Think about what the question implies. It assumes that because of doing many good works, we’ve put God on the spot; the Creator of the universe is in our debt! We’re saying that He owes us heaven because of all our hard work. The book of Romans addresses this way of thinking with these words: “Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt” (Romans 4:4).
When I work for a company for a week, then the company is in debt to me and owes me a week’s wage. But that is not the way it works between God and us. The Bible clearly teaches us that we are sinners who are fallen from God’s high standard of a holy, loving relationship with Him (Romans 3:23). Thus, as unbelieving sinners, we were already condemned and ready for everlasting punishment (John 3:18).
When we were unbelievers and already condemned, there was no way to do good works to be saved; the problem was not that we could not do enough good works, but the sin in us corrupted our good works. (For example, if we have sinful pride, then we may do good works to be admired by others rather than glorify God.)
God’s way of saving us is to point out our sin then point out the remedy of Christ; we turn away from trusting in our works to trust in Christ instead, and God accepts that, and makes us righteous by faith in Him (Romans 3:22, 4:3-5).
So we are saved by faith in Jesus alone. But what good works should we be doing? Well look at it this way. Suppose two women were equally overweight and attend a meeting that addresses this problem. Afterward, one goes away unconvinced, thinking it would not work for her. But the other goes away thinking, “That’s just what I needed. I know what to do now.” What kinds of works would she be doing? She would do things that would address her problem, and she would be on the way to a healthier life.
So what works should believers do? Works that address our sin problem; works that draw us closer to God. As sinners, we lived for ourselves and were far from God. As the saved, we do those things that change our lives, moving us into a new way of living.
This is the lifestyle of those who were apart from God:
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (Romans 3:10-12)
If this describes your life when as a Christian believer, then you are not addressing the problem that the gospel illuminates: your sinful nature is active and is at odds with God and are corrupting your good works. You are still trusting in your works rather than Christ. You are not convinced that you, in spite of all your good deeds, are worthy of condemnation. You do not believe the words of God which call you to trust in Him for salvation, but are calling Him a liar!
Look again at the traits of the condemned: “There is none who seeks after God.” This is the life of the unbeliever. As believers who desire to correct our lives, we seek after God.
“They have become unprofitable.” This is the life of the unbeliever; they are of no use to God. But the repentant believer can be used by God for His service. Is there a clear before and after with your life?
So repentance turns us to the good works that show we are serious about sin and holiness. These good deeds are not about putting God in debt; rather, they declare that we are in debt to God, who saved us with a great price – the giving of His Son on the cross.