Don’t My Good Works Count for Anything?
In the early sixties, a song came out by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers, entitled “The Last Kiss.” The song is about a couple out on a date who get into a car accident. The girl dies in her boyfriend’s arms. He mourns her death singing:
“Oh, where, oh where, can my baby be,
The Lord took her away from me,
She’s gone to heaven so I got to be good,
So I can see my baby when I leave this world.”
This song sums up the attitude of a lot of people. They think if they can live a good life, if the good works they do outweigh the bad, then they will have earned their way to heaven.
Unfortunately, the Bible does not allow anyone to earn his way to heaven. The Scriptures teach that good works have nothing to do with one entering into a right relationship with God. This relationship is nothing we can earn, because God has done everything for us.
“he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (Titus 3:5, NIV).
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9, NIV).
“And without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6, KJV).
“This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29, KJV).
If our eternal salvation was on the basis of works and we could earn it successfully, then God would be our debtor: He would owe us something (Romans 4:1–3). The Bible teaches that God owes no man anything, and our own righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
The simple reason is that God has a perfect standard, and all of us have sinned and come short of this mark (Romans 3:23). We like to compare ourselves to others, and thus we feel that we are not so bad after all. But God compares us to Jesus Christ, and next to Him we cannot help but fall far short, all of us without exception.
This can be illustrated by the following example. Out in Southern California, there is an island off the coast called Catalina, twenty-six miles from the pier atNewport Beach. Suppose that one day three men are standing on the end of the pier.
One is an alcoholic, grubby, sick, living in the streets. The second is the average American, and the third a fine, upstanding, pillar-of-the-community person.
All of a sudden, the alcoholic leaps off the edge of the pier five feet out into the water. The other two yell, “What are you trying to do?” The man in the water yells back, “I’m jumping to Catalina!”
The second man, the average man on the street, says, “Watch me. I can do better than that!” He proceeds to jump, landing ten feet out, twice as far as the alcoholic. The third man, very moral, upright, outstanding person that he is, laughs disdainfully at the two men in the water.
He moves back about fifty yards, takes a running leap and lands twenty feet out, twice as far as Mr. Average, and four times as far as Mr. Alcoholic.
The Coast Guard fishes them out of the water and asks what they are doing, to which they all reply, “We are jumping to Catalina,” and Mr. Average boasts of his beating Mr. Alcoholic, and Mr. Great boasts of his accomplishment in beating both of them.
The Coast Guard officer could only shake his head and exclaim, “You fools! You are all still twenty-six miles short of your mark.”
Although modern man considers himself better than — or at least as good as — others, he is still far from the target God has set for us. It is impossible for anyone to jump from the pier to Catalina, and it is impossible for anyone to reach heaven by his own deeds and apart from Jesus Christ. As Jesus Himself puts it, “ No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV).