I listened to a sermon by Graham Cooke about God’s love when I was younger. He said these simple, and yet profound words: “There is nothing you can do to make [God] love you more. There is also nothing you can do that would make [God] love you less. He loves you because he loves you, because he loves you… because that is what he is like.” This is the truth about God’s love and yet many of us are trying to earn God’s love. If this is you, I encourage you to stop trying to earn it. You can’t. Here’s why.
Good works cannot earn God’s love
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV
Good works cannot save us, and not only that, they cannot earn us God’s love. God loves us not because of us but in spite of us. We were all lost and broken, and had no thought of God. We did what we thought was right in our own eyes. But, when we were not paying attention to God, he was paying attention to us. We didn’t pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and earn our salvation. Instead, God pulled us out of a pit, and gave us the gift of salvation.
We go wrong when we acknowledge that salvation is a free gift but then turn around and think that we need to work to sustain God’s love for us. The only reason why we know how to even do good works is because God enables us to. Our own righteousness is like filthy rags and unworthy to be presented before God.
Why aren’t good works enough?
Jesus tells us that there is no one good except God alone (Mark 10:18). We can’t even do good works except by the Holy Spirit. How can we attempt to use what God gives us to earn another gift from him? If everything is his, then what can we present to him that would be worthy enough to earn us his love? Nothing, absolutely nothing.
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:8 ESV
He loved us even when we were unlovable. When we were the worst of sinners, God cared for us. There’s nothing left to do now but abide.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.John 15:5 ESV
Good works aren’t enough because on our own we aren’t good – we have nothing good to offer God on our own. Yet, he loved us when we weren’t “good,” and has now empowered us to live for him. Not because we earned it but because he loves us.
What happens when you build your relationship with God on a foundation of works
Self-condemnation, failure, shame, exhaustion. We can’t measure up to God’s perfect standard no matter how much we try. On our own, we are destined for failure. Trying to build a relationship with God on a foundation of works is like trying to offer scraps to a king. He doesn’t need it.
Instead of building our relationship with God on works, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and produce good works in us.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:10 ESV
Our works should be Spirit-led, not of the flesh. The flesh is always trying to earn something. The Spirit allows us to live in freedom.
We are fully loved by God no matter what we do or fail to do. Our fellowship with God grows as we seek his presence, allow him to speak to our heart, and transform our lives. Relationship with God comes from trust and submission, not works.
So, should we stop doing good works entirely?
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.James 2:14, 17 ESV
No, of course not! In fact, a sign of being Spirit filled is the work we do. According to Ephesians 2:10, were created for good works. But they are not a way to earn love, they are the fruit of love.
When we truly love God, and are submitted to his will, we naturally produce fruit.
But, the fruit of our relationship with God doesn’t earn us that relationship.
So, if you have been striving to earn God’s love, I encourage you to submit instead. Submit to his will and plan for your life. Do what he has told you to do. Walk in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).
As Graham Cooke said, “He loves you because he loves you.” It’s not up to you. It was his decision. Lay everything down at his feet, cast your cares on him, and surrender your life to him.
Jesus loves you, period. No good deed is going to make him love you more. No failure will make him love you less. I know it feels that way sometimes but there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ. Lay down the need to prove yourself and simply receive his love.
Founder, Daily She Pursues
Shanté is the founder of Daily She Pursues. She is passionate about teaching women how to pursue the heart of God by studying his word, spending time in prayer, and committing to a daily walk with the Lord. Shanté is currently working on a Master’s Degree in Biblical Studies at Liberty University and some of her favorite things include tea, journaling, art museums, essential oils, and thrift shopping.