Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
On about this day in my senior year of high school, I played my last high school baseball game. We were 2nd ranked in the entire state, and having been to the state tournament the two years prior our team was confident we’d return and possibly have a chance to win the championship.
Our first district playoff game was against the worst team (record wise) and we thought it would be a sure win. We weren’t concerned, as we looked far ahead to the state tournament. The game was close however, and we fell behind by a couple of runs with time running out. In the very last inning, we loaded the bases, I recall I was on third base, with probably the best hitter in the state at bat. He had bailed us out before, so all he had to do is hit a homerun as he did many times before and poof, what was lost was now won.
There were two outs as he strode to the plate. He watched the first pitch, STRIKE ONE, yelled the umpire. He then watched the second pitch, STRIKE TWO, yelled the umpire. I for one wasn’t worried as this guy was a great hitter and knew what he was doing. The next pitch came and again he watched it land in the catcher’s mitt, STRIKE THREE, YOU ARE OUT, yelled the umpire, and just like that our hopes and dreams were over. The worst team beat us, they also beat our best player, and we had to accept it.
This is the analogy I give when one thinks they are going to gain heaven by their good works. You can be the very BEST church attendee in the history of your church, and in the end you struck out! You can be a great upstanding member of your community, they wrote speeches about your kindness and moral goodness, and in the end you struck out!
The reason for striking out, is like my teammate I described, you could only watch as your life ended in defeat to sin as in the analogy because you placed your faith in the wrong person. You didn’t place your faith alone in Jesus Christ, the Savior and decided you would attempt to save yourself and you WILL fail in the end. Everything looked great from a worldly standpoint, and everyone expected you to be in heaven just as everyone expected my team to get into the state tournament once again, but now you are in eternal hell.
Your works WILL fail you! On Judgment Day, you will offer God all your works, STRIKE ONE. You will then plead with God that you were a good person. you tried to to keep the commandments and didn’t commit any serious sin, STRIKE TWO. Then you will claim you were part of a church and never missed a service, participated in sacraments and did much for your community and church, STRIKE THREE, OFF TO HELL YOU GO. Think I am wrong? Read Matt 7:20-23 and the account of the Pharisee and tax collector in Luke 18.
Whereas Jesus never failed, nor will fail you! So surrender your sins at His cross, give up trying to save yourself by your ineffective faulty “goodness”. If the church you attend teaches you to “try a littler harder” by your works, it is time to LEAVE that church, as there is just one way to heaven, by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone! That church, whether how good and holy you think it is, is just like that teammate I described, in the end they will fail you.