Dear Christian, Are you less deserving of hell than others? Or more deserving of heaven? Are you better than others? What makes you to differ? But for the grace of God we are no different than anyone. (1 Cor 4:7) Oh so you do good now? Then give God the glory for the grace He has shown you in Christ, for it is He who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Phil. 2:13).
We all agree that the Bible teaches that, as Christians, we are called to strive to live a holy life. No Christian can be God's child and be indifferent to God's law. But our motives for being holy makes all the difference as to whether we are Christians or moralists. If we are doing good out of a Spirit-renewed, grateful heart that trusts in Christ alone for our standing and favor before a holy God then, then by the grace of God, you understand the gospel... but if your motive for doing good is (even partly) out of the hope to earn, deserve or maintain God's favor then you have not yet understood that basics of the gospel, but are trusting, at least partly, in morality as your savior. The Christian does not make a practice of sin because God’s SEED dwells in him, and he cannot abide in sin BECAUSE he HAS BEEN BORN OF GOD. (1 John 3:9 emphasis mine). One motive gives all glory to God and the other leaves room for boasting:
"...because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:29-31).
A common religion of our time, often mistaken for Christianity, is moralism, and many so-called evangelicals gravitate to moralism without even realizing they are. Moralism seeks to achieve perfection and gain God's favor, through behavior modification. It often accompanies the religion of "family values" that we might hear about on the radio. This kind of religion risks self-righteously looking down on unbelievers by putting our supposed morality in a comparison with theirs. It is as if we believe our entrance into Christianity is by grace but that our lives in Christ are maintained by some kind of (at least partly) self-generated moralism. Many of those who believe this have fallen into the trap of believing that is not grace alone that make us to differ with others, but our morally superior actions. We know, however, that apart from grace, we can never obey God's holy commands enough to win his favor, no matter how hard we try. We flatter ourselves to think we can, but the apostolic assertion is that if a man shall keep the whole law and yet offend at one point he is guilty of all. (James 2:10)
To offer oneself as a living sacrifice to the Lord means, by grace, we lose all confidence in the flesh (Phi 3:3) and recognize Jesus as the all in all. The gospel remains our only hope, even as a Christian. All of your post-regeneration acts don't make you in any way more pleasing to God. You cannot become MORE justified. He is ALREADY pleased with you in Christ and for His namesake alone. When we realize this, these other activities are overflow, not duty driven acts to add to our spiritual resumé. Our delight is in the Lord and the story of His redemptive activity through history culminating in his finished work in Christ on the cross. It is not about our piety ... instead we work out of salvation in fear and trembling before the Lord. The more we look at Him the more we are transformed into His likeness (2 Cor 2:18). As long as we view the core of spirituality as some morbid self-introspection and practice of disciplines then we fall into the danger of taking our eyes off of Jesus.
God is good, isn't He? But for the grace of God in Christ I am less than nothing (John 6:63) .. not just undeserving but ill-deserving ... but for no other reason than His sheer grace in Jesus Christ I am fully forgiven and adopted into His family and given a new heart which trusts in Christ and loves His ways.