Thoughts from The Bible

The Man Confused by Deeds
by Audrey Christensen Corinth Missionary Church

Since the fall of man, every person fits into one of two categories. The first category is for those who are dead in their sin. Everyone is born into this condition and can be described as a child of wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). He is not a Christian. The second category is for those who have been born again. It’s people who God has graciously saved. The penalty for their sins has been paid by Jesus, and they trust in God for salvation. He is a Christian.
Two categories. Two definitions. It’s crystal clear, right? Of course, the all-knowing God is not confused; He knows all who belong to Him and those who don’t (John 10:14). Yet, the rest of us, who have incredibly deceitful hearts, are prone to confusion. There’s not a third category of people, but there is a group of people who think they are Christians, but in reality, are dead in their sins. We’ll call this group “the confused man.” 

Man can be confused for a number of reasons, but we’ll start our discussion with a person who has tricked himself into believing he is saved because of his good works. We’ve all heard people say “I’m going to heaven. I’m a good person.” It’s like they are hoping their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds on an imaginary cosmic scale. But that is a false hope.

In Luke 18, Jesus tells a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector. Both were praying at the temple. The Pharisee thanked God that he was not like other sinners. He didn’t commit adultery or commit injustices. He even thanked God that he wasn’t like the tax collector praying close by.

he Pharisee looked at his own works and trusted that he was justified in the eyes of God because he wasn’t that bad of a guy. But the tax collector cried out to the Lord and beat his chest saying, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13, ESV). The tax collector is the one who left the Temple justified, while the Pharisee did not. Jesus’ point is clear. Everyone who thinks he can justify himself by his good works is lying to himself. We are far more sinful than we realize. Without a recognition of our sinfulness before God, there is no forgiveness for us. 

Similarly, religious works aren’t a sure sign for salvation either. Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven… many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (ESV). These people had a résumé full of prophecies and miracles, and yet, Jesus did not know them. They trusted in their religious zeal to save them, while not being obedient to God’s will (see verse 21). All their efforts were in vain.

So don’t be confused into thinking your good deeds or religious works are what saves you. The man confused by deeds has forgotten that he has inherited a sinful nature, and he deserves the wrath of God (Romans 5:12 and John 3:36). No list of sins you haven’t committed, no amount of money you’ve given away, no volunteering at church services can save you. Only God can save you. Trust not in your own deeds. Trust in Him.

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