It is very common for Christians to believe that God accepts them because of their righteousness of works and good deeds. Consequently, new Christians are taught or led to believe that they “must” do good deeds to be accepted by God, but is this correct? God accepts us despite our inability to satisfy His righteous requirements. Of course, when I say this there are always those who hear something else. They hear me saying that good works are unnecessary in the Christian’s life. Yes, good works are the hallmark of the Christian’s life and exemplify their devotion to their new Master and Lord. But what is the reality of how our works are viewed by God?
I do not speak disapprovingly against those who do good works and live righteously, as if this does not please God. I have often quoted Isaiah 64:6 which says our righteousness is as filthy rags, and it is true, if understood correctly. There is not a Christian, alive or dead, who will be accepted by a flawless, holy, and perfect God if the righteousness of Christ were not imputed (freely given) to us. Christ is our advocate, and it is He who will stand beside us on that Day of Judgment and plead on our behalf, not for our own righteousness, but rather that it is His righteousness, alone, that will justify us, if we are “in Christ.” Our own degree of righteousness is as a filthy rag gift to a God who alone demands perfection. The only ground for our justification before God is the righteousness of Christ and not our own righteousness.
Does this mean our own righteousness is useless in the sight of God, no, absolutely not. Our own righteousness is the evidence that we have been regenerated and possess within ourselves a heavenly deposit or seed of righteousness which we must tend to and nourish like a beautiful garden. Our righteousness is highly prized by God and He continuously encourages us to work in our gardens so that they will be healthy and productive, but the most beautiful garden is still as a filthy rag as a means of entrance to the presence of a Perfect God. If our works, our beautiful garden, is believed to possess some ability to warrant entrance into Perfection then we are seriously mistaken, and this is where the misunderstanding appears. The Bible says that many on that day will say “Lord, Lord, didn’t I DO all these great and wonderful things in your name?” and they will be disappointed to hear that their good deeds did not earn them a single ounce of weight regarding admission to heaven. “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ” Luke 17:7-10