Do you think you will go to heaven when you die?
Most of us would probably say, "Absolutely." Then comes the follow up question:
"What makes you qualified?"
And many of us would answer, "I believe in God, I try to be a good person, I've never done anything really bad." Many people believe in God and they don't doubt that "being good" or striving for perfection is part of living forever with Him in eternity. It seems logical, right? God is perfect and good, and as long as we meet most of the standards then we will walk through those pearly gates free and clear.
Listen to this song by Stellar Kart and see if this rings true with you...
Sound familiar? Are you restless, looking for something bigger, trying to fill a hole with pleasure or good behavior? I have a confession: I am a perfectionist. I like things a certain way. I want to be a good person. I want people to look at me and see someone worth following. I want to be worth something. Sometimes in that desperate attempt, I stay busy doing a whole bunch of good things for wrong reasons. I love to work in underprivileged areas rebuilding and fixing things. I like to help people, find what they are good at, and encourage them to be the best they can be. I try to spend time with my family and friends, investing in them. I want to change the world, or at least make a difference. Many would say I am a good person, and that based on that, I will go to heaven when I die.
Unfortunately, if that is the litmus test, I fall short. Very short. No matter how much I strive to be good, I wrestle with selfishness, impatience, and self-glorification.
So why am I going to heaven?
It definitely isn't because I fit the bill of a perfect person in front of a holy God. But it is because I have surrendered to a holy God that I will spend eternity with Him. When the Lord looks at me as I am, He could see a flawed human being, struggling to meet a standard that I can never meet because I am human, aka sinful. But because I belong to Him, not just believe He is God, but believe His Son, Jesus, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, rose from the grave three days later, and went to heaven to prepare a place for me....Jesus looks at me and sees only His blood, His righteousness, and His mark on me. Isaiah 43:1 says, "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine."
God is holy. He is the great I AM of holiness. In fact, His very name is Holy. He embodies the word.
Luke 1:49 says, " For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name."
Isaiah 57:15 says, "For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is HOLY: I dwell in the high and holy place with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and revive the heart of the contrite ones."
Okay, so we have established that most people see the perfection of God and try to meet a standard. We try to be good. He calls for holiness. See a problem? Good and holy do not equal one another. Good falls very short of holiness. In fact in 1 Peter 1:16, He says, "Be holy, because I am holy." Does that make you want to quit trying? I mean perfection is one thing, trying your best to be good, but holy? The very word means "declared sacred or consecrated" in the dictionary. How in the world do we ever meet that standard?
Here's the great, relieving news: stop trying.
If you believe as I mentioned earlier that Jesus is who He says He is and you are not trying to simply be good, but be obedient and follow Him, Christ looks at you and sees His righteousness, His holiness. You are stamped and covered. You are holy! Perfect? No. Ever going to be good enough to meet the standards of a Holy God? Absolutely not! But when you follow Him, His blood covers you, and He sees His reflection. Look at this beautiful picture.
Isaiah 61:10, "I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." We are arrayed in His robe of righteousness so when He looks at us, He sees His spotless bride. Worthy and holy. What Jesus marks as His becomes holy. Will we ever by ourselves meet that standard? No. Does that mean we stop trying to do good things? No. But our motivation realigns and is no longer about "being good to get to heaven" but following and obeying a God who has called us to be good and do good things for His glory.
It sure takes the pressure off this perfectionist. His holiness is my holiness because I follow the one whose very name is I AM HOLY. I want to be holy and obedient because I am a child of this good God, and He looks at me and sees someone redeemed and trying, sometimes failing, to follow Him, and He sees holy. In that is my purpose.