If you're wondering if you need to earn the love of God and work your way toward righteousness, take a moment and these these words of a 15 year old in our congregation.
Two months ago, I was listening to a message from Colton, a youth leader, during youth group. The message explained motives for choosing to do good works and how our motives might not be what we think. It included a story about a man who felt worn out and drained performing good works, serving, and helping those he loved. The reason he was doing these deeds turned out to not be just out of love, like he thought, but also out of unhealthy pressure. Examples of what this pressure is from could be fear, guilt, etc. After I heard this, I wanted to ensure that I wasn’t doing good works for the wrong reasons. I wanted to make sure I was doing them with the right heart, so I prayed with one of the youth leaders.
Later that month, my thoughts went to Colton’s message again while I was taking notes for a bible study assignment in Romans. I reminded myself to look into what the bible says about motives. I wanted to figure out if there were changes that I needed to make because I noticed I have been feeling similar to how the man felt in the story. But when I looked back down to continue my notes, the answer was right in front of my face in the note that I had just previously written. The note read, “The law where people had to do good deeds to be righteous.” This is a note on how, before Jesus, people could not be made righteous through Him and had to obey the law to feel justified. Then remembering a couple verses in Hebrews that I read before, I went and found them. The verses said that no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands, but by placing our faith in Jesus (Hebrews 3:20-22).
Once I realized what God was showing me, I felt overwhelmed with emotion. I was shocked at how and what He was telling me, and I was ecstatic that He was answering my prayers. I thought about how for a while I have been feeling pressure when doing daily responsibilities. I often feel like I have to be productive and I have to do the right thing, and then I felt a bit guilty for not wanting to at times. In addition, I later realized that the pressure also rooted in being afraid of making mistakes and sinning. So I have prayed for peace ever since and now I see God answering.
The reason I felt this pressure was not because I was telling myself I wouldn’t be righteous if I didn’t do the good works, I just never realized before what the truth was. Although I am still learning, reminding myself this renewing truth whenever I need to, alters my perspective and instantly helps me feel better. It prompts me to remember that there is no guilt, shame, expectation, pressure, or worry because God, in His powerful, consummate grace and love, truly does see me as righteous through Jesus Christ.
I can now carry out good works simply because I want to obey God and I want the benefits that come from them, seeing clearly that I don’t have to put what was unhealthy pressure on myself. As I continue trying to embrace the truth, I feel like I am forever free. I sense that this truth is something that I can use for the rest of my life, and I am deeply grateful for that.