something to be sure about
Just last week, a loved one told me of a recent near-death experience that really scared him and got his attention. (I would think so!) I have enough relationship that I could ask, ‘So just sayin’, if you died, where would you wake up—heaven or hell?’ He hesitated and thought about it for a minute.
‘Ah, I think I would go to heaven because I’m a good guy.’
I have heard this sentiment many times, but is it true?
Does God welcome us to heaven because we have been a 'good guy'? hmm
In December, I was in California for a few days and met a husband and wife for coffee on a Friday morning. It was a meeting I will never forget. She wanted them to go to Israel with me in February, but he had concerns about the trip, specifically his fitness for the walking and rigors of travel.
At one point, she stepped away from the table, and he took the opportunity to say, ‘you know, she thinks if I go to on this trip, I’ll find God.’ ‘Ohhhhh,’ I responded, ‘and what do you think about that? What do you think about Christianity?’
In the next little while, he told me where he had landed on all of that. ‘I was never really interested in the church,’ he said. (If I had a dollar for every time I have heard that! I get that—just the idea of church conjures up many negative things for folks these days: hypocritical, judgmental people top the list.) And then he said something I have never heard before:
‘I have tried to live my life by the Ten Commandments,
and I figured that God would think that was good enough.’
Now that was a new one! I have been bedside at end of life for quite a few, and the question of ‘what comes after this life?’ always becomes front and center. In telling me that he had been a good person, tried to do the right thing, no one has ever mentioned keeping the 10 commandments. That was a step up, right? A higher standard.
As we open Mark chapter 7, we see the religious right—the Pharisees and teachers of the Law coming from Jerusalem to Galilee to scrutinize Jesus who was causing a stir. You can almost picture them standing there, with their haughty expressions and arms crossed, watching for the disciples or Jesus to do something wrong (in their minds, that is). What do they pounce on? The disciples were not washing their hands properly.
The passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+7.1-23&version=NIV. Now to understand this, it is not that the disciples had dirty hands or bad hygiene, they were just not going to all the steps of ritual hand washing the Jewish leaders had made up—not holy law, just tradition. 1
How ridiculous, right? Jesus brings a message of freedom to the captive and a loving Father who longs to hear their prayers. He heals the sick, casts out demons, gives sight to the blind, and these fools zero in on ceremonious hand washing? Yes.
Interesting how rules got attached to following God.
Interesting how Jesus came to dismantle the Law, so he was seen as a threat.
Clearly, the religious right had it all wrong.
Back to the California coffee shop – more than 2000 years after these legalistic Pharisees tried to entrap Jesus … my friend at 73 years of age thought if he kept the rules, at least for the most part, that would be good enough for God. After all,
he was a good person.
What is good enough?
Oh, and who decides that?
Who makes the rules?
Not me. Not you. Not my coffee shop friend. Someone much bigger . . . someone perfect, a long, long time ago.
Because in the beginning, God.
How did Jesus answer those accusing his men? Jesus takes the gloves off. No amount of handwashing and no tradition they concocted would make people either clean or pure, because the issue is one of the heart. Mark 7.15. And then he added “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”2
The religious leaders were staring at the answer to their hard hearts but were too blinded by their own religiosity and traditional rules to recognize Him.
Consider what Jesus listed off that defiles . . . ever been prideful or foolish?
Then you aren’t good enough to be in Heaven with a holy God.
What makes you good enough? Recognizing that Jesus is the answer.
What He did on the cross pays for your pride and foolishness—your sins.
Every other religion demands that you be good enough.
Christianity says it is not about how good you are, but how perfect he is;
not about what you have done, but what he did.
It is called grace.
No, my friend, you will not go to Heaven because you are a good guy, but you will go to heaven if you entrust yourself to the One who was perfect and paid the price you could not… on the cross, once and for all.
'Questions? Ask away. A song, Without Jesus--https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GquPDgFUIEk
1 – ritual cleansing required hands up, fingers pointing up, with the water poured down to extend past the wrists, then one fist pummeled into the other…a whole process that was not required by God, but the religion of man
2 – Mark 7.20-23