How Works ‘Saved My Soul’

by | Apr 27, 2016 | Church & Ministry

I grew up in a church that preached the Bible… and a little extra.

It started with the “Thou Shalt Nots.” Even though the Ten Commandments are pretty straightforward, we felt the need to add a few “clarifications” to help keep us on the straight and narrow.

For instance, “thou shalt not see R-rated movies” (even PG was suspect). As for music, “thou shalt not worship the Lord thy God with instruments other than piano or organ.”  And dancing? “Thou shalt not even think about it!” Yep, we put the “fun” in fundamentalism.

As much as I now laugh about some of these additional “Thou Shalt Nots,” other churches were even stricter. Some forbade watching TV; others called card playing a sin; and for others, ginger ale was off limits because it might appear to be champagne. I guess my home church was on the liberal side!

There were also the “Thou Shalts.” “Thou shalt be in church every time the doors are open.” “Thou shalt serve your time in the nursery or teaching Sunday school.” “Thou shalt help out with all church workdays.” “Thou shalt invite all your neighbors to church every Sunday.” “Thou shalt read your Bible every day—even the Old Testament.” Or else!

For years, I understood God’s words as a series of “Thou Shalt” commands, which, if kept, would obligate Jesus to accept me into heaven. Perhaps he might even like me.

The result was that all my good works were draining the life from my soul.

And then—almost like a gift from above—the truth of Ephesians 2:8-9 was revealed to me: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, 9 not of works, so that no one should boast.”

It was like the weight was lifted. All my works couldn’t make God love me any more that He already did. I was saved by grace. And just like that, the pressure was off. But then something else began to happen. I started to see good works as somewhat irrelevant.

So I gave up on them.

I thought, “If I’m not saved by works, what’s the point of striving?” Sure, I should be a decent person, but why stress out over keeping all the laws, obeying all the directives or following all the wisdom of the Bible?

Let’s be honest: haven’t we all thought, “If grace gets me into heaven, why sweat all the works?”

The consequence of thinking this way was that my lack of good works made the Bible seem irrelevant. For me, if it wasn’t a book of Thou Shalts, then it must be a bunch of “Never Minds.” If grace gets me off the hook, the commands in the Bible seem like mere guidelines or empty threats. I couldn’t make sense of how the grace of God fit together with the works of God.

The problem was that I had failed to look at the next verse of the Ephesians 2 passage: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, so that we should walk in them” (v. 10).

There it was. Good works were never intended to save us from God. Good works are an invitation to partner with God in a mission he planned for us long before we were born. We’re invited to join God in the grand work of advancing his Kingdom.

The Bible is filled with “When/Then” statements, inviting us all to join God in his great plan. When we remain in him, then he makes us look like Jesus. When we trust him, then he proves his trustworthiness. When we are generous with him, then he becomes even more generous with us.

For years, I lived with a works-based view of salvation: When I’ve done enough good works, then God will saves me. But that’s not how it works at all. Our good works can bring God’s blessing in our lives, but our salvation is purely by grace.

God’s grace has saved us—and it’s not a reward, it’s a gift. But this in no way diminishes the truth that God uses a When/Then approach to pour out his blessings and invite us into partnership with him in his efforts to redeem the world.

For years, I thought I was saved by good works for Jesus.

But now, I know I am saved by Jesus for good works.

And that has brought new life to my soul. {eoa}

Excerpted from Rusty George’s book, When You, Then God, copyrighted and published by Tyndale Momentum, 2016, and used with permission.

Rusty George is the lead pastor of Real Life Church in Valencia, California, one of the fastest growing churches in the U.S.


Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


Take the Fight to the Enemy, Before He Strikes at You

Take the Fight to the Enemy, Before He Strikes at You

Read Time: 3 Minutes 7 Seconds “When the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to seek out David; and when David heard of it, he went down to the stronghold,” (2 Sam. 5:17). When David heard that he was under...

Joyce Meyer: Becoming a Prisoner of Hope

Joyce Meyer: Becoming a Prisoner of Hope

Read Time: 3 Minutes 56 Seconds God is good. And He has a good plan for each of our lives. No matter what may be going on right now, God’s plan is unfolding. In the meantime, Romans 12:12 tells us to “be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer,”...

Have We Departed From the  Simplicity of Christ?

Have We Departed From the Simplicity of Christ?

Recently I heard a pastor say the following: "When I was pastoring and saw little fruit, I began to call those with potential to reach others for Christ to our home and to mentor them one on one. That's where massive growth happened in the people." Local pastors and...

WATCH: Vlad Savchuck: Life, Health and the Bible

WATCH: Vlad Savchuck: Life, Health and the Bible During a recent visit to @HungryGeneration, Pastor Vlad Savchuk asked Bill Wiese to comment on his personal experience applying the Word of God to his own life and health. These same principals hold true for all who read and...

Miraculous Divine Intervention Birthed by Thanksgiving and Praise

Miraculous Divine Intervention Birthed by Thanksgiving and Praise

Read Time: 4 Minutes 2 Seconds When I first became a believer in 1970, my mother was one of my first “converts," giving her heart to Jesus as soon as I shared with her the beauty, the power and the opportunity of making Jesus the Lord of her life. However, my father...

I’m Going Defcon G on the Enemy

I’m Going Defcon G on the Enemy

Read Time: 1 Minute 32 Seconds The last six years have been the best of times and the worst of times. I’ve seen more death, destruction, disease and devastation than I care to remember. I’ve also seen the hand of God move in extraordinary ways. Indeed, sometimes I...


Prophetic Vision: ‘Now is the Time of Your Healing’

Read Time: 3 Minutes 41 Seconds I was remembering a time when my husband and I were praying over friends who had been in a situation for many years that had caused deep trauma to their souls. As we...
Victimized By Gaslighting? 5 Steps to Finding Freedom

Victimized By Gaslighting? 5 Steps to Finding Freedom

Read Time: 2 minutes 26 seconds The term "gaslighting" has gone viral across social media this year and Merriam-Webster chose it as their word-of-the-year, saying searches for the word spiked 1,740% in 2022 alone. We're breaking down what the Bible has to say about...

5 Ways to Improve Your Emotional and Spiritual Health

5 Ways to Improve Your Emotional and Spiritual Health

Read Time: 4 Minutes 50 Seconds Do you believe the Lord is concerned about your emotional and spiritual health? He is. He wants you to know how to improve your emotional and spiritual health to be resilient in turbulent times. One of the most powerful things you can...

Prophetic Word: Goodness Is Following You, Turn and See

Prophetic Word: Goodness Is Following You, Turn and See

Read Time: 4 Minutes 48 Seconds At a recent gathering where a person was struggling, I heard and declared by the Spirit of the Lord, “Goodness is following you; turn and see. Embrace His goodness in this moment and watch the shift!” There was an immediate shift and...

Pin It on Pinterest