everyday gospel

Good People Don't Go to Heaven

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!”

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Monday - Exposed By The Cross, Part II

The Cross also exposes me before the eyes of other people, informing them of the depth of my depravity. If I wanted others to think highly of me, I would conceal the fact that a shameful slaughter of the perfect Son of God was required that I might be saved. But when I stand at the foot of the Cross and am seen by others under the light of that Cross, I am left uncomfortably exposed before their eyes. Indeed the most humiliating gossip that could ever be whispered about me is blared from Golgotha’s hill; (75) and my self-righteous reputation is left in ruins in the wake of its revelations. With the worst facts about me thus exposed to the view of others, I find myself feeling that I truly have nothing left to hide.

Thankfully, the more exposed I see that I am by the Cross, the more I find myself opening up to others ongoing issues of sin in my life. (Why would anyone be shocked to hear of my struggles with past and present sin when the Cross already told them I am a desperately sinful person?) And the more open I am in confessing my sins to fellow-Christians, the more I enjoy the healing of the Lord in response to their grace filled counsel and prayers.(76) Experiencing richer levels of Christ’s love in companionship with such saints,(77) I give thanks for the Gospel’s role in forcing my hand toward self-disclosure and the freedom that follows.(78)

75-Golgotha was the place where Jesus was crucified. John 19. “(17)…and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of the Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. (18) There they crucified Him…

76-James 5:16. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed…”

77-Ephesians 3. “(14) For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,…(17)…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, (19) and to know the love of Christ…”

78-Ecclesiastes 4. “(9) Two are better than one…(10) For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up…(12) And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”

Friday - Joy in Prayer

Psalm 68:4. “Sing to God, sing praises to His name...and exult before Him.”

“When God chose me in Christ before the foundation of the world, He did not merely choose me to be “holy and blameless”; He chose me also to be “before Him in love. ”To be sure, I am always in God’s presence on earth, and in heaven I will be in His presence more fully than ever. But it could also be said that in this life I am especially “before Him in love” when I come “before Him” in prayer and worship.” – Milton Vincent

In the early months of 1994, I was stationed in the frozen wasteland that is New Jersey for a month of training with the Army Rangers. It was one of the hardest months I have ever experienced in my life. Jennifer and I had recently gotten engaged, and I would be shipping off to England for three years. We didn’t know when we would be able to get married or when I would be able to return to see her again.

The phone was our lifeline. Every evening when I would return from the field, my driving desire was to call her. The thought of being in her presence brought joy to me. In many ways, those conversations sustained me through some difficult days.

My conversations with Jesus are very similar…but better. Jesus paid with His life to welcome me into His family. He tore the veil to allow me into the presence of our Father.  Jesus opened the way for me to experience joy in my Father’s presence.

While it is true that one day Christians will stand completely in His presence and know pure joy and innocence, we also have the opportunity to enter His presence every day. Approaching God in prayer helps battle loneliness – Jesus is with us – helps us understand our Father better – God answers in His time – and draws us into communion with Him through dark days, temptations and trials. Prayer brings us to a place of hope. 

Don’t waste the gift of prayer. Don’t waste the privilege we have to enter into our Father’s presence and experience the loving embrace that He offers.