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Monday, October 26, 2020

Good, But Not Good Enough!

By Joe Chesser
 
     According to Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study, 72% of Americans say they believe in heaven – defined as a place “where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded.” In an earlier poll conducted by Barna Research Group (2003), nearly two-thirds of Americans said that they believe they will go to heaven, and less than 1% said they will end up in hell, because hell is a denial of goodness. If this truly reflects what people in America are thinking, most people will go to heaven because most people lead good lives.
    Of course, this naturally raises the questions of how one defines what is good, and then, how much good is needed to go to heaven. If Americans were polled, no clear conclusions could be drawn. Everybody is good in their own way. Most have a standard of goodness by which they measure themselves … and others. Things such as working hard, helping the homeless, giving to charities, going to church, loving your family, paying taxes, etc. But, how much good is needed to get you into heaven? The answer Jesus gives will shock most Americans.
    On one occasion a man approached Jesus with this very question: “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?” (Matt. 19.16). I don’t know the man’s heart, but it seems like he felt pretty good about himself when he asked that question. He had kept the law’s commands all his life. That was good, but not good enough. Jesus told him sell his possessions, give them away, and then follow him (Matt. 19.21). That made him sad, but eternal life wasn’t worth that much to him, so he went away.
    By the standards most Americans use today, Cornelius was a very good man who would definitely deserve heaven.  He was in the military; he and his family were  devoted, God-fearing believers; he gave generously to those in need; and he prayed to God regularly (Acts 10.1-2). These were unusually good qualities, especially for Roman soldiers. However, by God’s standards, even Cornelius with all his goodness was not good enough to be saved. So, God spoke to him in a vision to send for Peter who would “bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved” (Acts 11.14).
    Before Paul became a Christian, he was confident in his own religious goodness (Phil. 3.4-6). He was a “Hebrew of Hebrews … a Pharisee … faultless.” But by God’s grace he learned that even he would never be good enough on his own to go to heaven (1 Tim. 1.14). What he learned was that all that he had previously considered good was really garbage compared with faith in Christ (Phil. 3.8).
    Regardless of what Americans believe, or anyone else for that matter, no one is good enough based on their own merits to go to heaven. To be saved, we must be in Jesus and follow him (John 14.6; Luke 9.23). There is no other way. In Christ we are covered with his saving blood (1 John 1.7). Then, and only then, does God see us as good (Eph. 5.25-27).
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


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