One of the greatest dangers to our precious souls is the idea that we can be good enough to please God.
Many believe that God weighs our good deeds against our bad deeds and whichever wins decides our eternal destiny. Very few think their bad outweighs their good, but that is not true of real Christians. We believe “we are by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:3). That’s everybody.
In Isaiah 64:6, the prophet speaks of the people then and now. “We have all become like one who is unclean and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”
Their best religious deeds were obnoxious in God’s sight. Why? They were hypocrites, pretending to be something they were not. They thought their sins were not that serious in God’s sight and they were good enough to please God.
God thought differently, and he was speaking of what they thought were their very best. Like polluted garments, said God. At the heart of it all was their unwillingness to believe God’s assessment of them and come to God as he requires. They thought their way was good enough. Their hearts had not been made new.
The same is true of many religious people today. Every false religion believes that our good works, in part or the whole, have some saving merit in God’s eyes. What Christ did in coming to earth, living a sinless, righteous life as a substitute for sinners, bearing the wrath of his Father on the cross in our place, dying, rising from the grave and ascending to the Father’s side, there to intercede for believers and rule the world as King of Kings and Lord of Lords is not enough.
False religions believe that our good works have to count, too. Yes, Jesus died for our sins, but that was not enough. We have to add to that somehow, whether it is achieving perfection in this life, going through church rituals and following rules of all kinds, pilgrimages, penance, seeking additional merit from “saints” or baptism. This is manmade religion and superstition.
False religion does not want its subjects to be sure they are right with God. Do you have enough faith? Have you done enough good? Have you given enough to the poor, to religion or the televangelist?
There is no assurance that you will be with the Lord when death comes unless you have done enough. This is a fearful way to live and have to face death. Have you done enough?
There are too many who think everyone or almost everyone goes to heaven when they die. So, there is no need to be serious about Christ or salvation, except maybe on our deathbed.
One of the most powerful statements in the Bible is in Ephesians 2:8-10. Paul is describing how Christians have been saved from the wrath they deserve. “For it is by grace (unmerited favor of God) you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not a result of works (Why?), so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Take time to seriously think about those words if you value your soul. The verses are dangerous to Satan, to false religions, superstitions and manmade religions and have been used to save many who have been caught up in false religious thinking.
As Jonah prayed while in the belly of the fish, “Salvation is of the Lord.” (Jonah 2:9).
Salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith in Christ alone. We are saved for good works not because of them. We are not capable of good works in God’s sight before we become Christians. Only after God gives us a new heart are we able to do anything good in God’s sight and that is by the power of the Holy Spirit given to every Christian.
The good works a Christian does are evidence of being a Christian, not the way to become a Christian. James wrote in James 2:14-26 answering those who claim to have faith in Christ, without evidence in the way they lived. James concludes his argument with this statement, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” There is such a thing as false faith.
It is not whether we have done enough to gain God’s favor. It is whether we trust that Jesus has done everything for us that we could never do to save ourselves.
Charles Fitzpatrick is a retired pastor from Reibers Reformed Baptist Church near Shermans Dale.
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