“For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15). Salvation into God’s heaven is based totally on a person’s faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Being born again by the Holy Spirit of God and becoming a new creature in Christ Jesus (John 3:16-17, 2 Corinthians 5:17); that’s what really counts. “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Religious liturgies, religious rituals, and other religious acts have no power to get a person into God’s heaven. And these religious works have no power to fight the desires of our sinful flesh (Colossians 2:23). Christians are told to do good works (Ephesians 2:10): but to do our works to be seen by other people is a serious sin against God.
Religious rituals can be done with no heart desire to serve the Lord. These religious works are often superficial and do not come from the Holy Spirit. Unbelievers and ungodly people can learn how to practice these religious rituals with a false sincerity. It’s easy to go to church and say and do all the right things, but with no inner regard for wanting to serve God. Jesus said of the Pharisees, “They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others…You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matthew 6:5, 23:27-28).
Many of our accomplishments and works are going to go up in a puff of smoke, because so much of what we do is out of a wrong motivation. Paul said that our works will be shown for what they really are, because when our works are judged, God’s righteous judgement will test the quality of each person’s works by fire. Some of Christian’s works will survive God’s test of fire and they will receive their reward. Some Christian’s works will be burned up, but the person will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). There are those who will say to God, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” But Jesus tells them, “I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:22-23).
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men that when they see your good works they will glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). We’re to do our works and service for Jesus Christ in such a way that they bring glory and honor to God, and not to ourself. Don’t seek the honor of man, don’t seek the praise of man; don’t seek the glory of man, but seek to bring glory and honor to God and Jesus Christ! God said, “I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images” (Isaiah 42:8).
If we do not have a strong faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord, then we’re always trying to work harder to become righteous in God’s eyes by our own works of righteousness. In our struggle to become righteous before God by our works, we end up being self-righteous hypocrites, and often try to lift ourself up by putting other people down. Self-righteousness is always based on self-promotion and envy. If we have kept all of the Old Testament laws perfectly, then we could say, “Look God, I have lived a perfect life!” But we cannot say that because we’re all natural born sinners, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10).
Jesus tells us about the Pharisee who prayed, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” But the tax collector would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Then Jesus said, “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).
The Bible says, “For if we will judge ourselves we will not be judged…Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith” (1 Corinthians 11:31, 2 Corinthians 13:5). Jesus said, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). If we’re doing our works to receive honor from other people we’re acting like the religious rulers who believed on Jesus but were afraid to confess Him because they were afraid they would be put out of the synagogue, “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43).
God says, “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10). David wrote, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You”(Isaiah 26:3). Peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ, or a life filled with struggles and anxiety.