‘Won’t I get to Heaven by just being good? 

                                                                          D.W. June 25th ‘23

We chose this vital, verse in Proverbs as our verse of the year:

   Prov 3:5 & 6  ‘Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

  Let’s open our hearts wide to what the Scriptures plainly state.

However, may I begin by misquoting a Scripture or two?

   John 3:16 ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever… is well-behaved, whoever is religious, whosoever is monogamous, keeps himself/herself from swearing, is kind and thoughtful,  is not greedy, is kind to his/her neighbour, gives to the poor…. No!  But … ‘ whosoever believes on Him…will not perish but have everlasting life…

   Heb 11:8 ‘By faith Abraham, (who pleased God by being a really good husband?) when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.’(We will get back to Abraham.)

Question.  Is what we do the basis of our acceptance with our Heavenly Father. Or does the answer hang upon our relationship, or lack of it, with God?

1/    Are our good works sufficient to give us acceptance?   If so, how many and how often?  How can we decide when or whether we have done enough to earn right standing with God? 

2/    The Gospel is all about peace and acceptance with God the Father through the sacrifice of our dear Lord Jesus Christ and not about our own efforts to be good. All the New Testament writings are geared to and focused upon, this theme of being in Christ.

3/   I have had to be very selective in the passages chosen for today.  And frankly, what comments I might make are worth less than nothing compared to what the Scriptures themselves plainly say about this theme. The passages speak for themselves. I don’t think I can make it any clearer.

   Now this message is not about condemning all the good things we do.  BUT are we doing these good things in order to impress God about how deserving we are? Or are we serving Him because the Lord has had mercy upon us? It is not so much about being good as what the motive is behind those deeds.

We desperately need to grasp these two contrasting truths:

  God is holy.   Lev 20:26 ‘You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.

   I Peter 1:15  ‘But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

   Jer 17:9: ‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?’

    Sometimes we just want to put the cart before the horse. It could be because we do genuinely feel we are righteous in ourselves,  or  we think somebody we love passes the test. The ‘cart’ is the load of good things we as Christians are called to do. The ‘horse’ is the locomotion, the power which gets us going, the Holy Spirit of God.

What about our father Abraham?

   Jas 2:21 ‘Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

None of us want to hear: ‘Depart from me, I never knew you.’ Mat 7:21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers! ’

   1 Cor 1: 21  ‘For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

   Rom 10: 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.’

                           Live by works or live by faith?

           The choice must be made by each one of us. 

   Are we trusting in our own goodness, or trusting in Christ.

    Rom 9:32 ‘but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. 32 Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.

   1 Cor 15:2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

Look carefully what it says in Hebrews 10:38 “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

                  Seven words we all want to hear from Jesus:

                         ‘Enter into the joy of your Lord.”’

                 Seven words we never want to hear:

               ‘Depart from me, I never knew you’ Matt 7:23

   Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

The Apostle Paul says in Rom 7:18 ‘In my flesh dwells no good thing.’

   Phil 3:4 Though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh,(in their own goodness) I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but  that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’

       Gal 2:16 ‘know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

   2 Thess 1:11 ‘With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.

   Titus 3:14 Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives. (A reason for this is to encourage us to do good because we love one another, not as a way of earning a place in heaven.)

   1 Tim 6:18 ‘Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.’

   Titus 2: 14 ‘who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.’

     So how vital is good behaviour?  Genuine faith produces behaviour pleasing to God our Saviour. 

 James 2: 14 ‘What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?

15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.

16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

   Mat 25:34 ‘Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

   Titus 3:8  ‘This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good.’ 

   Hebrews 10: 24 ‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,’

   Titus 3: 5 ‘He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,’

   Hebrews 4:10  ‘For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.’

   Eph 2:8  ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’

     How do we know what are the works Christ prepared for us, if we are not in touch with Him?

     How much good work versus how much mercy and grace?  God’s Mercy and grace are super-abundant, and are to infuse our lives as we serve Him

To qualify through our good behaviour alone we would have to fully keep all of the commandments.  Who could do this? Can you? Can I?

There is a green hill far away,
without a city wall,
where the dear Lord was crucified,
who died to save us all.

2 We may not know, we cannot tell,
what pains he had to bear;
but we believe it was for us
he hung and suffered there.

3 He died that we might be forgiv’n,
he died to make us good,
that we might go at last to heav’n,
saved by his precious blood.

4 There was no other good enough
to pay the price of sin;
he only could unlock the gate
of heav’n, and let us in.

5 O dearly, dearly has he loved,
and we must love him too,
and trust in his redeeming blood,
and try his works to do.