Eph. 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
Deep inside of every man he knows that God exists. Of course the fall of man has effected us deeply, our perception of the Lord is twisted and clouded by sin. The natural tendency of man is to try to do something, or embrace a system of somethings, to try to make ourselves righteous in God’s eyes. It is the grace of God that opens our eyes to the vanity of those pursuits, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone and that faith is a gift from God. The problem is that there is, as Martin Luther said, a religious fanatic or evil monk living inside all of us. This monk thinks he is good enough to please good with his own efforts. Here are some thoughts from Luther himself on this dilemma.
“Something inside of us strongly compels us to keep trying to earn God’s approval. We look for good works, in which we can place our trust and which will bring us praise. We want to show God what we have done and say, “See, I have done this or that. Therefore, you must pronounce me righteous.” None of us should be overconfident when it comes to forgetting our own good works. Each one of us carries in our heart a horrible religious fanatic. We would all like to be able to do something so spectacular that we could brag, “Look what I’ve done! With all my prayers and good works, I’ve done enough for God today that I can feel at peace.” This happens to me too after I have accomplished something in my ministry. I’m much happier than if I hadn’t done it. Being happy isn’t wrong in itself. But this joy is impure because it isn’t based on faith. It’s the kind of happiness that can make your conscience confused. Consciences are delicate. We need to guard them against the sin of arrogance. So we can’t be overconfident. We who confess Christ should always walk in fear and grow in faith.”
To know Christ has justified us totally by His sacrificial death on the cross changes everything. We step into this benefit by faith in His blood. The beauty about all of this is a life characterized by good works, we just live that way now for a different reason.