So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.
Romans 3:28 NLT
My reading this weekend (Romans 1-8) was filled with verses about how we are not made right with God by keeping all the rules perfectly, but rather by continuing in faith and trust in Him who has done the complete work for us.
Romans 4:6-8 describes the joy we experience when we receive this right-standing with God, with forgiveness of all our sins without working for it. I can vouch for the reality of this joy from my experience! How depressing or draining it would be if we had to work to earn our right-standing with God, not knowing if and when we had done enough. There is no freedom or joy without confident hope and assurance. But those who believe and trust Jesus can experience freedom and confident hope (Romans 5:1-11, 8:15, 8:30-39, 15:13, 2 Corinthians 3:4-6, 3:12, 5:5-8, Ephesians 1:18, Colossians 1:22-23, Hebrews 10:35, 1 John 3:20-21).
Without doubt, we who believe and trust in Jesus will still be judged according to what we do (e.g., 2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 2:6-8, Matthew 25:31-46, James 1:22-2:26). But the good deeds we do are evidence of our faith, and the judging of believers will determine our level of reward in heaven, not whether we get there (e.g., 1 Corinthians 3:13-15). There is clearly a tight relationship between faith and works, so we cannot just pick and choose our verses and ignore our responsibilities as Christ followers, but there is joy when we realize which side of the equation good works is on (Titus 3:4-8, Romans 9:30-32, 10:3-13, 11:6). We are enabled to obey the law because of the Spirit's empowering (2 Corinthians 3:6, Romans 7:6)!
Gift + Faith + Works => Salvation
Gift + Faith => Salvation + WorksApplication
Enjoy the assurance that my salvation is based on my faith in Jesus Christ, not in how well I keep all the rules or how many good deeds I have done. And then in the freedom of this gift of salvation, express my faith in good deeds that show who I am in Christ (Matthew 7:17-20). Bear fruit not out of compulsion to attain salvation but rather as an outpouring of the Spirit living in me.
Lord, thank you so much for the freedom we have in You and for Your gracious plan of salvation. Help us not neglect genuine faith that is evidenced by good deeds and fruit. Thank you for reminding us to enjoy the right standing with You that is based on our faith, not fear of uncertainty whether our good works and abiding by the rules is enough to satisfy Your righteous holiness.