Two Christians can do the exact same thing for two entirely different reasons. One may be doing good works to build his reputation in the eyes of others or to justify himself in the eyes of God because he feels he must earn his salvation, while another does his good works out of faith and obedience because he loves God and is thankful for Jesus’ work on the cross.
It’s easy to cross the line into legalism before you even realize it. Even though you may think your heart is right, weeding out self-serving motives is part of every Christian’s journey toward growth and maturity. Even doing good works to please God can be deceptively self-seeking since Jesus already secured God’s love, acceptance and approval for you by His work on the cross. The only acceptable motive is your love and gratitude for what Jesus has done for you. Everything else is wood, hay and stubble.
Every religion in the world is based on works and if the enemy can deceive Christians into trying to earn their salvation, he can nullify the work of Christ on the cross, where the devil was defeated. But when you stop striving and rest in Christ’s finished work (relationship not religion), God can accomplish more through your feeble efforts than all your best work put together.
Faith without works is dead and works without faith leads to death (2 Corinthians 3:6). Jesus was implicit when he shared in Matthew 7:21-23 the serious consequences of failing to search our motives.
We’ve all had our Ishmael (thinking we were doing right by God but finding out later we were in left field) and paid the consequences, but now is the season for Isaac. Conceived supernaturally, Isaac carried the promise of God in his DNA. When you are doing God’s work God’s way and with pure motives, God’s fingerprints will be all over the evidence. As you die to yourself and your motives, Jesus will be lifted high and He will use you to draw all men unto Himself. That is the end result of right motives – glory to God.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8