“Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he [Jesus] appeared so that he might take away our sins.” (1 John 3:4)
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)
“There is no one righteous, not even one…there is no one who does good, not even one…” (Romans 3:10,12)
Getting into heaven based upon our own good works is perhaps the biggest misconception in the world today.
God created us to be in a loving personal relationship with him, but the our sin destroyed that relationship and alienated us from God. God declares that the just punishment for our sin is death and hell. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Regardless of how many good works we do, God says that one sin is enough to banish us from his perfectly holy presence forever (James 2:10, Romans 6:23, Genesis 3).
Some feel that this is too harsh of a judgment for a loving God to mete out upon sinners, but to hold to that view is to disregard the intrinsic attributes of his divine nature: his infinite holiness, sinlessness and glory. One must also disregard God’s perfect, moral standard. Because God is perfect in every way he cannot compromise his moral standard of sinless perfection. Neither can he compromise his perfect justice by not punishing sin.
When we compare ourselves to other people (sinners comparing themselves to other sinners), we usually don’t view ourselves as being that bad. We reason that everybody rebels against authority by driving over the speed limit sometimes (or all the time), we all tell “white” lies, everyone steals a little time from their company and lots of people cheat on their taxes. But in the light of God’s holy, sinless presence, and in comparison to his perfect standard of morality, our motives and actions expose us to be rebels, thieves and cheats. We ALL stand guilty before God without a single plea (Romans 3:9-20). Therefore God would be unjust (not unloving) to not justly punish us for our sins.
Thankfully, God is exceedingly merciful and loving. He earnestly desires to save us from the penalty of our sins. At great personal cost he took the sole initiative to make this possible.
He declares that, “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:13) and, “..the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion” (Isaiah 30:18).
God came to earth as the man Jesus Christ and lived the perfect sinless life that none of us could live. Then he took upon himself all of our sins and bore the punishment for them through his death on the cross. Dying in our place, as a scapegoat, as a ransom, as our substitute, was the only way God could both extend us his mercy AND satisfy his justice against our sins.
In order to make that ransom effectual you must personally receive it in faith. First you must repent (confess and turn away) from your sin. Second, you must trust in Jesus as your personal savior and Lord, believing that he paid the full punishment for your sins through his death on the cross.
“There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified [declared “not guilty” and put into eternal right standing with God] freely by his grace [unmerited favor] through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:23-26)
“He [God] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
In short, no matter how good of a person we try to be, the reality is we ALL fall short of God’s standard of sinless perfection. The ONLY way we can enter into his presence (including heaven after we die) is if we are sinless. God cannot simply overlook our sins because to do so would compromise his perfect justice. This is why, out of his great love for us, he sent Jesus to live the sinless life we could not live and then to die on the cross to take the punishment for our sins. When we repent (confess and turn away from) our sins and receive Jesus as our personal savior, ALL of our sins are justly punished in Jesus and his perfect sinlessness is imputed to us. It is a ransom and a trade–this is the love and grace of God! Jesus receives what we deserve and we receive what Jesus deserves. Can you believe and receive it?
For more questions and answers about God, please see “Is God Real?”