Do you know people who are not (yet) Christians – they’ve not accepted Christ – but they think they’re good people and they’ll go to heaven when they die? They think God will let them in. If they’ve done anything wrong, they think God will forgive them because of their good deeds or because they have always tried to live a good life.
I used to think like this: I used to think that to get in to heaven God will weigh up your good deeds and your bad, like on a pair of scales, and if the good outweighs the bad, well then you’re in! And I’ve met loads of ‘self-righteous’ people in my time; people who think that God is actually rather pleased with them; they think they are worthy and God will certainly accept them… why wouldn’t he? I’ve had people say things to me like, ‘Ok, I might not be perfect but I’ve never murdered anyone; you know I’m a law abiding citizen; I’m honest – I don’t cheat, don’t steal; I’m a nice person (well, most of the time) and I always try to do what’s right – might not always succeed, but on the whole I’m a decent good person: I’m kind, I’m generous… I give to charity, go to church occasionally… and, I give blood! For heaven’s sake. Of course, God will accept me!’
Now, these are all very worthwhile things, certainly… but there’s a major problem with that kind of philosophy: It’s self-reliant; it depends on us earning favour with God, or doing a deal and trying to work things out so the balance is in our favour. But the Bible nowhere teaches that God judges us like on a pair of scales. In fact, the Bible teaches the opposite! God’s standard is 100% perfection and so none of us can ever be good enough; none of us can be perfect or completely righteous… and yet that’s God’s requirement; the qualification to get into heaven – we have to be perfect, without sin, completely righteous just like Jesus… Or… we have to be made righteous; we have to covered with the blood of Christ. How are we made righteous? Only in accepting – by faith – what Jesus has done for us.
It is by God’s grace that we are saved. Salvation is a gift that comes through faith, not a recompense for our good works! Ephesians 2v8-9 (NIV1984) says: It is by God’s grace that we have been saved, through faith, and not by works so no one can boast… (thinking that they’re good enough).
R. Ian Seymour