Suppose I decide that I’d like to become a police officer. So in order to get into the police academy, I head out into the city, find as many illegally parked cars as I possibly can, and then start writing out tickets. I continue to do this day after day, until eventually I’ve written out more than a thousand tickets. I finally feel like I may have done enough to prove myself, so I rock up to the police academy and show them records of all the tickets I have written.
Now of course this whole idea is ridiculous. No one writes tickets in order to become a police officer. In fact, any attempt to write tickets before first being made a police officer is futile. The tickets would not be valid. They would be counterfeit.
A person does not write tickets in order to become a police officer. Rather they are first made a police officer, and then they won’t be able to help but write tickets.
The same is true in our approach to God. We don’t do good works in order to become a Christian. In fact, the Bible teaches that any attempt by an unbeliever to do good works in the sight of God is futile. Although their efforts may seem good to us, from God’s perspective they are counterfeit works.
The Bible says that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6), “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) and that “a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:18).
So we cannot do good works in order to become a Christian, any more than we can write parking tickets in order to become a police officer. Rather we must first be made a Christian, and then we won’t be able to help but do good works.