When Jesus said "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness'" (Matthew 7:22-23; NASB), He simply and forcefully declared that those whose claim to heaven is based on what they have done in His name will not be accepted. He called them "you who practice lawlessness". Why does Jesus block these do-gooders from heaven? How is it that their performance is rejected? Most of us tend to think that heaven is for those who do good and try to perform works of obedience in His name. Most of us are, in the light of Jesus' words, simply wrong. How?
The answer is hidden away in Romans 3:21-31. There the apostle Paul revealed that people who believe they will attain acceptance from Jesus by their works in His name are deeply and seriously afflicted with an attitude that completely blocks them from the love of God. He says it this way: "Where then is boasting? It is excluded." (Romans 3:27; NASB). Paul knew the dangers inherent in the attitude that I am good; I have earned a place in the acceptance of God. It is fundamentally arrogant unbelief. And, since God resists the proud (James 4:6) and despises unbelief (Hebrews 11:6), those who attempt to approach Him on the basis of performance will be rejected as those who practice lawlessness.
But this raises the question of how doing good in Jesus' name is lawlessness. It isn't. The issue is not doing good. The issue is thinking that the good done will qualify one for acceptance with God. Every humble believer will do good in Jesus' name. However, every humble believer will also know that the good he is doing has nothing to do with gaining acceptance with God. Rather, it has everything to do with having been accepted. People do things in Jesus' name for one of two reasons: either in order to gain God's approval; or because they have God's approval. Works done to gain approval assume the evil of human arrogance. Works done because approval has been granted assume the humility of love.
God plainly says that all human beings are sinful. Those who accept that fact have the capacity for humility. Those who do not accept that fact have set themselves in opposition to God in pride. God also plainly says that acceptance before Him is determined completely by the attitude one takes toward Jesus. If one accepts Jesus as his personal Savior from sin, God accepts him. If one tries to come to God apart from Jesus, or by trying to add to what Jesus has already done, God rejects him. It is a matter of Jesus alone or not at all. Either Jesus has done everything that is required to provide me with salvation, or He hasn't. What I believe about that will be the issue in that day. Those who try to secure themselves by good works in His name will be rejected, and those whose security depends solely upon Jesus and His works will be accepted.
Which is it for you?