Nothing I Can Do


Have you ever said that? “When it comes to God and His approval, there’s nothing I can do.” This is one of those statements that probably comes from a place of truth, but as we grow in maturity in our walk with Jesus we need to question things we’ve heard. Is the idea that there is nothing we can do to receive God’s approval Biblical?

“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive His approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)

“So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away.” (2 Peter 1:10)

“What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? (…) So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.” (James 2:14, 17)

It seems those earlier followers of Jesus, the early Christians, believed that it was necessary to put in the work to not only prove that you are a follower of Jesus, but keep your faith alive and to present yourself to God and receive His approval. This attitude that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s approval hopefully comes from the truth that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s love and our own salvation.

“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.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

“He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5)

“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

This is so very important to understand: you cannot earn your salvation, you cannot pay for your own sins. However, once we accept this free payment and gift, we need to prove that we have turned from our sinful ways. There is work to do—even Jesus said we need to prove that we have repented of our sins.

“‘Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.’” (Matthew 3:8)

It is only through Jesus that we are saved and not through anything we do. What is harmful is pushing this idea that there is nothing we can do after we have accepted the gift of salvation. Salvation is a free gift from God not based on our works, but once we accept the gift and become what Paul called a slave of Jesus, then we better be working hard to prove our faith, to stay on the narrow path and to present ourselves to God to receive His approval. If you’ve accepted Jesus’ payment for your sins, then the real work begins. Turn from your wicked ways and prove you have by choosing Jesus and His Way every day.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.