trapped because he is too stubborn to let go of the food and free himself. Many of us are like that trapped monkey. We stubbornly hold on to our good works thinking they can save us. When we put our trust in Christ, though, we let go of any hope of earning salvation on our own and take hold of what he has earned for us. Wayne Grudem puts it this way:
“Faith is the one attitude of the heart that is the exact opposite of depending on ourselves. When we come to Christ in faith we essentially say, ‘I give up! I will not depend on myself or my own good works any longer. I know that I can never make myself righteous before God. Therefore Jesus, I trust you and depend on you completely to give me a righteous standing before God'”[i].
If you’re a Christian, you’ve probably heard that a thousand times (or more!). So why bother going over it again? Because we have a tendency to forget about it when it comes to our daily lives. Our faith in what Christ has done is the key to our righteous standing before God. Yet our sense of where we stand before God too often ebbs and flows based on our assessment on how we’re doing. If we mess up, then we feel like we no longer can come close to God.
That’s a problem. Not so much because it makes us feel bad, but because it undermines what Christ has done for us. When we focus on what we’ve done on any given day, we’re like those monkeys; we stubbornly refuse to let go of our good works. We hold on to them and think the strength of our relationship with God is determined by how many we have in our hand at the moment. Letting go brings us greater joy, but more importantly it brings God greater glory.
When we focus on our good works, the focus is on ourselves, not Christ where it should be. He’s done everything that needs to be done to restore our relationship with God. There is nothing we can do to make that relationship stronger. When we forget that, we diminish the gift he’s given us.
Read Heb. 4:14-16.
Do you ever feel like you can’t draw close to God? If so, why? According to the author of Hebrews, on what basis are we able to approach God? With what attitude are we supposed to approach God? What is the relationship between the two?
[i] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Doctrine, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House (1994), 730.