Isn’t it enough to be good moral people? Unbelievers can ask that, but believers can come back after they are saved and ask it too. We recognize that we are sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9) and that Christ has paid for our sin (1 Peter 2:24,25; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 2:13,14) and we are saved by having faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; 1 John 5:11-13). But having been saved, it is sometimes easy to fall back on the idea that if I just live up to the world’s standard of morality, if I am a respectable person and avoid gross sins, then that is all God really expects of me. But the Bible says that the ultimate goal is conformity to Christ (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 3:9), which involves living up to God’s perfect holiness (Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15; Ephesians 4:24). Now this is not something we can achieve by ourselves, nor will we attain it in this life, but it is still the goal. Because of that we need to recognize that, while we might be able by our own human effort to put on an outward show of morality, we cannot, apart from God working in our life, do anything to truly please God (John 15:5; Romans 8:8; 7:18). Therefore, we must trust in God’s working in us to change us (Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:29; Ephesians 2:10).
Now growth in Christ is not an immediate thing, but a process that takes place throughout our Christian life (Philippians 3:12-16; Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Timothy 4:7,8). But it is only as we trust in the Holy Spirit’s work in us that we avoid the errors of pride in our accomplishments or of discouragement due to our failings. And when we do fail (and we will; see Romans 7:14-25; Galatians 5:17), we fall back on God’s forgiveness (Romans 8:1; Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 2:1,2). But we can continue, knowing that God will ultimately fulfill in us the requirement of the Law (Romans 8:4) so that we will be presented to God as a pure church without spot or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:27). But if we see ourselves as being responsible to accomplish this on our own, we can end up lowering the standard to fit our abilities. And instead of continually pressing on toward God’s standard of holiness, we can accept the standard of the world’s morality. Then being satisfied with achieving that goal, we can stop pressing on to where God wants us to be. But we must remember that while the goal is high, God has promised to work in us to accomplish it and we can trust in His power. Further, while we will not achieve it in this life, we should settle for nothing less than God’s standard of perfection.