God's Love & Salvation
Religion has the view/belief that we must somehow earn our salvation and earn the love of God. According to religion, we must live according to a strict law, and practice certain religious acts as a way to earn the favor of God, in hopes to get into heaven. There is a foundational issue with this, because it leaves no room for grace, and opens the door to pride. Religion does not have a firm foundation if it is works-based, because the reality of the human condition is this: nobody is good enough for God's perfect law, and therefore we all deserve death.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." Christianity recognizes the fact that nothing we can ever do can earn the love and forgiveness of God. We recognize that we are unworthy and unable to save ourselves, and that is why we need a savior.
The Bible addresses the religious with this, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). No amount of good works can erase our sin, nor compare to the holiness of God. It is only through Jesus that we are made clean, find forgiveness, and can bear genuine, good fruit.
A Fruit-Bearing Relationship
Religion revolves around self, and consequently is a prideful and selfish endeavor that is the opposite of a loving relationship that is found in Christ. It tries to work the way back to God but doesn't really know God. However, the good news is that Jesus' death not only covers our sins, but it restores the relationship between mankind and God, the way He originally designed and desires it to be. Since we now have a mediator, we can be in relationship again with our Creator.
It is so important to understand that our works are not what saves us, as is believed in religion. However, God still desires for us as believers to bear good fruit and do good works. James 2:14 begs the question, "What good is it my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?" Verse 26 later goes on to say, "As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead". The only difference is, we don't have to do it apart from God, but rather through God. Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do".
It is not wrong to do good things, but God knows the motive of our heart. If we are trying to earn His favor by our deeds, we earn nothing. We can do good deeds for His glory, knowing that our salvation is secured apart from them. God changes our attitude from "I have to do this out of obligation" to "I want to do this because I love God and people", making us naturally bear good fruit the closer we get to Him. He makes us new, and we begin to operate out of freedom, peace, and love, rather than guilt, shame, and obligation.
By: Lexia McDowell