You believe they do, and, very practically thinking, so do I.
Most of us spend our time with people who are like us. They enjoy the things that we enjoy. They speak our language. They watch our television shows. They have jobs or go to class. They pay their bills. They dress decently. They are nice. They are like us.
And we are believers - Christians.
They live in our neighborhood.
They work with us.
They look like us.
They act like us.
They talk like us.
If we are Christians, they must be Christians too.
We give it little thought. We assume. We assume that because they are "good" to us, they must be "good" with God. Honestly, we probably don't even give conscious thought to this because they are so good, so much like us. But the truth is, no matter how good they are to us, good people don't go to heaven.
The Bible is clear that we are all sinners: we have all failed to love and follow God, and there are no "good people." The Bible is also clear that sin separates us from God. Our separation from God is unending apart from forgiveness of our sin. At the very least, this separation means that we won't be with him in "heaven." Worse, the Bible teaches that there is unending condemnation and even suffering when we die separated from God. Those forgiven will spend forevermore with him in a world free from sin and the consequences of sin. Those not forgiven will not.
The difference between those two groups - those who will be forevermore with him and those who will suffer unending condemnation - isn't measured by behavior, but belief. It won't depend on whether or not a person was "good," nice, hard working, a great dad or mom, neighborly, honest, dependable... but on whether or not they believed the good news of Jesus. The good news of Jesus is a proclamation that by trusting in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we are forgiven of sin, made right in God's eyes and restored to a right relationship with him. By faith in his good work for us, we are made truly good in God's eyes (righteous and holy).
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 10:8 "But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Paul is explaining that forgiveness and restoration with God comes through faith, faith that is centered on the work of Jesus! This faith is very specific. It isn't faith that God is good. It isn't faith that God is loving. It isn't faith that all roads lead to one great God. It is faith that God has provided for us, in Christ, a way of forgiveness - salvation.
There is no other way of forgiveness, no other way of salvation, no other way of being good. It only comes by faith in the work of Jesus.
Then Paul adds this...
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone proclaiming to them?
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be forgiven and saved.
But how can they call on him if they haven't believed?
And how can they believe in him when they haven't heard?
And how can they hear without someone proclaiming the good news to them?
The "good" people around us don't go to heaven- only the forgiven who trust in the good news of Jesus. And our niceness, service in the community and church attendance isn't the gospel. The gospel is the good news of his life, death and resurrection proclaimed. Our good neighbors, good co-workers and good friends need to hear about Jesus, and they need to hear from us.
My friends need to hear it from me.
Your friends? They need to hear from you.
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”