A Muslim friend of mine tells me that in his faith, getting to heaven requires doing enough of the right things so that Allah is pleased enough to let you in. But he says there’s no way to know whether you’ve done enough to make it or not.
Some people think Christianity works the same way. Go to church often enough, be baptized, take communion, read the Bible, pray, do good things to help others — do enough of the right things and God will let you in. But the Bible is clear that it doesn’t work that way.
The Bible does teach good deeds are important, but not because they earn us credits toward heaven. Obedience to the things that please God should be our response to God’s love, not a way for us to earn it.
Consider this fictional story:
Jim and Jeff were twin brothers. Their lives were as parallel as any two lives could be. They went to church together, supported the church financially, served at a homeless shelter together, both served on the church music team, and were well-respected members of their community. They even died at the same time.
When Jim and Jeff stood before God’s judgment seat, Jim was welcomed into heaven and Jeff wasn’t. Why? Isn’t God fair in how He treats everyone?
I Samuel 16:7b tells us,
“…God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Jim and Jeff look the same to us, but God sees deeper than we do.
We see this illustrated in the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4. Both offered sacrifices to God, and it wasn’t because God preferred meat to vegetables that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted and Cain’s wasn’t. Hebrews 11:4 tells us that it was Abel’s faith (what he believed) that made the difference.
Consider Romans 10:9-10:
“if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”
Nothing there about doing good deeds to be saved.
That’s really good news since none of us is capable of living a life that is good enough to meet God’s high standards. God is holy and perfect, we aren’t. Something had to be done if imperfect people are to live eternally in God’s holy presence.
God’s solution was to take the consequences of our sin upon himself. He came to earth as a man, Jesus, and lived a perfect life not worthy of death. Although He didn’t deserve it, He chose to die the death that we deserved. God sees us as cleansed by Jesus’ sacrifice.
Admission to heaven results from accepting that we can’t get there by our own effort — Only Jesus makes it possible for those who believe in Him. Jim believed it, Jeff didn’t.
Believe it and say so.