I can see what Paul is saying, and assuming he's not meaning it in a legalistic sort of way, and I don't think he is, he is right. We are to be a spiritual work in progress, and what 99% of the churches I know of teach, basically, is you "get saved" and sit on a church pew until you die. There is little if any growth, but a whole lot of trying to TEACH people how to be "better Christians" instead of teaching them how to put on Christ and walk in the Spirit.
I was given a dream/vision of someone once, and I will never forget it as long as I live. This person had refused time and again, to stop doing what from the appearance realm, looked like a good work. And it WAS a good work, if not for the fact the Lord had said more than once, enough already, so that made it a whole new ballgame. Because that meant a proceeding word of life by which we live, had come forth for this person.
So anyway, in this dream/vision, real as day, I was there with all these people at a huge banquet hall, and the person in question. Suddenly the one who had been the instigator of the good works this person was doing that the Lord said to stop, appeared at the French doors outside, bidding this person leave with them to do more of the good works. The person went outside with them, ignoring once again what the Lord said to do. I went out after this person, intending to try to bring her to her senses and repentance.
Just then, I looked at the disobedient person, and I was shocked to see the Lord in her, shriveled up and misshapen, limbs contorted from lack of use (as in not reaching out to be used to heal, not walking in the Spirit, ect.).
And then He spoke, "I HAVE BEEN PUT TO SHAME THROUGH DEAD WORKS."
I felt sick to my stomach and jolted awake. So dead works, regardless of how they look to others or to ourselves, are works that don't have the life (direction) of the Spirit in them. Blessings....