“We have found the enemy, and it is us”, Pogo.
A religion or belief system that does not save me from myself is not worth very much. Each of us came into the world with a built in “ME” complex that is never completely overcome. Some of a baby’s first words are usually “mine” or “me”. We never have to be taught to be selfish, it comes with the package.
The human ego, or the “self” part of each of us, is our greatest obstacle on our journey toward Christian maturity. The reason the gospel is offensive and a scandal to many is because it leaves absolutely no room for the human ego. Those who are dead in their sins and then are made alive have nothing to boast about. (Romans 3:26, 27; Ephesians 2:8-10)
It is clear that as long as I have confidence in my ability to live a life worthy of God’s ideal of sinless perfection, I will not fully embrace God’s provision for sin offered in the gospel. God doesn’t need my help or yours to make us righteous in regard to salvation. The exact opposite is true.(Romans 5:18-20) Only when we come to the end of ourselves and believe God’s record that our best behavior, on our best day, is far short of God’s righteous demands (Romans 3:9-20) are we willing to throw ourselves upon His mercy offered in the gospel of Jesus.
People who think they can enter heaven based even partially upon the basis of their good works on earth are either arrogant or ignorant. They are either so arrogant they think they deserve what God says they don’t, or so ignorant they don’t understand the absolute moral bankruptcy of the unsaved. The Apostle Paul said of himself that nothing good was in him, as to his flesh. (Romans 7:18)
Each of us on earth inhabits a body that is God’s natural enemy. That doesn’t cease to be true once we are born again. There is the constant tension within the Christian of the flesh against the Spirit.(Romans 7; Galatians 5) The two are at war for control of our thoughts and intentions and we must cooperate with what the Spirit desires to the defeat of the ego.(Romans 6:12-14)
Every religion, other than Christianity, appeals to the human ego. Each of them has the adherent doing some act, some ritual, some sacrifice to entice god into looking favorably upon him or her. This appeals to the ego in that one can take credit for what he or she has accomplished, and in most cases what has been done is observable by others. Only in Christianity is a believer received wholly upon the merit of another, namely Jesus Christ. Christians understand that while they were in fact God’s enemies He loved them, died for their sins, and rose from the dead to allow them to share in His eternal life. Becoming a Christian is in contrast to what the ego demands because the believer has absolutely nothing of worth to offer God, and even more scandalous, nothing more needs to be done. The penalty of transgressions against God has been paid in full and the believer is fully acquitted of all charges (Colossians 2:14) against him and becomes a child of God.
The loving, faith response to this lavish love is to say no to an unrighteous lifestyle (Titus 2:11, 12) and to do the good works God designed each believer to do (Ephesians 2:10). The idea that a sinner can obtain eternal life, or keep it, based upon putting in a good enough performance flies in the face of the weight of Scripture which teaches the opposite.
In the letter to the Romans Paul made it very, very clear by saying about the righteousness of God which is by faith,
“21But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” (Romans 3:21-28)
To the struggling Christian, forsake your ego and its desires and trust Christ alone for your security. God’s truth will set you free if you will only believe His record. I hope you will.