There are many philosophers and religious teachers who claim that you can earn a degree of special holiness or self control by following a special, sacred set of prescribed rules.
For instance, there is one religion that claims that you can gain merit before God if you pray in a specific way facing a specific direction at specific times of the day. There are several religions that claim you can make yourself specially holy by washing in a certain way. Still others say that you can cleanse your soul by separating yourself from human contact for awhile, or avoiding certain foods.
They are all wrong. They do not actually make you more holy. They just make you feel more holy:
Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (Colossians 2:23)
Following these rules will not make you a better person. After you do them you will still be a horrible sinner. You will still have hate and lust in your heart. Sometimes doing these things will make you a worse sinner. These things can make you self righteous. They make you think that you are better than other people on account of your extreme effort, and this makes you proud. God does not like it when you are proud.
If you are a religious or philosophical person who think that you have attained to a higher plane than other mortals, read the story below carefully. Put yourself in the shoes of the Pharisee, and realize that you are a horrible hypocrite just like him:
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breastand said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
Which person above better describes you? Do you think that you are better than other people? Or do you think of yourself as a low-life, the scum of the Earth? There is more hope for a lowlife than a religious hypocrite. We must all realize that we are wicked sinners, and there is no hope for us apart from the love of Christ.