Salvation by Grace: Doing Good Deeds

There’s a humorous story that reminds me that we don’t always accomplish good even though we are doing it for the right reasons. Sometimes the results come out wrong.

A minister was walking down a row of old Victorian houses on a dark and gloomy day when he noticed a young boy on the front porch of one of the houses. The boy was jumping up and down, straining to reach the old-fashioned door bell high up on the door. No matter how hard the boy tried, he fell short a smidgen or two.

Thinking it the perfect day for a kind deed to brighten someone’s life, the minister stepped up to the door and lifted the boy high enough to reach the bell. The kid turned the knob and rang the bell vigorously. “And now what, young man?” inquired the minister.

“Put me down,” yelled the boy, “And run like crazy!”

Too often, people believe that doing enough good works will get them into heaven. They think that the good deeds in their life must outnumber the bad and then God will consider them worthy to enter into everlasting life.

Such is never the case. The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians that “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Paul is saying that our salvation is a gift from God; that we do nothing to earn it or to deserve it. True, we have to have faith, but even that is a gift from God.

No other religion can make this claim: that solely because God loves us, He gives us salvation.

And if our salvation is a gift from God, and we do nothing to earn it, then it has nothing to do with the quality or quantity of the good works we do. There is no scale that measures our good against our bad to determine whether we measure up. God makes that determination, and only God. And He wants all of us to repent and be saved. He wants none to be lost.

If that is God’s desire (and Scripture tells us it is), then why are not all people saved? God could easily make that happen, so why hasn’t He? Because in His sovereignty He has chosen to give mankind free will—the right to choose whether we want to follow Jesus or not.

This is a decision each person must make for him– (or her-) self. No parent or loved one can make it for us. They can parent us in the ways of the Lord, but there is no guarantee until we make the decision ourselves that we want to follow Jesus.

As we read in Ephesians 2:8-9, good deeds do not save. But once saved, we are called to do good deeds. The very next verse in the Ephesians passage makes this clear: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God created in advance for us to do.”

Let’s look back at our opening story. Sometimes our good deeds do not accomplish what we intend them to do. Sometimes the ending goes awry. Does God hold that against us? Even though our motive is pure, have we committed a bad deed?

The good news is this: God does not look at what’s on the outside, as mere mortals do. God looks right through all the external junk and sees directly into the heart. He reads the condition of our heart and immediately knows our motivation even better than we do. It pleases Him that our intent is to do good simply because we want to please Him.

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