God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 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)
Our Christian faith is full of tensions, even paradoxes. Here is one such text which reminds us of the need for balance. We are put right with God by virtue of his freely offered kindness. Our merits don’t earn that right standing. So we can’t show off about how our being saved is a reward for good conduct.
Then again, our good works do matter. Not only are they evidence of genuine faith, they are also part of our destiny. God offered us rescue from our lostness not that we should flounder around, not that we should sit back and have an armchair ride to eternal life. He saved us to free us to do good works.
And those good works might differ from person to person. My good works may not be your good works. God plans different things for different people. But he does not plan some self-satisfied apathy which ignores the need to live a good life. Salvation may be a gift, but we not only have to take hold of it, we have to live as “saved” people.
It is so true that we don’t get to heaven just by doing good works. But we don’t get to heaven without doing them either.