For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:This is such a powerful verse about salvation. We can't do anything to earn salvation. We'll never be good enough. No works that we do will ever bring us any closer to heaven, we are all sinners deserving of eternal punishment. Thankfully God offers us a gift, the gift of grace. However, when someone gives us a gift, we have the choice to open it or leave it. In this case, we open God's gift through faith.
Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
What is faith? Faith is believing that God is, and that Jesus died and rose again. Belief is not works, it is part of our faith; it is how we accept God's gift to us - like opening a present. When we open the present, we aren't doing anything to earn it, we are merely accepting it. Faith is also confessing this belief out loud, for others to be a witness to. Baptism is an outward symbol of our choice to have faith in God, and accept His gift of grace and salvation.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Acts 8:36-37)
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36)
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. (James 2:17)So basically it all comes down to this: we are all sinners, we have all fallen short of God's perfect standard. We can never do enough good to outweigh the bad, because that isn't the way it works. God is perfect, and by His very nature, He cannot tolerate sin. This is His just side. However, God is also love and He loved us so much that He made a way for us to be forgiven - by His perfect Son, Jesus Christ's death. Jesus took our sins so we could live with God. It is a gift of grace that we can accept or reject.
We accept His gift through faith by believing on Jesus and confessing our belief. We are then so filled with gratitude by the wonderfulness of this gift that we show our appreciation by doing what is right. God's forgiveness frees us from the bonds of sin so we can live pure and holy lives filled with gratitude before Him.
Isn't that a beautiful picture?
Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: ... By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. (1 John 5: 1-6)-these thoughts were inspired by the lovely sermon I listened to today at my church.