John 3:16 New King James Version (NKJV)
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but enjoy a life-giving relationship with Him. I love that it says, “whosoever believes” because it makes salvation open to anyone and your performance or inability to perform (in terms of living right) doesn’t exclude you. We are invited into the experience of a life-giving relationship with God, friendship with Him, because of faith. If we believe we can experience it! It doesn’t say, “whosoever follows the 10-Commandments… Who serves at church, reads their Bibles” or whatever. It doesn’t say that salvation is has anything to do with your good behaviour because it doesn’t! The Christian life is not about what you can do for God, it’s about what He has done for you. All you need to do is have faith in Him. The reason why this is so important is that so many people make salvation about your efforts to be right but they ignore the heart. Religion makes Christian (relating to God) all about your actions, whereas true Christianity makes approaching God about your faith – a heart issue. Most of religion, whether it’s religious Christianity or any other religion, is performance-based. It’s focused on what you need to do, haven’t done or need to stop doing. It’s not focused on Jesus but on self. True Bible Christianity is not about what you do it’s all about what He’s done and, whosoever believes in Him (in what Jesus has done for us) will not perish but have everlasting life.
John 6:29 New King James Version (NKJV)
Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
Jesus answers the question being asked of Him, “What shall we do that we might work the works of God?” Those asking Jesus this question were trapped in a performance-based mentality; they were more focused on actions than on heart and more interested in earning than receiving. So many Christians fall into this trap, too. They are more concerned with what they need to do for God than on what He has done for them. They wrongly believe that they need to do something for God in order to be received by Him or blessed by Him. We should relate to God based on His performance; what Jesus has done for us and not what we do for Him.
Jesus did not respond to these performance-driven people by saying, “If you want to do the work of God you need to fast and pray and read your Bible and go to church…” he doesn’t focus in on the action but on the heart. I know a lot of Christians who would have felt more comfortable with a “to-do-list” rather than a heart check, because if it’s about my actions then I can feel a sense of accomplishment and pride about what I’ve done. So much of what we say is important in our Christian faith really doesn’t bring any glory to Jesus. It’s all about bringing glory to ourselves. I’ve heard people say things like, “I’ve been fasting and praying… I’ve sacrificed and received a great anointing… God has given me a special blessing or Word because I fasted or sowed…” I remember sitting with a guy who was boasting in how blessed he was financially, all because he was a tither. I mean, all glory to him! This guy never mentioned Jesus or the cross once. If your focus is on what you have to do to obtain, then Well done! Aren’t you awesome! You’re the best thing since sliced bread, aren’t you? True salvation (relationship with God and being rescued from sin and it effects) is not something you can earn or ever deserve; it’s all glory to Jesus! All we do is put faith and trust in Him.
Jesus responds to these performance-focused questions by saying, “This is the work of God that you believe on Him.” All you need to do is believe in Jesus; the work of God is to have faith in Christ! It is that it’s not about your works or effort, it’s about what He’s done and not what you can do for Him. Far too much of Christianity is focused on needing to follow the law of Moses (the 10-Commandments) and do this and that. But the good news of the gospel is that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes.” (Romans chapter 10:4) If you believe in Jesus and what He did for you then you’re not under the law; you’re not being treated according to what you deserve but you’re being treated according to what He has done for you. That’s the good news of the gospel!