|What would you say if God asked you, "Why should I let you into My heaven?"
It's a blunt question, but it needs to be asked. All of us will face the end of our lives at some point. We like to think that it's some far distant event, but a car accident or a heart attack could bring you to the end of your life in an instant. When that happens, when you stand before God, what will you say?
"I did my best. Doesn't that count for something?"
"I did more good things than bad things. It balances out, right?"
"I have nothing to say - I know I've failed!"
Coming up with the right answer can be hard. Thankfully, God gives the answer to us.
What God Demands
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” - Luke 10:25-28
God's Law is clear - we are to love Him and love the people around us with the same passion and dedication that he shows to us. He also makes it clear that a half-hearted effort isn't enough: Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. - Leviticus 19:2 It's not a long list of duties, but it requires a flawless track record. Anything less than that is sin: a failure to meet God's expectations.
What God Sees
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. - Isaiah 59:2
Nobody has that flawless track record. Like a crack in a window, our openly sinful actions and our secretly sinful thoughts have left us broken. God makes clear the consequences of failing to meet his Law: The wages of sin is death. - Romans 6:23a. Not just a physical death, but an eternal condemnation.
People have been desperately scratching for their own solutions since sin first entered the world. Some people like to tell themselves, "God will accept me if I just try harder." That's not the case, though. God demands one thing: perfection. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. - Romans 3:23
Others treat life as a balancing act. "If I make sure to balance out my mistakes with enough good deeds," they reason, "then I'll at least come out with a positive total after everything is added up." God doesn't balance our lives the way we balance a checkbook, however. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. - James 2:10 One sin, one errant thought, is enough to shatter our attempt at perfection. Like an eggshell, the broken bits and pieces can't be put back together by our own hands.
For other people, their comfort comes from comparison. "Sure, I've messed up, but I'm better than you!" they cry. That comparison falls short before God's measurement, however. As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. - Ephesians 2:1-3 It does no good to be "better" than someone else if "better" still falls short of God's demands.
In the end, every man-made solution to the problem falls short. There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. - Proverbs 16:25 (ESV) The problem of our sin is too great for us to solve. On our own, we stand condemned before God.
God's Great Exchange
Thank God, however, that our story doesn't end there. God loves you - yes, you personally. Because He loves you, He sent the only One who could make things right: His Son, Jesus Christ. For there is one God and one mediator (negotiator) between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. - 1 Timothy 2:5-6a God didn't hold back, either. Our sins demanded death as a payment, and that is what Jesus paid.
He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! - Philippians 2:7-8 On that cross, Jesus did more than give up His physical life. He suffered the agony of eternal separation from His heavenly Father. He completed everything that the Father asked of Him. "It is finished." - John 19:30
By His perfect life and innocent death in our place, Jesus gave to us the credit for His work. Because He took our punishment, we receive the benefit of His efforts - eternal life! God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. - 2 Corinthians 5:21 This was done entirely on God's part, with no contribution from us. Your salvation is not dependant on your good deeds or your feelings. 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. - Ephesians 2:8-9 It is a no-strings-attached gift from a gracious God who loves you dearly. He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. - Titus 3:5 This forgiveness is free and limitless. No sin is beyond God's ability to forgive. When we stand before God at the end of our life, we do not need to stand on empty excuses and hopeless pleas. We can boldly say, "I stand forgiven because of Christ!"
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. - John 3:16
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