Gaining God’s approval has concerned people since the beginning. Genesis Chapter 4 tells the story of the jealousy that arose within Cain’s heart, when God had respect for his brother Abel’s offering but not his own offering. This jealousy drove Cain to commit the first and probably best-known murder.
The first step toward meeting with God’s approval in this life and the next is to accept Christ as your personal Savior. The question above begins “as a believer,” which assumes that you have already trusted Christ. Scripture is very clear that “no one comes unto the Father but by [Christ]” (John 14:6). It is through God’s saving grace and the redemption we have through the blood of Jesus that “He has made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). As a believer, it’s not like you would meet with God’s disapproval in the next life. Your eternity is secure. There is no such place as purgatory. God doesn’t love you less when you sin (Romans 5:8).
Having trusted the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross for payment for your sin, you may still wonder whether God will approve of your life. Here are some insights from the Bible to guide your thoughts on this.
The Bible describes the way that we as believers will be evaluated in the next life. Imagine a test for which the teacher provides all the correct answers? Well, that’s sort of what we have. We know there will be a test, and we know how we will be evaluated. 1 Corinthians Chapter 3 paints a picture where our deeds in this life are subjected to a fire. If our deeds are worthless and sinful, they will be consumed as if they were wood, hay, and stubble. The deeds that glorify God and obey His Word will outlast the fire as would gold, silver, and precious stones. This is most certainly not the Great White Throne judgment for unbelievers. This is the judgment seat of Christ, also mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:10. No believer is exempt from appearing at that judgment.
The Bible also makes clear that there is such a thing as heavenly reward. All of us want to hear God say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). The Bible also describes a number of crowns that believers can receive: an incorruptible crown (1 Cor. 9:25), crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8), crown of life (James 1:12), and crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4).
Another point to keep in mind is the reality that, although believers cannot lose eternal life, it is possible to lose heavenly rewards. Jesus spoke very pointedly about those who do good deeds in this life to be seen of men. When we seek the praise of those around us, versus the approval of God, we have already received whatever reward we would have been due (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16).
With that in mind, as believers, the best thing we can do to ensure God’s approval in the next life is to pursue His approval in this life. Enoch, whom God took up while walking with him one day, “had this testimony - that he pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5). So don’t put it off. Seek God’s approval for the here and now, as a believer. “Let your light so shine among men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven” (Matthew 5:16).