The Problem with Good Works

by Mike Ratliff

10 Listen, O daughter, give attention and incline your ear:
Forget your people and your father’s house; Psalms 45:10 (NASB)

As we become Spirit-led or Spirit-filled the Lord will enable us to do many good works. We will become much more adept at prayer than we used to be. We will be able to read the Bible and be able to see truths that used to go right over our heads. We will be able to help others see the truth. We will be able to obey our Lord and do wonderful things for His glory. However, there is a danger lurking for each of us as our faith is grown and deepened.

Humility is the key to this Spirit-led walk, but our pride is always hiding in some secluded place in our hearts ready to masquerade as humility. This is false humility. In it we start to view the good works the Holy Spirit is doing through us as something we are doing. When this happens, our faith’s fragility is revealed as soon as a test or trial comes into our lives. This squeezing of our hearts by the Lord reveals to us what is really in there. If we are walking in genuine humility we may anguish as we are stressed, but we will turn to our Lord in faith, seeking His face. This turning is an act of contrition with a penitent heart. This builds our faith and enables us to endure our trials.

On the other hand, if we have slipped into false humility we are seeing our good works as something we have done. We may give God the credit, but inside we are becoming puffed up. When the heart squeezing happens in this mode there is huge difference in reactions than when we are walking this walk Spirit-led. You see, if we have slipped into false humility we are no longer Spirit-led, we are self-focused. We are walking according the flesh even though we don’t realize it at first. When the tests and trials come we suddenly find that there is a something very wrong. Before the stress, we were in false joy. We were patting ourselves on the back exulting in how spiritual we are thinking that the fulfillment from that is real joy. However, the joy of the Lord is not there. The stress ends our false joy right away. Then it is as if we have had a plug pulled in our hearts. The negative feedback from our conscience seems to us as if we have committed some great sin. What is wrong? We cry out to the Lord for Him to come back. Since we are self-focused, our faith is weak and not able to believe. The test or trial we are in stresses us way beyond what we are ready to deal with. What is the solution? We must repent. We must turn our hearts back to God in humility, confess our sins, and seek to get back to denying ourselves, taking up our crosses and following Christ. We now know that all those good works we had been doing were God’s good work through us.

Faith is very fragile and needs to hear the command: “Forget your people and your father’s house.” Our pride strongly compels us to keep trying to earn God’s approval. We look at our good works as something we can place our trust in and will bring us praise. In this self-focused mode with pride not nullified we want to show God what we have have done and want God to pronounce us righteous because of them. How foolish! We know better, but when we are not Spirit-led our spiritual blindness can be quite severe. If we are not very careful and monitoring what our wicked hearts are up to we can fall into this foolishness very easily.

Our hearts contain a horrible religious fanatic who maintains an idol and altar complex there that is dedicated to self worship. This idolatry of the heart deeply desires to cry out to everyone, “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.” I struggle with this when I write a post that get’s a lot of attention. Those great comments from some of my readers also turn up the volume of that evil idolater in my heart as he screams for everyone to take notice. It is at this moment that my Lord will remind me that it was the result of being Spirit-filled that caused me to write what I wrote and even then it was the Holy Spirit using the truths in that post to work on people’s hearts that way. His reminders are most welcome because it helps me to turn away from that religious fanatic to my Lord thereby denying it any access to my members. I cut it off before it can draw me into self-worship. When I rejoice that God worked through me for His glory it must be based on Him being glorified, not on what I did. It must be based on faith, not self-gratification.

Our consciences are delicate. If we are happy because of people telling us how spiritual we are then we can make our conscience confused. We need to guard them against the sin of arrogance. We must not become overconfident. That means that as we are Spirit-led and live for God’s glory alone we must walk in fear and grow in faith. We must realize that our horrible religious fanatic in our hearts will destroy our faith with foolish delusions of good works unless we diligently seek to put him to death by denying him any access to our members by holding tightly to what we have received through the grace of God. We must remember that God’s approval of us does not come to us by what we do. Instead, it comes through the holiness of Christ, who suffered for us and rose again from the dead.

Soli Deo Gloria!

One thought on “The Problem with Good Works

  1. Amen and amen! We must fix our eyes on the heavenlies, from where our help comes! Self will always puff up or depress us. Christ is sufficient!


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