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  • Writer's pictureJack Selcher

The False Gospel of Good Works

Ford pickup pulling a boat and trailer

I had no peace. I believed Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I also believed I must live my life up to a certain standard for God to accept me into heaven. I wasn’t confident my good works were good enough. Do you have the same struggle? Finally, I found the peace the Bible promises (Luke 1:79, John 14:27, John 16:33, Acts 10:36, Romans 5:1). Let me share how you can find it too.

Peace comes by putting good works in their proper place. I fish. Let me use my car, a trailer hitch, and a boat trailer to illustrate how good works fit into the big picture of salvation.

My car’s engine illustrates God’s saving grace (Ephesians 2:8–9). I need its power. My boat and trailer are far too heavy to muscle to my fishing spot. My good deeds, no matter how great or how many, aren’t nearly powerful enough to get me into heaven. To be good enough they must measure up to Jesus’ sinless life. No chance (Romans 3:23)!

Salvation isn’t based on my faith plus my good works. That would be like someone driving me and my trailer halfway to my fishing spot. The driver stops and unhooks the trailer from the car, making me muscle it the rest of the way.

I can’t do it. It is far too heavy. Nevertheless, most religions in the world attempt to earn God’s favor through good works. I walked that road for a mile or two. Peace remained elusive. But there is a proper place for good works in my life.

The false gospel of good works can’t justify me before a holy and righteous God (Galatians 2:16). That’s not their place. Trying to earn God’s favor that way gets me nowhere, brings no peace, frustrates me, and burns me out.

My car’s trailer hitch illustrates repentance and living faith. Repentance is turning from living for myself to living for God. Living faith is acting on God’s grace, character, and promises.

That’s part of what Jesus means when He tells me to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15). When grace, repentance, and living faith flow in my life, love-motivated and obedience-driven good works should inevitably trail behind (James 2:17–26) as my trailer follows my car. I said should.

It's not automatic. I must moment by moment decide to be a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) and a good steward of God’s resources (1 Corinthians 4:2). I must choose to live for Him who died for me (2 Corinthians 5:15).

I trust in the Holy Spirit to empower me for those good deeds. I do them because I love Jesus, I am beyond grateful for His finished work of salvation through His death, burial, and resurrection, and I want to please Him. My good works don’t add any merit to my salvation.

I can’t earn God’s favor through good works. Being saved by them would lead to boasting (Ephesians 2:9) and taking credit for what only God's grace can accomplish (Philippians 2:13).

Let’s sum it up. God’s grace is the engine. Repentance and living faith transfer the engine’s power. Love and good deeds follow like my trailer follows my car.

True repentance and living faith always produce fruit (Luke 3:8). Peace is part of that fruit (Galatians 5:22). I have nothing to boast about. Jesus’ salvation is a finished work (John 19:30). Believing that has brought me abiding peace.

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Photo: F-150 with Diamond Plate Bed Cover Pulls Boat Trailer | Flickr

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