There is a scene just before the end of the movie, "Saving Private Ryan", where a dying Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) says to young Private James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon), "Earn this." You see, Capt. Miller is the last of several soldiers to die in carrying out their mission to find Private Ryan so he can be sent home, the last survivor of four brothers involved in the invasion of Normandy. "Earn this." . . . two small words that obviously had a profound affect on James Ryan's life. In the final scene of the movie, he is an old man with his wife, children, and grandchildren nearby as he stands beside Capt Miller's Normandy grave. He speaks of how he hopes that the way he had lived his life was enough to earn the great sacrifices made for him. "Tell me I've led a good life," he says with great emotion to his wife. "Tell me I'm a good man."
Many such sacrifices have been made and are being made by people for other people. Whether they can be earned, I don't know. And I certainly don't want to diminish these great acts in any way.
But, in contrast, the greatest sacrifice of all time and eternity was made - for all - on a cross outside of Jerusalem in Israel over 2,000 years ago. The very Son of God gave His life so we - you, I, and everyone else - could live eternally in the presence of God. Jesus took my sin, and your sin, upon Himself, and He was punished in our place. He paid the price that was ours to pay.
And what a price it was. The cost of sin is Death. Eternity in Hell, separated from God, separated from every one and every thing we love for eternity. Never again to experience joy, happiness, comfort, pleasure, love, companionship, peace or rest.
Jesus saved you and me from that. And never once has he uttered the words, "Earn this." His words were "Father, forgive them. For they know not what they are doing." We could not earn Heaven in the first place, and we cannot now begin to earn Jesus' sacrifice which has given us Life. It's wrong to try! Jesus does not ask us to earn what He has given us, because then it would not be given! For us to say in any way that we could or should "earn" Life takes God's grace out of it.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV)8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Earn this? . . . no way!
Live this? . . . absolutely!!!