“How do you get to heaven?”, I asked the group of twelve confirmands that had gathered last night. I got the same answers from them that I used to get when I asked the same question in our new member classes. “You work hard to do good in the world” or “You follow the Christian morality” or “You be the best person you can be” were all offered as possible answers to the question. If you think the same way, you may be surprised to hear that you are in good company.
Our friend John Wesley, early in his life and career as a priest, believed the same way. Wesley had a huge fear of dying, and as a consequence, had a great fear of what can happen afterward. So for a time his theology was about doing all you can to make sure that you get saved from hell. Good works was the way he thought you could do that. Then he had an experience in a bible study that changed his life. He came to realize that salvation could not be earned but was gained only through faith in God’s gift of grace, Jesus.
And so our confirmands and I talked about Grace. And then we talked about the Cross.
And then we turned our conversation back to good works and why we do them. We decided that we do good works as a way to acknowledge God’s love for us and to then show that we love God too. Our works are a way of saying thank you to God for first loving us.
So, good works are important. Randy’s sermon yesterday focused on our transformation into something new because of the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s work within us does something to us – it strengthens us and prepares us to serve God and each other. Because Jesus served, so we will serve. Jesus came to the world and showed compassion. We are called to do the same. Not because we are trying to earn salvation, but because we already have it. Paul said we are saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. I don’t know a better way to say it. Give thanks to God today for his amazing gifts of grace.