“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” – Isaiah 64:6
All of the world’s major religions teach that a person may merit Heaven/Paradise/Nirvana/Jannah by becoming increasingly good and moral. The exception is Biblical Christianity, which declares that everyone is a sinner and no one can merit salvation. Only by repenting (turning from rebellion against God) and accepting Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone can a person be saved.
The Bible says in Isaiah 64:6 that even our “good deeds” are tainted by sin and are as “filthy rags” in God’s sight. But how can that be?, people ask. I do A LOT of good things!, people object. However, even the “good” that we think we do is routinely motivated by sin. I can think of one humorous example.
My wife and I began attending a Gospel-preaching church right after we were saved back in the early-1980s. Things were done differently at church back then. Everyone brought their Bibles to church and we also used hymnals. These days, Scripture passages and CCM song lyrics are shown on the auditorium overhead, so many attendees leave their Bible at home (if they even have a hardbound Bible). But back then, everyone brought their Bible to church. If you showed up to church without a Bible, boy oh boy, you were judged to be spiritually lax or immature. Whoops, I’m already pointing out how our “goodnesses” are tainted and I haven’t even gotten to my example yet. Okay, let’s proceed.
Throughout the course of his thrice-weekly sermons, the pastor had us constantly picking through our Bibles. “Turn in your Bibles to…” was a regular instruction. When you’re a new believer, it’s very difficult to navigate through the Bible with its 66 books and odd sounding book names. Most new Christians had to resort to…argh…the index. But over time, the new believer became better acquainted with where all of the different books of the Bible were in conjunction with each other and could join in the race. The race? Every time the pastor called out the passage that we were to turn to, everybody in the congregation began flipping determinedly to the desired spot. Some cheaters had Bible tabs and automatically disqualified themselves. Those who got to the passage first gloated with pride. “Do I know my Bible or what,” they silently and self-satisfyingly beamed as others still noisily and frantically flipped through the pages of their Bibles. Nobody wanted to be last in the race, a sure sign to everyone around them that they did not know their Bible. Yup, I pridefully tried to win that race many times myself.
So even going to church and reading Scripture along with the pastor and the congregation involved a bit of prideful sin.