Our goodness does not bring us favor with God

By Larry Kreider

There’s a story told about a beggar who was walking down the road one day when the king approached. The beggar was awestruck, especially when the king invited him to ride along with him to the palace. As they entered the royal residence, the king said, “Today I have chosen you to live in my palace. I am going to give you new garments to wear and all of the food that you can eat. All of your needs will be met.”

The beggar thought for a moment. All that he had to do was to receive what the king promised him. This was too good to be true. He had done nothing to deserve this royal treatment. Of course, he accepted the wonderful offer. From that time on, the beggar lived by the king’s provision, but, “Just in case,” the beggar thought, “I should hang onto my old clothes if the king doesn’t really mean what he said. I don’t want to take any chances.” Therefore, the beggar hung onto his old rags.

Years later, the old beggar was dying, and the king came to his bedside. When the monarch glanced down and saw the rags still clutched in the beggar’s hand, both men began to weep. The beggar finally realized that he had never truly trusted the king. Rather than living like a royal prince, he had lived under a cruel deception.

Are We Guilty?

Sometimes we are guilty of doing the same. We give our lives to Jesus, but insist on hanging onto and trusting in our works and the good things we do, “just in case.” The Bible tells us that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

Paul chided the Galatian Christians because they had started out by faith in Christ, but were now trying, through religious dead works, to gain spirituality. “You foolish Galatians!…Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? …After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galatians 3:1-3).

If we place our faith in our human effort of witnessing, or Bible reading, or attending small group or church meetings, these good deeds become “dead works.” Involvement in the church, helping the poor, being a great husband or an obedient child—all these can be dead works if we are using them to try to gain favor with God.

The Lord does not receive us because of our good works. He receives us because of faith in Him and what He has done on the cross. We are righteous only by faith in Him. Let’s not get caught, at the end of our lives, clinging to our old rags because somehow we found it too hard to believe that the Lord desires to bless us and fill us with His life, even though we do not deserve it at all.

I have met people who say, “I’ll stop smoking, and then God will accept me.” God does not accept us because we have overcome a bad habit. He accepts us because His Son, Jesus Christ, died for our sins. When we receive Him, we become His sons and daughters. When we give our lives to Jesus, He will give us the power and grace to stop smoking or discontinue any other habit that does not bring glory to God. He accepts us as we are even as He gives us the grace and desire to become more like Him.

Start Today!

Our goodness does not bring us favor with God. We already have favor with God! God wants us to do good works, but we do them because we already have His favor, not to gain His favor. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

God has good plans for your life today. He wants you to reign in life through Jesus Christ. “Those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17b).

Kings reign over their kingdoms, and we can do the same. Rise up in faith and begin to reign in life through Jesus Christ and His righteousness. You don’t have to wait. You can start today!

About Larry Kreider

Larry has spent the past four decades training leaders to make disciples with the small group concept. Larry serves as the international director of DOVE International, a worldwide network of over 1,000 churches in 26 nations. Larry has written more than 40 books and travels extensively teaching and imparting practical discipleship to leaders globally. Read about Larry or catch up on Larry’s blog.