“It is finished!” (John 19.30). Those were Jesus’ last words from the cross before he died. This is what we mark on Good Friday: not simply that Jesus died, that his human life was finished, but that Jesus’ atoning work that brings us salvation was finished right at the point when he breathed his last.
Because of this reality, I remain constantly amazed at how many people feel the need to deny that the work of salvation was finished on the cross. How do they deny it? By subscribing to the notion that they need to do good works to gain their salvation.
If you did a random survey on the street and asked people how they could get to heaven, a lot of people – even churched people – would reply by saying that you have to be good. You have to do nice things for people.
Unfortunately, these folks have put the cart before the horse. It’s important to do good, yes, but not so we can appease God; we do nice things to please God. Do you see the difference?
When we do good works as a way to thank God for his gift of salvation, we honour God with our actions, doing good in gratitude for having been set free from sin. But when we do good works in an attempt to curry God’s favour, it’s like saying that Jesus’ death wasn’t quite good enough to satisfy God.
Sounds crazy, put in those terms, doesn’t it? But it’s true: when we perform good works as a means of paying God back for sin, we’re telling God that his plan to have Jesus die in our place was insufficient.
What could be insufficient about taking the one who had no sin and placing our sin on him as a final sacrifice? How could any good deed I do come close to comparing with that?
On this Good Friday, let the words, “It is finished!” echo through your mind, and spill from your lips. Remember that on this day, our salvation was fully accomplished for us, and there’s nothing we can do to add to it.
But we can live for him, daily.