"Am I good enough to go to heaven? Yes, I think I am. Only people like Charles Manson, Nidal Hasan (the Ft. Hood killer), those Islamic guys that are beheading people in the middle east, child molesters, rapists and the like actually deserve to go to hell. Those are the really bad people."
Sounds reasonable, right? But if that's the criteria by which we are comparing our own actions to in order to determine if we are “good enough” to go to heaven or “bad enough” to go to hell, then most people should be heading for the pearly gates when they die, right?
|Image from planet-science.com|
Qualification for entrance to heaven (or hell) is not based on how we compare to others or how we compare to the standards we set for ourselves. Your life may look pretty good through your own eyes, but what if you looked at your life through the eyes of One who is sinless? What if we were judged not just by our actions, but by our thoughts? If we're not going to be honest with ourselves and admit that our actions alone would condemn us, then how about the thoughts that run through our head. What about how that flash of judgment that crossed your mind, ever so briefly, when you saw that grossly overweight woman at Walmart dressed in those tight and revealing clothes, folds of skin spilling out of ever strained edge of clothing? What about the hate (and angry words) that rose within you when someone righteously judged you of living in sin? What about those thoughts of how you were going to get even with the one who just stabbed you in the back at work? How about seeing someone attractive and contemplating, just for a moment, what they looked like naked or contemplating having sex with them if given the chance? Am I hitting home yet? No? What about advertising the short comings of others in order to make yourself look good? What about flaunting your “wealth” in front of those who are surviving from paycheck to paycheck? What about contemplating what new possession to purchase next instead of figuring out how you can spend that money to help those in need? That's just the tip of the iceberg. Unrighteous thoughts stream through our mind on a daily basis. Can you honestly say that you are in complete control of your thoughts and emotions? I didn't think so. Our “goodness” when compared to God’s standard for “good” falls far, far short.
The biggest mistake we make is when we trivialize our sins. Have you ever lied? We may say, “Yes, but they were little white lies, nothing serious. I never intended to hurt anyone when I lied.” Have you ever stolen something? We may say, “I've taken some office supplies or shop supplies home from work, but no one's going to miss them. Besides, I didn't have enough time to go shopping for them myself. I live a very busy life.” Can you see what we’re doing? We’re trivializing our crimes. What we’re saying is that what we did was of so little consequence that we can’t actually call them sins, but the bible warns, “He who says he has no sin deceives himself.” (1John 1:8)
The truth is if you've lied, then you are a liar. If I catch you in a lie, wouldn't I be just in lowering my level of trust in you? If you have stolen anything (the value of the stolen item is irrelevant), you are a thief. If I was at work with you and caught you walking out the door with company property, should I believe that you would never steal something of greater importance or value if given the opportunity? Maybe even steal from me? If you've looked at someone with lust, then you are an adulterer. If you constantly lusted after women, would I trust you to be around my wife when I wasn't there (or would I even feel comfortable with you being around here even if I was there)? These may seem like small indiscretions, but they hold serious consequences, not just on a human level, but even greater on a spiritual level.
What we need to hear is the Judge’s ruling for lying and stealing and adultery. The judgment is that those who commit those sins shall "have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone." Revelation 21:8
So, all liars, thieves and adulterers go to hell. You may say that you don’t believe in hell, but that’s just like a criminal saying that he doesn’t believe he'll ever be caught, tried and sent to prison. What we believe or don’t believe doesn’t change the outcome of God’s judgment.
If we are honest with ourselves, then we have to admit that we fall far short of God’s perfection. So what do we do? What can we do to make things right between us and God? Maybe church attendance or helping out the less fortunate. After all, good works must count for something, right? Maybe if the good things I do outweigh the bad, that will get me to heaven. No! Some religions may offer this destructive teaching, but nowhere in the bible does it state that we can do anything of ourselves to rid ourselves of the consequences of the sin in our life. Even ONE sin separates us from God. So what’s to become of us?
We must let go of our attempts to save ourselves and reach out to the One who can save us. The moment we cease our own attempts to sneak into heaven’s back gates and instead repent and believe in Jesus, depending on Him to save us, our life changes. The bible says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not works, lest anyone boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
You may still wonder how a perfect and loving God could send anyone to hell. To put it plainly, He doesn’t. Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve. They, in turn, passed this sin nature down through their offspring, infecting everyone who would ever be born. God created hell for Satan and the angels who rebelled against God. Hell was never intended for mankind, but mankind fell, and that opened them to eternal separation from God in hell because sin cannot enter God's presence in heaven. Thankfully, God created a way of escape for those who choose to repent and give their lives to Him. The Jewish people brought their sin offerings to the Lord at the Temple of God to be slain, the blood offered to temporarily cover their own sins. God did something much more wonderful. He sent the Perfect Lamb to be a sacrifice for us all. His shed blood didn't just cover our sin, His blood eradicated them broke Satan's power over us.
Those who seek to have their sins covered in the precious blood of the Lamb of God receive the gift He offers... the gift of forgiveness and of a restored relationship with our Father as we go from spiritual death to a total rebirth... a spiritual resurrection... being born again and receiving the promise of eternal life with God.
Yes, those who surrender their lives to God and live for Him receive this gift, but those who do not make that choice remain in their sinful state and await the judgment that comes for all who die in their sins. Many who hear about this gift don’t take the opportunity to ask for it. They would rather complain and argue about why God would let mankind sin in the first place or why He made a man who was capable of sin, rather than stop, think and repent. Unfortunately, they would rather keep arguing, using human knowledge and understanding, making vain arguments all because they can't fathom the things of God.
Be encouraged, because just as God has continued to call out to you to repent, He continues to call everyone else who is unsaved, offering them this free gift of salvation. Most will scoff at the offer or outright refuse to hear anything about it. Will you be one of them or will you heed the call of Jesus and finally take that step forward, choosing Him and the eternal destiny He has for you? It’s your choice whether to spend eternity with God. YOUR CHOICE! To do nothing is to choose to stay the way you are.
"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:18
First published on June 3, 2010
Repent and be forgiven! Believe and be saved!