“There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death…”
(Proverbs 14:12 NKJV)
There are millions of people in this world today who have adopted the philosophy of “It seems right to me…” This humanistic model of living is based on the false premise that man can make do virtually anything he wants to do – so long as it makes him happy and does not hurt others. Many others attempt to make the same application when it comes to their religious devotion. If it seems right to them (makes them happy) and it is offered as worship, then they think they are pleasing God.
This attitude is similar to that of King Saul in 1 Samuel 15. He had been commanded to take his army and go up against the Amelekites and utterly destroy them and all of their livestock – to leave none alive. But Saul, thinking it would please God more if he spared the best of the livestock to sacrifice as a burnt offering. The prophet Samuel rebuked him and stated, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams…” (1 Samuel 15:22 NKJV) Because he sought to do what seemed right to him rather than what God had informed him- God rejected him from being king over Israel.
There is a way that appears right to a man, and there is also a way that is right to God. In the First Century, the Pharisees had a way that seemed right to them. They had developed their own standard of right and wrong based upon their oral traditions. To the Pharisees Jesus said, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God… All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition…”(Mark 7:6-9 NKJV) This group of ancient Jews had added many things to the word of God because they thought that if they followed these traditions they would be more pleasing to God. Their problem was that they allowed the traditions to replace the word of God in their hearts.
Paul had been a Pharisee (Acts 23:6) and he had felt justified in persecuting Christians based upon some of these oral traditions. In Philippians 3:1-12, Paul recounted how his persecuting of Christians had been according to his own self-righteous beliefs. Even though he was zealous and felt right in his actions, he was violating the will of God.
Paul also states in that passage that he put away his man-made standard of righteousness and adopted the righteousness of God through his faith in Christ Jesus. Christians know that there is no salvation outside of obedience to Christ (Hebrew 5:8-7; Matthew 7:21-23). So, without our obedient faith all the ways of man lead to spiritual death.