Many people take pride in the achievements and awards they may have received for doing something outstanding. It’s a way for them to turn attention to themselves and validate what they’ve become. Sometimes it’s their way of saying "Look at me everyone. Look at what I’ve accomplished. I’m pretty special, am I not? I’ve done this all by myself."
Now there is nothing wrong with receiving recognition or an award for an accomplishment, provided we don’t toot our own horn. But if others would like to turn attention to what we’ve done, that’s okay. Perhaps the good we’ve done will inspire others to do the same.
Awards and accomplishments come at a cost. Awards generally aren’t just given away. A person usually has to do something to earn an award. In the military, for example, in order to receive the Medal of Honor, a soldier has to have risked his own life in a significant way for the sake of his fellow soldiers. He has to have demonstrated extraordinary bravery in a combat situation. A Medal of Honor certainly has to be earned by the soldier. The US government doesn’t just dish out Medals of Honor to any one.
Some people receive honorary doctorate degrees for their accomplishments. Universities bestow such a degree on those who have made a significant contribution in some area of life. In order to reward them for their endeavors, they are given the award in the form of an honorary degree. Universities don’t give honorary doctorates to just anyone.
I’m sure we’ve heard of the Nobel Prize. That prize or award is given to people who have made significant discoveries in their area of expertise. Again, such a prize isn’t given to just anyone. A recipient has to earn it.
However, it’s just the opposite when it comes to our salvation in Jesus. Our salvation isn’t earned by us. It’s a free gift given to us because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross. This is probably one of the most difficult teachings of Christianity to accept. We feel that we have to earn the reward of salvation.
As a matter of fact, many people believe that if they are good people, they will have saved themselves and will be allowed into heaven. For them, the prospect of heaven is just like anything else in life that has to be earned. But they are completely wrong according to the Bible. Jesus came into the world to die on our behalf because of His love for us. There was nothing we did which prompted Him to declare us righteous or good. He came into our world simply out of grace. The biggest lie in the world is that we deserve the gift of salvation because of all the good things we have done. It’s not true. But it’s hard to get this lie out of people’s heads. They insist that they play a part in their own salvation.
Our text says that we didn’t do anything to make things right between us and God. Jesus did all of the "making right." He reconciled us with the Father. The only reason we have received salvation is because of Jesus. It’s not an accomplishment that we can attribute to ourselves.
But people find it hard to throw themselves into the lap of Jesus. They’ve made it where they are in life all by themselves and figure they have never depended on anyone to get where they are. They certainly aren’t going to depend on Jesus for their own salvation. They aren’t going to depend on someone they can’t see. But all their hard efforts aren’t going to save them. It all does depend on Jesus, and we have to depend on Him for salvation because we can’t save ourselves. Jesus has to do all of the saving.
People are going to be disappointed when they realize that their efforts will not get them into heaven. It’s going to be a sad day for them. They refused to lean on Jesus. But this won’t be us, I hope. We believe in the merits of Jesus for our salvation, knowing that we have done nothing to contribute to our Lord’s saving us. He did it solely out of His love for us.
Now we can certainly respond to what He has done for us on the cross. That is something we can do. The proper response is obeying our Lord’s word, especially His commandments. It’s our way of showing our thankfulness for all that He has done for us and continues to do for us. But we must remember that God isn’t going to allow us into heaven because we have responded to His word. Only what Jesus has done for us will get us into heaven.
Earlier I said that often times people take pride in their awards and accomplishments. They give a person something to smile about and something to tell other people. I hope that Jesus’ gift of salvation does the same for us. Do we rejoice in what Jesus accomplished for us? Do we relish the fact that Jesus rose from the dead in victory, a victory that we will have a part in? I hope these things that Jesus did for us get us excited.
We get excited over the banal things of life. But Jesus’ victory is far grander. Our excitement and joy should far exceed the joy we derive from this life. Why? Because the joy and excitement that comes from Jesus’ gift of salvation to us is lasting. We experience a roller coaster ride in life when it comes to earthly happiness. It’s never constant. One day we’re on cloud nine. We’re so happy. The next day we get a piece of bad news and our happiness comes crashing down to the ground. A few days go by and perhaps we’re happy again. A few more days go by and our happiness has disappeared. This is a constant cycle in life. Circumstances constantly mess with our emotions.
Instead, why not seek joy and happiness from Jesus’ achievements, which He shares with us? That makes much more sense, doesn’t it? The joy and happiness we derive from Jesus’ accomplishments for us are not subject to earthly circumstances. The gift of salvation which Jesus has given to us doesn’t change based on what happens in life. Nothing can change what Jesus has done for us, namely, dying on the cross and rising from the dead. It makes much more sense to base our joy and happiness on historical facts that will never change. No one can erase or change what Jesus has done in history for us.
If we haven’t given Jesus all the credit for our salvation and haven’t relied on His good works but insist on earning our own way, now is the time to repent and turn to Jesus’ good works for our forgiveness. Instead of relying on our own accomplishments in terms of good works, let’s rely on Jesus’ merits.
We have entered the season of Lent which I hope will be a time for us to reflect on how we haven’t trusted solely in Jesus for our salvation and our ever present help in our times of need. Trusting in ourselves and other human beings leads us to nowhere.
I pray that we won’t put our trust in our own accomplishments and awards that we may have received for something we have done. These good works can’t allow us to buy our way into heaven. Jesus is the only way. Again, I pray that we will trust in Jesus’ accomplishments for us. He accomplished our salvation, and because He did, He is the only one we can trust for our salvation.
During this Lenten season may we focus on ridding ourselves of the temptation to think that we can earn our own salvation. When we think that we can accomplish our own salvation, we in essence reject what Jesus has done for us. We’re inferring that what Jesus did for us wasn’t enough. We have to complete what’s left. That’s not right. There is nothing left for us to complete when it comes to our salvation. Jesus did it all. May rejoice that Jesus did it all for us.