A new survey shows that a majority of people who describe themselves as Christian believe a “works-oriented” way to God’s acceptance. Dr. Tracy Munsil, the Executive Director for the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, makes this sobering statement:
Unlike past generations of Americans, who readily recognized the reality of sin and the need for salvation through Jesus Christ, U.S. adults today adopt a “salvation-can-be-earned” perspective, with a near-majority (48%) believing that if a person is generally good, or does enough good things during their life, they will “earn” a place in Heaven.
This is a sad statistic. Let’s be clear that our only righteousness is found in Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9 validates this: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. This is not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man boast.”
The whole gospel focuses on the idea that all of us have sinned and fall short of God’s holy standards. This is why the Father sent Jesus the Son into the world. He is the Messiah, the Lamb of God, who is the perfect sacrifice. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might receive the righteousness of Christ.
This is why heaven is a free gift. It can’t be earned. No matter how many good works we do, this is not sufficient. Only the work from God’s Son is worthy of the Father’s acceptance.
Nevertheless, I often find the gospel has been stirred in the other direction too: “You can make Jesus your Savior but not your Lord.” In other words, repentance is not necessary for salvation. All one must do is “believe” in the gospel to be saved. It’s all about “faith.”
But whatever happened to repentance? James 2:14 makes it clear that faith is demonstrated by one’s actions. What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? The answer to this question is no. If your faith is not accompanied by godly sorrow, you are not saved.
The gospel still requires that we repent of our sins. The gospel still calls us to live holy and righteous lives. Without repentance, no man shall see the Lord. People will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, I did many works in your name and I will say to them, “I never knew you, depart from me, you workers of iniquity.”
I am surprised by this statistic because most people I interact with seem to think that faith alone in Christ alone is the gospel. Yet, faith is never alone. Faith is always accompanied by works. Let me say it this way. Works is not a means to salvation. Rather, salvation is a means to good works. When you are saved, when you are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, you will produce fruit. If you aren’t producing fruit, then your faith is not genuine. If it is not genuine, you are not saved. Carnal Christianity is an oxymoron.
Therefore, if you say you have faith, you better prove your faith by your works. Does that mean your works save you? Of course not, but if you are not living a holy life, then your faith is in vain. If your faith is in vain, then you need to be born again. And we need to be honest with people here. We don’t want to give them false assurance.