God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT
For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
Romans 3:20 NLT'
So many times during the past eleven months I have needed those reminders.
My default setting is to try to earn God's love. I am naturally a rule follower. I love rules, really I do. I know not everyone is like that, but it is a part of me.
I can't remember ever going through "that rebellious stage" as a child or a teenager; I always wanted to please my parents and the very thought of them being disappointed in me was enough to make me not want to break the rules. I literally don't think I saw a PG-13 rated movie until after I was 13 just because it was the rule.
So naturally, in my relationship with God that's where I go. I want to please Him. I want Him to see how good I am and love me more for it. I think that He will see how good I am and love me more for it, that somehow if I just follow the rules a little more things will be easier.
But that is not how Jesus works. We don't have to work for our salvation or to earn His love. He just loves us because of who He is. He is love. The very definition.
I know that.
But during a year like this, it's pretty easy to forget. I'm trying to do a lot of good things, and while that is good and it is important, it's easy to do them for the wrong reasons.
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?
So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.
James 2:14-17 NLT
Doing things - like feeding hungry people and clothing people without any - is a very important part of faith. But it needs to be the other way around - because of God's great love for us we should want to love people. It's not by loving people well that we earn God's love.
And I need to remember that.