What does a Christian need to do in order to pay for his or her sins and earn salvation? Does one do some works, make a sacrifice, talk to a priest or say a certain prayer? The answer is that we do not need to do anything. Salvation is a gift from God. In John 3:16-18 Jesus taught: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Our salvation is not based in the least on our merit, but entirely on the grace of God. “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith'” (Romans 1:17). The penalty for sin; death by the shedding of blood, has already been paid by Christ for all sins in the past, the present, and the future. That’s why His last words on the cross were: “It is finished” (John 19:30), meaning the debt has been paid, paid in full, there is no outstanding balance. The only action left for us to do is accept this gift of salvation.
The Christian view on salvation seems too good to be true. It seems illogical. How can we get the most important thing in life, a ticket to heaven, for free? Nothing in life is free, and when something is offered for free, there is usually a catch. So what is the catch? There is no catch, because it is free for us, but it came at a dear price for God. He Himself had to pay the price for our sin by sacrificing His Son for us. We can not even imagine how much of a sacrifice this was. Perhaps a parent can imagine how it would feel to have to sacrifice one of their children. So, salvation was secured, not by human achievement, but by divine accomplishment.
All world religions promise some kind of path to liberation or salvation. Interestingly all these plans are based on something the believer has to do to earn it. In Hinduism you earn liberation by living according to certain principles plus meditation, you can improve your next life and ultimately reach total liberation by achieving Moksha. Buddhists work hard to implement the eight-fold path to reach Nirvana. Muslims believe that by working hard to do good deeds and adhere to the letter of the five pillars, they have a chance to tilt the balance in their favor and be judged by Allah worthy of heaven. But notice, they all have to do the work and are never sure whether they have done enough.
Even Christians struggle with the gift. Therefore, we see pseudo-Christian cults such as Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses adding additional instructions and qualifications one has to meet in order to earn salvation. We see the same in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches who accept the sacrifice of Christ as a first step, but then demand the addition of works and sacraments to fully earn and achieve heaven (and limit one’s time in purgatory).
God did it all for you! He already did the work; we only need faith in His grace. God already loves you; you just need to start loving Him.