One interesting phenomenon that I have run into as a teacher is students believing that they should be rewarded for doing normal things.
If I have a day where the weather is really bad and a lot of students are absent, the students who are there will immediately start asking if they get extra credit for showing up. I will have students ask if they get extra credit for turning a paper in early, or if they get extra credit for taking part in class discussions.
My response is generally the same. You do not get extra credit for showing up. Showing up is expected. You do not get extra credit for turning your assignment in or for taking part in class discussions. These are the things that you are expected to do because you are a student and part of the class.
I sometimes wonder if Christians fall into the same way of thinking. We are certain that God has, through the blood of Jesus Christ, forgiven us our sins, but we still have this idea that beyond that, our salvation is somehow dependent upon earning the favor of God.
Therefore, we sometimes live our Christian life as though the things we do are the justification of our salvation. We go to church every week. We avoid sexual immorality. We give to our church and other good causes. And like the student who shows up for class, we think we are doing something special.
It is as if we were to say to God, “Can I have some extra credit points because I have not killed anyone this week?” The question, of course, is how did not killing someone become extra credit? How does going to church become extra credit? How does giving to the church and to others constitute extra credit?
Our salvation comes only through Jesus Christ and His redemptive power. We know He has wiped away our sin and failure, but do we realize He has also made our positive actions irrelevant? Not that we shouldn’t strive to be good people, but we need to realize that the only thing Christ asks us to do in return for our salvation is to follow in His path and live for Him.
That is the obligation we have we are supposed to live for him! That means we do not go to church because it is above and beyond we go to church because He has called us to fellowship with one another. We do not give because it makes us look good in the eyes of God, but rather, we give because He has given us so much that we want to give as He has given. We do not live upright lives for the sake of looking good, but rather, so that we might in some small way, be the person Christ has called us to be.
Basically, it comes down to this. Think of all the positive you have done in your Christian life every good thing you have done for your friends, your church, your community and ask this question: Have I really done more than what God has called me to do? Or have I only done what God calls each person who calls themselves a Christian to do?
I think the answer for each of us is that we all have fallen short of the glory of God. We have all failed to be the people God has called us to be. So, let us not expect extra credit or take pride in our accomplishments, but rather, move forward each day striving to be the people Christ has called us to be, and continue to strive for that each day until the race is done and we enter into His heavenly kingdom.