“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
A problematic belief among Christians is that we are responsible for our own salvation. Many people believe that whether or not we go to heaven after we die depends on a score sheet of good deeds vs. bad deeds. Did we do enough good things to outweigh the bad things? Unfortunately, that’s a losing game. The understanding is flawed in several ways, but the most obvious is this: God is perfect and to be in his presence, we must also be perfect. That means that if you scorecard has even one sin on it, you’re disqualified.
As Paul says in this verse from Romans, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. There are no exceptions. None have lived a perfectly righteous life except for Jesus Christ, the son of God made flesh.
So then, how does anyone get to heaven?
The simple answer is faith.
If being a Christian was all about following rules, we would all fail. It wouldn’t even be worth it, because we would never be able to become perfect. We could never do enough good deeds to erase our sins. That’s why Jesus came. It was a losing game, but God wanted us to win. So he did what only he could do, he became a man and lived a perfect life so that he could be the sacrifice for our sins. You see, sin requires a punishment of death. It’s the law that God laid out from the beginning of time. The only way we could pay for our sin was to die. No one else could pay for our sins either because no one else was perfect. Everyone had to pay their own debt of death. That is, until Christ. Not only was he perfect, he was also fully God, and was able to pay the debt for all of us.
Paul says that we are all justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption of Jesus Christ. Our way to redemption and salvation is solely through faith in Jesus, not by any amount of good works. Through Christ, and through Christ alone, we become holy and perfect in the eyes of God. Through Christ, and through Christ alone, we may inherit eternal life in heaven.
Stop keeping score. Throw the scorecard away. Trust in Christ, that his sacrifice can cover even the most egregious of your sins. Put your past behind you and start new with the grace of Jesus, always turning from sin, always working toward righteousness, but with the full assurance that Jesus’ sacrifice has already saved you.
Help us not to keep score. Humble us with the understanding that we are sinners in need of saving, but always help us to remember that Jesus died for us, that we may have eternal life with you. Let us live by and be encouraged by that.
In Jesus’ Name,