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Religion cannot save!
- Jacob Ninan
All religious activities are aimed at impressing God with good works so as to get into His good books. Even Christian religion! Many think that activities such as going to church, attending Bible studies and prayer meetings, giving money to church and Christian work, and volunteering to do different things for God and people will please God and get Him to take them into heaven one day. Some even get baptised! Involvement in such 'religious' activities in contrast with many 'immoral' and 'worldly' activities which other people are doing gives them a feeling that they are truly Christians. People around them also certify that these are 'good' or even 'God fearing' people with whom God must be definitely pleased. But the shocking truth is that this is not the way people become acceptable to God.
At the back of this kind of assumption is a (mostly unspoken) thought that they have something to offer which God has to reward. Wasn't this what some people were thinking when they went to God saying that they had prophesied and cast out demons in Jesus' name? But Jesus said He didn't even know them (Mt.7:22,23). Wasn't this what the Pharisee also thought when he reminded God about how much he had fasted and given (Lk.18:11,12)? Jesus said he went away without being justified. This approach where we imagine that we can impress God and win our way into heaven is totally abominable to Him.
One symptom that gives such people away is that they are never sure whether they would make it to heaven, and are very scared at the thought of death.
When God was making plans for our salvation, if He could have found any other way than letting His Son die on the cross, He would have chosen it, because that is how much He loves His Son. But our sins could not be paid for in any other way than by God Himself taking the punishment -- death -- on Himself. Now salvation is offered to us as a free gift that none of us deserves (Ep.2:8,9). What we need to do to receive this gift is to first acknowledge that this is a gift which we don't deserve, and then to believe that it was the death of Jesus in our place that made this salvation available to us. Out go all our own righteousness and our boasts about all the good things we have done, because they are filthy in God's eyes (Is.64:6).
But then we start doing good works, not in order to earn our place with God but because of our gratitude and love to God for this gracious gift of mercy to us wretched sinners. Now that we have been fully and eternally accepted by God, we want to honour God, tell others about Him, be pleasing to Him in all that we do, etc. The difference between the two types of good works is as life and death.
Jesus said it was very difficult for a 'rich' man to enter His kingdom (Mt.19:24). If we feel 'rich' about all our good works and think God is obliged to recognise them, we are in for a shock. But when we consider ourselves as unworthy sinners and place our trust in Jesus, He receives us!