I am a good Christian because I read my Bible every day, go to church every time the doors are opened, always pray through (ok, most) situations, help the needy, and love even the most difficult to love (well, sometimes). These things make me righteous, or do they?
God says in Ephesians 2 : 8-9:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Let's break this verse down.
For by grace you have been saved through faith
Grace is undeserved favor from God. So God shows us favor by saving us through faith. Faith is believing in something that can't be seen. So in this case, He saves us through our belief in Jesus.
And this is not your own doing
Jesus did all the work. Jesus lived a perfect life, died the punishment that I deserved, and rose from death to life. I had no part in the salvation plan that God set out from the beginning.
It is the gift of God
God has given us this gift. I give gifts to people because I love them. They don't have to work for it or earn it; it is my present to them. God loves us and gives us the gift of salvation.
Not a result of works, so no one may boast.
If I had to work for and earn God's gift of salvation, then I could turn and say, "Look at me! I read my Bible every day. I gave to the poor. I loved my enemy. I checked off all the things that Christians are to do."
However, God says that it isn't by my works. I can't boast in my salvation; I can only point people to God.
The truth is that, according to God, all the good things that I do, thinking I am a "good Christian", are as filthy rags, empty, meaningless - were it not for the work of Christ to change me and redeem me. It is all for Him - or it is for nothing.
If I am honest, I am motivated to keep doing what I am doing, whether that is reading my Bible or teaching children at church, so that I might stay on God's good side. But the reality is that all we need to remain on the right side of God is already standing at God's side interceding for us. Jesus is all we need. So let us work diligently, do good works, because we love Jesus and He is worthy.