I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? – Galatians 3:2 NIV
At church on Sunday, my world was rocked when my pastor mentioned that Jesus died to save us not only from the wrong things that we do but from the right things we do as well. My first thought was, “What?! Jesus didn’t die to save me from the things I do that are good! That doesn’t make any sense.” But the more he explained, the deeper I realized my need for Jesus was.
My pastor’s point was this: Jesus died to save us from our self-righteousness. The Holy Spirit’s presence in us convicts us not only of the wrong we’ve done, but He convicts us to repent of all the ways in which we’ve tried to become our own saviors.
Jesus is definitively the only way to God, and we all need him. No exceptions. Paul says himself, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” – Galatians 2:21 CSB
Righteousness doesn’t come through the law, and doing the right things for the wrong reason does not lead to salvation.
Sometimes, we slip into a mindset where we start to believe that if we can just do enough good or make enough right decisions, then maybe we don’t need Jesus as much as other people do. After all, I like to think of myself as a pretty good person. The truth is that good things without Jesus are just empty things.
Consider the Pharisees of Jesus’ time. They were following the law down to the letter. On the outside, they appeared to do everything “right.” The problem was that they were expecting their actions to be their salvation.
To this end, our self-righteousness can become our undoing. We fall into the trap of thinking salvation is ours if only we are good enough or do good enough. And sometimes (to a dangerous extent), we reflect this belief onto the people around us. We start expecting people to clean up their lives before they can follow Jesus or step foot in a church. But the truth is exactly the opposite. We come to Jesus first. We accept him first. He’s the one who makes us clean. He’s the one who does the saving. The Bible tells us “all have fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Salvation is not something we could ever do for ourselves.
Don’t miss the freedom in this! We don’t have to earn our salvation. The people around us don’t have to earn their salvation. The only thing we need to do is believe in Jesus. He does the rest. Our belief is what saves us, and the Holy Spirit works inside us to transform our lives. Jesus is the only right reason for doing anything!