So many assume that because of the good works performed by Mother Teresa, she qualified for entrance into Heaven. Her name is synonymous with good works. But what does the Bible say about the way to Heaven and the role ‘good works’ play in the salvation or redemption of one’s soul?
The wrinkled, smiling face shining out from her blue trimmed white religious robes surrounded by poverty stricken children and people of the streets of Calcutta is but one of the enduring images of Mother Teresa.
Mother Teresa devoted her life to working with the poor in Calcutta, India. In 1950 she established the Missionaries of Charity. Her deeds of kindness were legendary and her selfless devotion to caring for the poor transcends the record of most humanitarians. She is an icon for charity. By the time of her death in 1997, over 500 Missionaries of Charity Centers were operating in over 100 countries.
LIFE OF SACRIFICE AND COMPASSION
It is said that at the age of twelve, Mother Teresa was convinced she wanted to live a religious life. In 1929 she moved to India. She taught at religious schools and convents in India but throughout the 1940’s she became increasingly burdened for the poor of Calcutta. Her focus became the poorest of the poor. The homeless, the orphans, the abandoned ones of society. For those suffering from Hansen’s Disease she opened up leper centers.
Mother Teresa’s mission, in her own words, in 1950 was: “…to care for the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”
If anyone was worthy of receiving awards, private audiences with queens, presidents and other world leaders, honorary degrees, the Nobel Peace Prize, and many other distinctions of honor – it was Mother Teresa.
Could such a life of selfless devotion and sacrifice, coupled with decades of good deeds, acts of charity and countless missions of mercy help a person find favour with God and ultimately assure them of eternal life and a home in heaven?
Who is qualified to answer this fundamental question? Assuming every person, in their right mind, wants to arrive in Heaven, an authoritative answer on this matter of finding merit with God is required. If God ruled on this critical subject, would you accept His ruling and final decision?
God’s Word is clear and unequivocal. Read these verses from the Bible and you will see there is nothing ambiguous with God on the matter of earning salvation or redemptive favour with God by self efforts. It can’t be done.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight…Romans 3:19-20
MY THINKING OR GOD’S – WHO HAS THE FINAL SAY?
The entire story of the Bible is about our total inability to save ourselves from our sins and our bankruptcy before God in paying for our debt of sin. From God’s perspective, sin had so corrupted every last one of us, that not one of us had anything to offer Him for our salvation. That’s why Jesus came into the world to rescue us – to be our Saviour. Our good deeds have absolutely no value in us finding favour with God.
OUR PROBLEM FROM GOD’S POINT OF VIEW
We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.” Isaiah 64:6 NLT
As it is written: “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NO, NOT ONE. Romans 3:10For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23So then, those who are in the flesh (natural state without the new birth) cannot please God.” Romans 8:8
DOES GOD ALLOW EXCEPTIONS TO HIS RULING?
If anyone qualified for eternal life based on personal effort, a good track record, and multiple and sustained sacrificial acts, it would be Mother Teresa. If anyone could earn travel points to the desired eternal destination of Heaven, it would have been her.
But based on the sampling of verses from God’s authoritative Word, what’s the only obvious conclusion one can make about the role good works and human effort plays in obtaining eternal life?
50 YEARS OF INNER DARKNESS
This is a well documented fact – Mother Teresa, for over fifty years, longed for inner peace and the heart-rest Jesus promised to all those who come to Him with their sin. (Matthew 11:28) When one is justified by faith “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1. Yes, the Bible promises rest and peace to those who have entered into a personal relationship with God through Jesus. There is a sweet comfort in life – when one knows for sure they are right with God and possess eternal life through personal trust in Jesus Christ.
With the exception of a few brief months during five decades, Mother Teresa, by her own admission, experienced inner darkness and a feeling of intense loneliness and distance from God.
Years of very sad and tormented letters to her superiors and spiritual advisors are replete with statements similar to these:
I am told God lives in me – and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.” And again: “I feel just that terrible pain of loss, of God not wanting me, of God not being God, of God not really existing.
Some have suggested that great men and women of God have experienced such inner unrest and dense darkness. But for Mother Teresa, church psychiatrists confirmed it was no mental illness of any kind – it was spiritual in nature. Nor was it discouragement based on episodic trials.
CHRISTIANS WITH PEACE AND POSITIVE REFLECTIONS
Personally, I trusted Christ as my Saviour quite some time ago. For 40 years I have enjoyed inner peace, light in my soul and the joy of Christ living in me. He’s very real and the relationship I enjoy with Him is intimate. As a believer, I cannot in anyway relate to the prolonged dark feelings of Mother Teresa. Nor am I alone. I know many believers today who experience the living Christ every day. Listen to the words of great Christians from the past who were not relying on their good works for eternal life – but solely and totally relying on Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour.
Apostle Peter, AD70 before his death wrote:
“Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2Peter 1:1-4)
Apostle Paul wrote before his death:
“…the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing….But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed….The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18)
Apostle John wrote before his death:
“By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” (1John 4:13-19)
We highly esteem the work of Mother Teresa and join the rest of the world in applauding her memory. The nature of her relationship with God will be debated for years to come. No one disputes the good she contributed to society nor the example she left for us. But absolutely no one is qualified to go beyond her own words and statements she made in her lifetime to characterize her relationship with God. That was a matter between God and Mother Teresa.
Of immediate concern is your relationship with God. Good works, deeds of kindness and taking the high road will not get you to Heaven. God has made that crystal clear.
The Bible knows of only one way for you to be right with God and to experience peace with God. Here is the authoritative Word of God:
Therefore being justified by faith,we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1
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You might also enjoy reading Peggy O’Neill’s Personal Testimony as a Nun
The Telegraph Journal, Associated Press, Mother Teresa’s Secret: Missionary Often Felt Abandoned by God, October18, 2003