Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Are You Good Enough to Go to Heaven?

Who Am I?

A person who wants faith.

"I'm a pretty good person," said someone I once knew. "I'll probably go to heaven."

Well, if we are saved by being good, I doubt any of us would go to heaven. Years later, that same person apologized to someone in my family and said, "I was a monster." He had come to see what he really was and "good" wasn't it.

Who is God?

Someone who can save us from death and give us eternal life. (And giving us a fun time up there.)

We are saved by one person who was good: Jesus.

He asks us to seek him and to follow him. After seeking and learning about him, if we want him and ask him to live in us, then we are saved. We are saved because he died for us and his own good life covers our bad life.

This is called, in religious circles, "Righteousness by Faith."

I've listened to a lot of talks on this subject lately. It is very easy for Christians to slip into, "Righteousness by Our Own Works."  Christians can focus on how they live their lives so much that they forget who they asked to run their lives for them. In religious circles this is called, "Legalism."  Legalists always judge people harshly. And not just other people, but they judge themselves harshly also, so they are never happy because they are never perfect enough. I know this because that is who I once was.

Now, I have a tendency to flop between faith and legalism. Just when I think I'm living my life through faith, not works, I find myself running to legalism once again. I was raised in a pretty legalistic-type home and church. It is ingrained in my brain, "If you are good you will go to  heaven, if you're bad, you won't."  By the time I was a teenager, I figured I could never be good enough to be a Christian, even though I wanted very much to be one.

My older sister felt the same. She said to me once, "Why be a Christian when they can keep you out of heaven on a technicality?" Like me, she felt it was hopeless to even try. After learning about living by faith, she did come to God. Her favorite preacher is Joyce Meyer, who has also been an inspiration to me.

This is what Paul wrote on faith vs works.

"If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 
What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Romans 4:1,2

So, believing what God says is part of faith. If we were saved by our good deeds then we would have something to boast about. But we aren't. Actually, any good we do comes from God anyway, who is the maker of all that is good.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights..." James 1:17  (Don't you love the name, "Father of Stars.")

Paul goes on to write:

"Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation."

 "However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness." 

David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord will never count against them.”

Romans 4:4-8

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 6:23

"Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."  John 4:10

Eternal life is a gift. But just like gifts on earth, you must hold out your hands and receive it.