What is the relationship between faith and works? Some people actually think that their good works are going to get them to heaven. They are like the Pharisee of old who stood praying to himself and saying, “God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax gatherer” (Luke 18:11). Yes, this Pharisee thought he was something. And Jesus was talking to people like this “who trusted in themselves” (Luke 18:9).
You see, the point is that doing good and acting righteously is important. Anyone who calls himself or herself a Christian must do what Jesus Christ says. In other words, you must follow Jesus Christ. And anyone who does not pursue holiness in this fashion will not enter heaven. The Bible is clear, “Pursue peace with all men, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). But now comes the problem: many people are like this old Pharisee. They do many good things all right. Their mistake is in trusting in those good works to earn them a place in heaven. These people are trusting in themselves. They are not trusting in Jesus Christ.
Jesus compares the Pharisee with a tax collector who “was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God be merciful to me, the sinner’” (Luke 18:13). And Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms, “This man went down to his house justified rather than the other” (Luke 18:14). You see, good works are important. But if you trust in your own good works, you are lost because your trust is not wholly in Jesus Christ.
To help you understand this click here and listen to “This Person is Right With God.”