Salvation comes through faith. Merit is not part of the equation, but works are. That’s because God defines faith as more than belief. Faith requires actions to be effective for salvation, but more than that. It requires zeal.
Jesus understood that concept better than anyone. So when he confronted the religious leaders of His day, He said:
“And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:10).
The problem with the religious leaders lies in their belief that pedigree trumps character. If I can have the righgt lineage then I am right with God. Of course, they based their beliefs on God’s promises to Abraham. They misunderstood the implications of the promises, but surely we can understand why they thought that way. From a certain perspective, a lineage from Abraham ensures blessings because God is faithful.
How easily we forget inconvenient facts! God always required faithfulness in order to receive the promises. God required works.
He still requires works.
We must not take that too far as some have taken it the other extreme saying God does not require us to do anything at all. We do not earn salvation. But God wants our hearts, and that inlcudes both our devotions and actions.
One More LARGE Step
Finding a list of “minimum activities” necessary to go to Heaven is offensive from a familial perspective. That’s not to suggest there are no minimum activities, but think about that relating to a spouse or the relationship between a parent and child.
Imagine going to premarital counseling and hearing this: “For you to have a happy marriage, you must to meet, decide that you are right for each other, dedicate yourselves to marriage, buy rings for each other, and then promise to live with each other until you die.”
Of course those are minimum requirements for marriage in our culture. But we all know that’s not enough to have a happy marriage.
Our relationship with God requires more than obeying the plan of salvation
Our relationship with God requires more than the “minimum” activities of faithfulness. Try asking your spouse what the minimum requirements are to make her/him happy. We would call that relationship “troubled”. Is that good enough?
When we stop looking for minimums, we will begin to grow in our faith, and our lives will change dramatically. When we combine our devotions with our actions we take large steps in faith. In fact, zeal begins to grow with faith.
That’s what a relationship with God looks like.