Salvation from Works
As an upperclassman in college, I stand on the threshold of adult life. My time under my parents’ roof is quickly coming to an end and my leap into the world is imminent. Amongst all the changes I am facing, it seems as though one simple yet daunting question is always looming before me: “What am I going to do with my life?” This question has weighed heavily upon me as I consider how I’ll spend my numbered days on earth, and I may have been crushed by the pressure or frozen out of fear if I had not encountered a very old doctrine in a very new way:
Christians are justified by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
The idea on which I want to focus is justification, for in it rests the salience and sweetness of Christian salvation, and it affects everything about the Christian life. To be justified in the biblical sense means that God has declared a person righteous apart from his or her own efforts, and the perfect works of Christ are credited to a person in exchange for his or her own works. In simpler terms, this means that God considers believers as if they had lived the very life Jesus did and, accordingly, He treats believers as if they deserve all that Jesus earned. This belief has massive implications for that big question, “What am I going to do with my life?”
I Can Live in Freedom
I am set free from the enslaving plight to prove myself before God and others. Because I am given Christ’s record, I do not need to justify my existence or earn my acceptance through my performance in life.
I Can Live with Gratitude
I am accepted on the basis of Christ’s perfect deeds and, therefore, my good deeds are no longer motivated by fear of punishment but rather from the grateful desire to glorify and reflect my savior.
I Can Live with Joy
I am going to be celebrated, rewarded, and honored on the day of judgment because I have been given Christ’s life performance as my own. Christ’s life was not simply morally neutral; it was infinitely praiseworthy, honorable, and glorious, and this very “righteousness of God” which becomes mine when I believe in faith that He has offered it to me (2 Corinthians 5:21). That is cause for immense joy!
Coming to understand the gift of justification has changed everything for me. It is grace—far more than I could ever hope to deserve or repay—and yet it is mine in Christ Jesus, and in it I have found freedom from my works. So what am I going to do with my life? Everyone still has to answer this question in their own way and it is still very important, but I would like to suggest that perhaps it is more profitable to first ask, “What has Christ already done?” Only looking back at the life of Christ and trusting that it is mine by grace through faith gives me the ability to look forward to my own life and to live it accordingly.
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Steven Ruane is a pastoral intern at Grace. He is a junior at Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) studying for majors in psychology and comparative religion. He is a lifelong attender of Grace and is excited to serve in the Pastoral Internship Program, hoping to gain a fuller understanding of the Lord’s leading in his life as it is expressed through his desires, gifts, and experiences as an intern.