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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Can We Really Know?

Although there are many religions in the world, with a great number of differences between them, there is one point at which almost all of them agree: They all claim that man must earn his salvation by good works of some kind — whether this is by performing deeds of charity, observing rituals or cultivating certain attitudes and thoughts. As a result, followers of these beliefs can never be confident that they have done enough to please their god or gods. They can only say, “I think so”, or “I hope so”.

Arrogant Christians?

The believer in Christ, however, does not say “I think” or “I hope”. He is able to say “I know”. Those who follow other beliefs are often taken aback, and offended, by this confidence. How could anyone be so arrogant as to be sure that they have pleased God? But the Christian is someone who has realized that there is a difference between God’s plan of salvation and the way humanity tries to make for itself.

The Cosmic Scale

Most religions say that man’s good works can cancel out or outweigh his bad ones, thus earning God’s favor. But the Bible says that before God “all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags ...” (Is. 64:6) Our sins are far too serious to be cancelled out by our attempts to do good — “will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (Micah 6:7). And, as Elihu pointed out to Job, our human efforts to do good have no real meaning beyond this world: “If you are righteous, what do you give to [God], or what does He receive from your hand? Your ... righteousness [affects] only the sons of men” (Job 35:7,8).

Knowing this, it would be foolish for the Christian to pretend that he had earned God’s favor by good works. The Bible assures us that salvation comes from God alone, not from man (Is. 26:18). It is His free gift, not something we can earn (Eph. 2:8,9). As lost sinners we are all completely unworthy of salvation, but Christ chose to die for us to save us from God’s wrath against sin (Romans 5:6-9).

We’re Not Worthy

It is exactly because the Christian is not worthy to go to heaven that he can be so sure he is going there. His salvation does not depend on himself. It depends on the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and so he can speak with the same confidence as the apostle Paul: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim. 4:18).

RJA

Republished by permission of the author

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