The Bible clearly teaches that we will be judged by our actions. Revelation 20:12 tells of judgment where “…I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” The books (Old Testament and New Testament) reveal the standard of what we must do in order to please Him (2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Peter 1:3). Paul clearly links our actions to eternal punishment or reward (Romans 2:6-11 – note the variations of “do” and its direct relationship to the results). Jesus says that we will even be called into judgment for every careless word (Matthew 12:36). What we do and say impacts our eternal life.
But our actions also enrich our earthly life and the lives of others. I think the scripture makes it clear that God does not want us to live holy lives to prepare for a grand accounting, but in order to share in His holiness and to be like His righteous Son. Jesus lived the life of a servant and had a tremendous impact on the lives of those He touched. A life that serves God and others is the life revealed in God’s word.
The Bible teaches that we have all fallen short of the standard God has set (Romans 3:23). The question is, how will you react to your failure to be holy? You can beat yourself up and say that you’ll never be able to live up to God’s standard but, in truth, you are blaming God for your lack of effort. You can say that you have too many sins or you have messed your life up too much, but that is accusing God of having insufficient grace. However, God wants you to take two important steps.
First, be reconciled to Him through His Son. We must believe what the gospel says about Jesus and confess Him as God’s Son (Romans 10:9-15). We must also turn away from a life that is dedicated to honoring self instead of God and the sin that separates us from God (Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19). We must also submit to baptism, immersion in water, which is a burial and resurrection with Christ, so that our sins may be cleansed (Romans 6:1-14). Note that it is not the actions themselves that save us but obeying the will of God that commands these things. When we sin after we are baptized, we can repent and pray to God to forgive us (1 John 2:1-5).
Second, as a child of God you have the duty and privilege to bring others to God to receive the forgiveness, hope, peace, and joy that you received. The reaction of the Samaritan woman in John 4 is a great example of one who lived an unrighteous life but used the testimony of her past (“Come see a man who told me all things I ever did”) to bring others to Jesus. If you have overcome a type of sin or habit you are in a better position to help others overcome that sin or habit better than someone who has no experience with it. We should not indulge in sin so we can help others–we must strive for holiness–but when we do fall, we should use our failures to help others succeed. God can help us use our defeats to bring victory in our life and the lives of others.
Do not let yourself be defined by failures of your past. What has been done cannot be changed, only forgiven. But yesterday’s actions do not demand the same actions today. When we give up because of past sins, we allow history to steal the present and hinder the opportunity for a brighter future. When we give our sins to God, make the choice to reject sin, and strive for holiness we will become more like Jesus and less like what we were. Jesus can clean up a polluted life, fix what is damaged, and create a wonderful child who lives a satisfying life and makes a positive imact on the lives of others.