"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2 8-9)
I think that for many Christians, our definition of faith and salvation is often something we "psych" ourselves into; we put on a show (even though it is often with good intent) to do good works in which to gain merit and appraisal. But our salvation is not based on our good works; salvation depends on the grace of God alone. The bible makes it clear that we cannot win salvation; it is free as the absolute gift of God received by faith. Our love for Jesus Christ must be real and heartfelt, and I do believe that our genuine faith in Christ will provide a changed life and good works. If we claim to have faith and believe in Him and do no good works, then we most likely do not have genuine faith.
"He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join Him in the work He does. The good work He has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing." (Ephesians 2:10~Message)
Merit is defined as: "Claim to respect and praise; excellence and worth. Something that deserves or justifies a reward or commendation, a commendable quality or act..." As Swindoll writes in Insights on Romans, "The righteousness of God is received through faith, not our own merit."
Many people think they can obtain salvation and get to heaven because they are successful and/or because of their status or position. But faith and salvation is not a work or something that is earned; we receive it by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and receiving His gift with open arms. No matter whom we are or how important our status is on earth, we will not receive eternal life without accepting Jesus as our Savior. Selfish pride and good works are not like faith and good works. One serves as a narcissistic behavioral attitude in which we rely on what others think when we are giving and helping. However, a work produced by faith is acting upon and serving others with a sincere heart and genuine attitude, regardless of whether other people are around to acknowledge it or not. It's our real character.
"Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle" James 1:17~Message