I recently met a man who seemed convinced of the merits of his works.
We graduated briskly from small talk and came to speak of theology. As the discussion progressed I realised this man was not resting in the finished work of Christ on the Cross, but more so in his potential to do good deeds and to 'be a good person'.
It pains me to think so many of us are being misled to believe we have anything to do with our salvation. How can we know just how amazing God's grace is if we fail to see how sinful and unworthy of His mercy we are?
What about if we're good people?
We are all sinners (Christian or not) and nobody is innately 'good', as a result of the fall. This is the very reason Christ was crucified, because we, all being sinners, are in need of a Saviour and simply cannot save ourselves. If we try to live a perfect life keeping the commandments, we fail horribly. As it says in Galatians chapter 3, verse 10, "For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them'".
Christ didn't die to save 'good people'; He died to pay for the sins of sinners. Romans chapter 3, verses 10â12 says, "None is righteous, no, not one... no one does good, not even one," and in verse 23, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God".
What if we practice random acts of kindness and do good deeds?
None of us are as good or as holy as we might like to think, even those of us who believe we can get by on the weight of our works.
What did Isaiah say about such works? He said, "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" (Isaiah chapter 64, verse 6). Not just pointless, but filthy rags. Our efforts to pay the price only Christ could pay and has already paid are worthless. We offend God when we try to pay Him for a gift He has so freely and lovingly given, a gift we could simply never afford.
Note the word righteous in the verse above describes works we hope to somehow gain from, or win favour by. Regarding this, author Matthew Henry said, "Our deeds, whatever they may seem to be, if we think to merit by them at God's hand, are as rags, and will not cover us; filthy rags, and will but defile us. Even our few good works in which there is real excellence, as fruits of the Spirit, are so defective and defiled as done by us, that they need to be washed in the fountain open for sin and uncleanness".
There are always ulterior motives and selfish reasons, pride and a lack of faith behind the deeds we carry out when we think they may increase our worthiness before God or our image toward man. This very idea disgusts God, who sent His only son to die for us.
A Spirit-driven faith
It is worth mentioning the distinction between the works referred to above and the second chapter of James, when we are told "faith without works is dead". The works James refers to are manifestations of the Holy Spirit, revealing signs of sanctification, the process whereby the Spirit makes us more like Christ.
When we are made new our hearts are regenerated and we are alive in Christ, we are not going to live as we did before we received the gospel, when dead in our sins. Such works are Spirit-driven works, fruits of the spirit, the signs of regeneration designed to accompany our faith in God.
So let us humble ourselves and be encouraged, to know we are not to try and better ourselves or fix ourselves up instead of seeking God. We will never be clean and perfect, it is Him who is, and in Him we are free from expectations we will never meet. This is amazing grace.
Scarlett Jones resides by the seaside and loves reading, films, craft and quality time with friends and family.
Scarlett Jones previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/scarlett-jones.html