Read Ephesians 2:8-10
8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (NLT)
It is drilled into Christians that you don’t get to heaven by doing good works. You need to trust in the goodness of Jesus and not your own goodness. We can’t earn God’s favour by being jolly decent people.
All true, and well summed up by the first part of today’s text. But we dare not overlook the second part. We have been made by God to do good works. They matter. It is the consistent message of Scripture. The Israelites were delivered from Egypt by the loving grace of God. But once delivered they were given a way of life to follow. Jesus says that those who do his will are his real followers. Paul says our works form the basis of God’s assessment of us. James reminds us that faith without works is meaningless.
Good works are to be evidence of our faith; they are to spring from gratitude to God and from the indwelling presence of his Spirit who points us in a new direction. Good works that don’t arise out of a response to grace risk getting bogged down in pride, legalism or despair. We either pride ourselves on how good we are or despair at how bad we are.
Of course we can never give God perfect obedience, but we need to be intentional about obeying him rather than lazily relying on verbal statements of belief or some act of commitment made in the past. While it is true we won’t get to heaven by doing good works, we won’t get to heaven without doing them either.