Getting Through Despair – A Case Against Works Based Theology

Recently a friend of mine told me he had an uncomfortable experience when another person asked him if he was saved. Knowing my friend is saved, I asked him why he felt uncomfortable. He said that he knows he’s not perfect and that he doesn’t feel like he’s good enough to be called a Christian. I myself have fallen into this thinking trap so I knew what to tell him to get him out of it. You see the devil is always trying to make us doubt our salvation. If he can make believers into doubters he can temporarily derail a perfectly good witness for Christ.

Many Christians believe they have made mistakes too grave for Christ to forgive and as a result they have fallen away or remained crouched in the fetal position when it comes to proclaiming what they believe. Works based theology says that we are Christians based on what we do. But the Bible never says our works are anything more than filthy rags in front of Christ’s sacrifice (Isaiah 54:6). His sacrifice and our belief in him is what makes us righteous. Belief is a gift from God. So you can see that salvation has nothing to do with our works but everything to do with the work the Holy Spirit is doing in us. Jesus says that his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV). If we had to amass our own salvation with works what would we need Christ for? The Bible says that we can do nothing apart from Christ (John 15:5). All our energy, righteousness, faith, love and hope begin and end in God – the Alpha and the Omega.

The early Christian church dealt with the heresy of works based theology. Paul said that those who teach works as a way to salvation are better off not to procreate because they are denying the power of salvation that came through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. They people that preached that people had to be circumcised in order to be saved in addition to believing in Christ were considered heretics by the Apostle Paul. He actually said they should emasculate themselves because their offense was so serious (Galatians 5). God wants us to live by grace and he will commit the fulfillment of the law with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Christ is the fulfillment of the law and we were meant to live by grace not by works. He came so that we would have joy to the full not a burden of keeping the law by our own striving (John 10:10). This type of works based salvation is very attractive to bible thumping hell fire and brimstone preachers because they believe it makes them superior to other believers and heathen.

Good works do have a place in a Christian’s life. They are a result of God’s grace. They are not burdensome or heavy. Good works are a byproduct of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit so that we don’t go around boasting about how great we are but so that we give God all the credit and glory for our salvation and everything that comes with it.

Despair comes from works based theology. It’s during the struggle that we experience despair because at some point we realize that nothing is good enough. We find our human condition in a state of despair. It robs us of our joy and shackles us in despondency. Despair is the opposite of what Christ has planned for us. He came that we might have joy and have it to the full. It causes depression. Depression is demonic oppression. The devil knows you can’t save anyone when you are depressed. No one wants what brand of religion you’re selling if it doesn’t even make you happy. It’s hard to even find a reason to wake up in the morning when you’re feeling despair.

Our nation is in a state of despair at this point. People are just trying to make it through the day and not necessarily preaching the gospel. If they knew the gospel they wouldn’t have to preach it their lives would be a living sermon. Now they are trying to bandage their wounded spirits with entertainment and consumerism. People are sluggish, tired, and fat because they are using maladaptive coping mechanisms (addictions) as idols to replace the joy that is missing in their lives from not knowing the gold that lies in the message of the gospel. The message is “Christ has risen and He has overcome the world!” We are overcomers; we have hope. We have a purpose. Our God has not abandoned us. Joy comes from knowing you are saved. It comes from knowing the gospel. Ultimately it comes from a rich a full life that is inspired by the Holy Spirit. If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ now, what are you waiting for? He’s the only way toward freedom from despair, despondency and the struggle.