If you were to die tonight and find yourself standing before the great judgment throne of God Himself, only to have Him ask you why He should let you into heaven, how would you answer?
It’s an old question, meant to terrify a little and prompt you to clarify whether and what you actually believe.
So, what would you answer?
Have you been good enough to deserve heaven?
Most people, after all, believe that good people go to heaven. But what does it mean to be good? And what qualifies as “good enough?”
The question scares us – because we don’t know the answer. Do we deserve heaven? Are we good enough? Is our faith strong enough to save us? How can we know?
Most people believe good people go to heaven, but let’s think about that for a minute: what does it mean to be good? Are we talking Mother Theresa good? Or just not-Hitler good? A lot of people think it’s about keeping the 10 Commandments, but a lot of those same people probably couldn’t name 5 Commandments, let alone keep them perfectly. And by the way, Jesus made the 10 Commandments even more impossible to keep perfectly: You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:21-29).
To make matters worse, the Bible is pretty openly opposed to the “good people go to heaven” view. In fact, according to the Bible, good people do not go to heaven. To begin with, there is no such thing as a good person: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one (Romans 3:10-12).
And Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that “good enough” is not good enough. In order to earn heaven, you have to be better than perfect: For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).
So if good people don’t go to heaven, who does?
Good people don’t go to heaven; forgiven people do: But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
So how do we know if we are forgiven? To (Jesus) all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name (Acts 10:43).
But we want assurances. We want to feel forgiven. I get it, because I’ve been there. There is something wonderfully reassuring about the emotional high of an altar call, where the music soars and you pray that sinner’s prayer for all you’re worth. In that moment, the tears flow because you feel saved. It’s awesome…
Until you walk out the doors, go back home, back to work, back to school, and find that you are still the same person. So you start to wonder if it “took.” What if that wasn’t it? What if you still aren’t really saved? How can you be sure?
You can quit looking to your feelings, which can change with the weather. You can stop trusting your gut, which is directly related to how long it’s been since you last ate. Instead, try looking to the only stability in this crazy universe: God and His Word.
And God’s Word says you are saved: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
It’s done. Finished. Completed on the cross, on a very Good Friday 2,000 years ago.
Are you worried, though, that you might not truly believe it? Well, do you want to believe it? Does it make sense to you? Do you want saving faith to be your own? Then it already belongs to you. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t care.
Saving faith means believing that you are not a good person, but you have been rescued anyway by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. To believe there is nothing you can do to make God love you more – or to make God love you less.
Do you want to know the answer? Do you want to know how to be sure you’re saved? It’s because God said so. And God never breaks His Word. Ever.
Do you want an assurance?
- The next time you’re in the shower, feel the water running over your head and be reminded that you were baptized.
- Make the sign of the cross to remind you of your baptism.
- Make the sign of the cross in the mirror and tell yourself, “You are a baptized child of God.”
- When you take communion, remember the body that was sacrificed for you. As the wine passes over your lips and tongue, remember the blood that was shed for you.
- When you are tempted to beat yourself up for your failures, wash your hands and remember you have been washed clean.
- When you are tempted to look down on others because you think you’re better than them, instead look up and remember that you both stand under heaven.
We don’t need to be afraid of whether or not salvation “took,” or whether or not we have been good enough, because our Heavenly Father gave us His Word that His grace is enough.
The Truth is, you already knew the answer. You probably learned it a long time ago, when things seemed much simpler:
Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
How can you know you’re really saved? Because God said so. And that is enough.