Are you trying to earn what you can only receive?

Sara Alexander

Most of our lives we’ve been told that nothing in life is free. Everything costs us something. A date to the movies and dinner can set us back $100, easy. An unplanned trip to the ER can cost thousands. A broken relationship can add up with years filled with anxiety and depression. So it’s hard to wrap our minds around something that is actually free. We are always looking for the bottom line or asking, “What’s the catch?” 

Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” For those of us who have asked Jesus into our lives and accepted His gift of forgiveness from sin, there is no catch. Salvation is a free gift from Jesus. So why do we still struggle to find peace in our lives? 

Often, if we’re struggling to find peace it’s because we’re still trying to pay for our sins. Think that’s not you? See if any of these apply. 

3 Common Ways We Try to Earn Salvation:

1. Working our way into heaven

You’ve met the type. Stressed out Christians who are involved in every ministry and every Bible study. They never say no to ministry opportunities, and fill their schedules with good deeds. The result is a life that feels overworked and under-rewarded. 

Jesus said His burden is easy and His yoke is light (Matthew 11:30). Serving in church is an important part of following Jesus, but what is the motivation behind our volunteering? Do we serve because we love Jesus and we love His Church? Or, do we believe that all the good things we do will cancel out any sin in our lives so God will be happier with us? The idea of earning our salvation totally goes against the reality that salvation can not be earned by our good deeds — it is a gift. 

2. Trying to pay down our debt with a check

There isn’t enough money in the world to pay down the debt our sin has caused. For many people, the first response to a problem that seems overwhelming or messy is to throw money at it. Hurt someone’s feelings and don’t know what to say? Buy flowers. Too busy to invest your time? Give money instead. 

Writing a check is easy, but God doesn’t want our money. He’s after our hearts. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “man looks at the outward appearance, but The Lord looks at the heart.” We can’t buy our way into heaven; it’s only by believing in Jesus that we find salvation. 

3. Beating ourselves up over past sins 

Unlike Agent K in the movie Men in Black, we do not have the luxury of erasing memories of the past. Instead, we are haunted, sometimes daily, of mistakes we’ve made that hurt others and brought pain into our lives. 

Psalm 103 tells us that God is not obsessed with our past. Not only does He forgive our sins when we ask Him, God removes them from us “as far as the east is from the west.” He no longer views us in light of our sin, so it’s time for us to see like He sees and stop being so hard on ourselves. 

If we are ready to stop trying to earn our salvation and start receiving God’s grace, here are three simple steps we can take: 

  • Spend time reading the Bible every day. The more we spend time reading the Bible, the more our hearts and minds begin to understand who Jesus is and what His death and life mean to us. We can learn how to see ourselves as Jesus sees us  — forgiven and loved. 
  • Take a gut check. Anytime we write a tithe check, drop cash in the offering bag or volunteer in a ministry, it’s important to understand why we are doing it. Make sure it’s for the right reasons. 
  • Share your story. Tell your friends and family about how God has changed your life.  Our hearts are filled with gratitude instead of guilt when we stay focused on Jesus and not ourselves. 

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