For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.
In my experience and humble view, the biggest obstacle to salvation is self-righteousness. We are born as fallen self-righteous, self-centered sinners. Enter world religions such as Roman Catholicism into this, and it amplifies this self-righteousness.
The disdain for Jesus Christ is really quite subtle in world religions. The disdain becomes quite noticeable when a member of a world religion is asked to place their faith alone in Him. In this hate for Jesus, foolishly they will scream “what about James 2!” (In reference to works) without realizing their faith in Jesus is dead thus are their works, so James 2 actually convicts them rather than supports their ideology. But don’t expect a blind lost rebellious sinner to discern this central fact.
The natural tendency is to try and save ourselves, try to import our contribution, we naturally want some type of credit from God. “God won’t send me to hell, I am a good person” is the general overall sentiment. And sadly many on their way to eternal hell believe this is the way they are on their way to heaven. Roman Catholics for example will have their list of church attendance and all those “charitable” works and sacraments they participated in as their plea on Judgment Day. Mormons, JWs, and others of this mindset will as well.
The Pharisees, one the most religious and externally pious and moral sects who ever walked the earth followed the self righteous ideology. They amp’d up the commandments from God and added a few of their own as well, and religiously followed them. In one swoop, Jesus condemned this mentality, and taught that salvation would only come through HIS righteousness, yes His righteousness. And that by faith alone in Him would be the only way one could be saved. The Pharisees mocked, they scoffed, just as Roman Catholics and other legalistic world religions mock and scoff at Jesus.
And it is striking that some don’t really understand what Jesus was saying when He declared “unless your righteousness exceeds the Pharisees and scribes, you cannot be saved”. Meaning that the Pharisees and scribes had the HIGHEST degree of self righteousness one could achieve, and yet they were not saved. But I will hear blind Roman Catholics foolishly tell me they “follow the commandments”, or they “are good people”, and that is their ticket to salvation.
Self righteousness is the biggest obstacle to salvation. It is only when it is removed by God, one will only see Jesus Christ and humbly submit to His righteousness. Only then a sinner will be saved.
Self righteousness is easily discerned. All you need to do is view how the sinner is attempting to be saved. Are they trying to earn it by piousness, morality, religiosity and self-works here on earth, their church attendance and religious rituals? They are always behind the obstacle of self righteousness no matter how much they try to justify it as the Pharisees did. Catholics like the Pharisees will attempt to say it is by God’s grace these works of self righteousness are being done, while not realizing they are blaspheming the name of Jesus Christ at the same time!
Salvation is ONLY THROUGH the PERFECT righteousness of Jesus Christ. When a sinner is saved, the extent of His FULL righteousness is credited to the sinner’s account. This is the Good News, the Gospel. Every gospel which teaches otherwise is false and must be discarded, not followed, but thrown quickly into the trash or you will be placed behind the obstacle of self-righteousness.