If I were to say, "Good works and salvation are intertwined", would you initially draw the conclusion that I was promoting legalism? Without question, God has been teaching me, or I should say re-teaching me, the true meaning of the Gospel, which could be expressed this way:
"The Gospel never starts with what we need to do; it always begins with what God has already done; to get it backwards is to miss the Gospel." - Pastor Tullian
So, let's be clear. We are saved by God's grace. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. This is where Christianity differs from every other major religion. It is where I like to start a conversation when I am witnessing.
"Without faith it is impossible to please God." - Hebrews 11:6a
I was watching a show on Friday in which people who had been clinically dead, and were later revived, shared what they experienced when their hearts were no longer beating. One guy said that he went to a place in which there was a big hill with millions of people walking up and down a winding path to the top. At the top of the hill was a large figure, which he assumed to be Jesus by the physical similarities to images he had seen during his life. As he stood next to this figure, he was asked the question, "What have you done for others?" He said there was a year-by-year review of his life and when he was unable to remember what he had done, the wall next to him turned into a video of scenes from that moment in his life. He now believes he was brought back for one reason - to help others.
Clearly, I can't verify this guy's story. But what is your reaction to that? Does it bother you that he didn't just play the "I believe in Jesus card" and skate on through?
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ - Matthew 7: 21-23
God desires that we have a relationship with His Son and not merely use His name to make much of ourselves. We will stand in front of the Creator and Judge of the universe and give an account of our life. God is ultimately interested in your heart - for Him first and then for others. But the latter should naturally follow the former.
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” - Matthew 25
To be saved is to have a transformed heart, to be a new creation, to live a changed life. Sanctification is the process of being conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ. So it won't happen all at once...but it should be happening in some way, shape or form in a consistent manner. If you don't love others you can't say that you love God. If you do love God and have been saved by His grace then having a heart for others will be a natural part of your life. It may not always be easy because we remain sinners but you will be perpetually moved by the Holy Spirit to make sacrifices on the behalf of those God has placed in your path.
"It is of no value to God to give Him your life for death. He wants you to be a “living sacrifice”— to let Him have all your strengths that have been saved and sanctified through Jesus (Romans 12:1). This is what is acceptable to God." - Oswald Chambers