“Through Him, then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:15-16)
The prophet Isaiah makes it crystal clear: we are unclean and our righteous works are like filthy rags to God (Is. 64:6). As does Paul in his letter to the Romans, “All have turned aside…no one does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:12). The picture is quite clear. God is holy and righteous and our works are not. The moment that we think we are, we need to revisit what Scripture says is true about our state of being. So what in the world is the writer of Hebrews talking about when he says to not “neglect to do good and to share…for such sacrifices are pleasing to God?” (v. 16). Is he wrong? And what would be the point of doing good if our works are seen as producing disgust in God? We must not mix up viewing our works as if they are for our own salvation with the works that God empowers us to do through the work of Christ on the cross and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every single believer.
The difference between the two views of works reveals such important truths to us. First, it reveals to us how much we need Christ, and not just for some parts of our lives, but our whole lives. Second, it reveals to us how we can live since we have been given, freely, the ability to worship, celebrate, and give thanks to our God who has rescued us from an eternity apart from Him. Our Father in heaven loves us so much, and I am reminded of the father in the story of the prodigal son running to his returning son, embracing and kissing him. I can only imagine the relationship the son and father now have, one full of joy on both sides beyond measure.
Our lives and living them unto the Lord should be a reflection of our deep thanksgiving to the salvation that we have been given. So yes, our good works with the belief that it will obtain our salvation are like filthy rags, but our good works, led by the Spirit, are indeed pleasing to God and as a result, we can live our lives even more joyful as we reflect on what God has done for us and through us.