Thursday, 16 November 2017

Am I Good Enough to Get to Heaven?

Taking a break from the Bridging the Gap series, I wanted to touch on something that was briefly mentioned in Ten Deadly Views that are Prevalent in Society.

I had a chat with an 82 year old man named John in the street today. He walked past my book table and was squinting to read the sign, presumably to find out what I was offering. I greeted him and, still at a distance, he said “Is it about religion?” I obviously told him that it was about Christianity. He waved his arms around in frustration and said that he didn’t want to know anything about religion. I suggested that it might be important, and he came over to talk to me.

John said that in the past, he had spent time in a Catholic church with nuns and also in a Church of England. He continued that he didn’t believe any of it now and didn’t go to church. He then began listing all of the good he had done in his life. He was trying to walk away from me the whole time he was speaking, partly because of the cold weather but also I sensed that he didn’t really want to hear what I had to say in response. I found the encounter interesting because it was cold and there was really no reason for him to even stop and talk to me. I hadn’t imposed myself on him and it wasn’t just a case of him politely listening to me, he obviously felt the need to converse on the subject, maybe even to reassure himself that he was on the right path.

I often pray during conversations like this not immediately knowing what to say to engage the person. I tried a basic Gospel explanation knowing I only had seconds before he left. In reply, John told me that he didn’t believe in an afterlife and that he would just be dead in the ground. He didn’t believe God was there and didn’t believe in Heaven or Hell. He laughed when I spoke about God having created us.

Yet, John, who claims not to believe in God or an afterlife, had spent most of the conversation telling me about all of the good he had done in his life. It begs the question, why bother if there is no God, no afterlife, no Judgement Day?

John is typical of many people who are suppressing the truth about God. We have been created with a conscience that knows right from wrong and we can see the hand of God in creation. This is why we feel guilt when we sin and why people who claim not to believe in God, like John, end up doing good works “just in case.” If we are honest, we know deep down that we are accountable for our sin because God has created us with that knowledge.

A staggering number of people, even professing Christians think that salvation and entrance into heaven is at least partly based on good deeds. These people usually also think that their good will be weighed against their bad and as long as they haven’t committed a serious crime (according to the definition of society e.g. murder, rape, child molestation,) then their good will outweigh their bad.

It amazes me that people are willing to risk their eternal destiny on something so subjective. It’s also incredible that more people aren’t wanting to know the definitive answer to the question: “Am I good enough to get to heaven?” They leave it until it’s too late to do anything about it when they have already died and are standing before God awaiting judgement.

The Open Air Mission has a tract with this question on the front. A lady was handed the leaflet and read the question aloud she then said ,“No, actually, I’m not.” I tried to engage her in conversation but she was off up the street continuing her shopping, apparently not concerned enough to give a few minutes of her time to find out how she could get to heaven.

The good news is that the Bible gives us the answer to this most important question. It tells us that none of us are good enough to get to heaven. All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3 vs 23.) God’s standard is perfection and none of us are perfect.

Whilst talking to John I acknowledged that from what he had said, he had lived a pretty good life and done a lot of good things for people. I asked him whether he thought that was enough and whether God’s standard was the same as our standards as human beings. He admitted that he wasn’t perfect and quickly followed that up with the observation that no one is. It made me sad that this man at 82 was striving to lead a good, moral life yet was missing the mark and was unwilling to hear the solution. He refused a booklet and rushed off saying that he was cold. Please pray for him.

God knew that we could never live up to His standards because of our inclination to sin. He therefore sent His only Son Jesus to die on a cross in our place and for our sin. Jesus lived a perfect life with no sin of His own. Then, he literally stepped in and took the punishment that you and I deserve. Jesus bridged the gap between us in our sin and a Holy God. It is only through Jesus that we can approach God, have our sins forgiven and ultimately enter heaven.

So, the title question is really a trick one. The amount of sin we have committed is irrelevant because we have all sinned. Likewise the number of good deeds because we are not perfect. One small sin is enough to keep us out of heaven, forever and doing something good doesn’t cancel it out!

The answer will always be, no, we are not good enough to get to Heaven. However, if we trust Jesus, our sin can be replaced with His perfection and this is all that God requires for entrance to Heaven.

Here is the full verse, part of which I mentioned earlier;

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Romans 3 vs 23-24

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