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Are You Trying to Get Yourself to Heaven?

There are a lot of common misconceptions being batted around today about heaven and how to get there. Maybe you’ve seen a comic strip, a cartoon, or heard a joke where people are standing before the pearly gates of heaven with Saint Peter asking people why he should let them into heaven.

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This blog post is part 44 of the series Seven Invisible Barriers to Spiritual Growth.
To see all the posts in the series click here
.           To listen to the audio version click here.

This is great entertainment and fun, but terrible theology. It misrepresents what the BIble says about what it really takes to get to heaven and misleads many into thinking that in some way they will have a sufficient answer when they stand before Peter.

Today we are going to look at five of the most common answers people give for why they should be allowed into heaven. I’ll let you know in advance that each answer is wrong and point you to what the Bible says is the only way to get to heaven.

Every person is a sinner

The Bible is crystal clear that everyone born on this planet is born spiritually dead and is in need of a savior. Every person ever born, that includes you and me. In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul wanted both Jews and Gentiles to understand that they had sinned against God. He says:

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written,

THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS;
THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD,

THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE. (Romans 3:9-12)​

For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)

I know that it is not politically correct to talk about sin, but it is biblically correct. You might be screaming in your head, “Stop judging me.” I am not judging you, God is. He is the creator and He determines what is right and wrong.

One day everyone one of us will stand before God to give an account for our lives. What will your answer be? If it is one of the five listed below, it is time to rethink your position to ensure that you have the right answer.

“I’m a Good Person”

I am sure that you are a “good person.” The problem with this type of thinking is that you compare yourself with other people and not with God.

When you compare yourselves to others it is easy to think that you are better than some of the wicked despicable people of the world. The thinking goes something like this, “I’ve never robbed a bank or killed someone. I am a good parent and love my children. I give to charities and the church. I am a good person.”

This puts sin on a sliding scale making some sins worse than others, which is true. The idea is that I don’t do all of these “really bad sins” so I must be good. When you compare yourself to Hitler, Stalin, and Jeffrey Dahmer, you come up looking like an angel, but how good are you when compared to God?

When compared to God we are all sinners. All of us have fallen short of God’s glory. Everyone of us have gone astray. None of us are righteous before God through our own efforts.

Being good will never get you to heaven.

“I’ve Done More Good Than Bad”

Another common thought that runs through people’s minds is, “If I do more good than bad, then God will have to let me into heaven.

The thought is that God is judging us on a scale. If I do more good than bad the scale will tip to the side of good and I will be okay.

The fallacy behind that thinking is misunderstanding sin and the effects it has upon our lives. When we sin against God we are separated from God and spiritually dead. No amount of good deeds will make us spiritually alive. Only God can make us alive through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This is so important that I am going to repeat it a different way. When we sin against God we die spiritually. It is not that we somehow have a little black mark against us that can in some way be erased by doing something good.

We are spiritually dead and separated from God. The only way that we can come back to life spiritually is to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on our behalf and be born again.

Jesus is the one who tells us we must be born again (John 3:3). We are all born physically alive but spiritually dead because of the fall of Adam. What we need in order to have a right relationship with God is new life. We must be born again through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus says,

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6)

When we accept Christ, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and we are spiritually born and come alive in Christ. We can now enter into a relationship with God.

Doing more good than evil will not get you into heaven.

“If I Punish Myself, I Can Make Amends”

There are those who go the opposite way of trying to be good and seek to pay the price of their sin by punishing themselves. They believe that if they feel sorry enough and pay enough penance, then God will somehow see how bad they feel and forgive them.

They are constantly beating themselves up and saying how wicked and evil they are. They have no joy or happiness in life because life is all about paying the price. They might say something like this, “I have no right to be happy. I deserve all that is coming my way for I am such a sinful, wicked person.”

The only problem with this view is that it does absolutely nothing to bring a person to spiritual life. Just like the person trying to good, the person trying to make up or pay for what they have done is still spiritually dead.

Self-punishment does nothing to bring you closer to God. It just makes you miserable. You cannot pay for your sins. Only Jesus can.

Jesus came to die on the cross for your sins. He took the punishment for you. He died in your place so that you could live. The only way to spiritual life is Jesus.

Punishing yourself will not get you to heaven.

“If I Live a Perfect Life, Then…”

There are those who think if they live a perfect life, then that will be enough for God to forgive them and accept them.

The thinking behind this attempt goes something like this. In the past I have been a terrible sinner. I have not regarded God at all, but now I will change myself and live life the way God wants.

The perfectionist thinks that if they only do everything perfectly it will in some way make up for the evil of the past. This person is different than the one who is trying to do good. That person thinks that they are more good than bad. The perfectionist believes that they are bad but can overcome it by doing everything the way it should be done.

They begin to compile a list of dos and don’ts. The longer the list the better. Here are some of the things one might add:

  • Read five chapters of the Bible a day
  • Pray for an hour
  • Fast twice week
  • Tithe
  • Don’t go to movies
  • Don’t smoke
  • Don’t drink

The list goes on and on. The more complete the list; the more holiness a person attains.

They live under a constant strain. There is a moment-by-moment accounting of everything they do. If they fail in anyway, it is tragic. They berate themselves and promise to do better. They redouble their efforts to be perfect so God will in some way accept them.

The Apostle James informs us in his book that if we keep every single part of the law and fail on one point, we are guilty of all (James 2:10). You will never be able to live perfect enough to be acceptable to God.

The answer for this person is the same as for the others. He or she needs to be born again. Even if a person could live a perfect life, which no one can, they would still be spiritually dead.

Self-Perfection through works will never get you to heaven.

Coming to Jesus

The only solution for your spiritual dilemma is to come to Jesus. You must be born again. In order to be born again you must:

  • Believe Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all your sins on the cross
  • Repent and turn from your sins and be forgiven
  • Receive God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ

Only faith in Jesus Christ will save you. Ephesians 2:8-9 informs us:

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift from God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

If you’ve never received the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ and you would like to learn more, then the post Come to God will tell you what you need to know to come to Jesus.

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About the Author

Terry Tuinder is the co-founder of Experiencing His Victory. His experience includes thirty-one years of pastoral ministry, an earned Doctor of Ministry degree from The King's University, and nineteen years involvement in deliverance ministry. He helps people grow in their relationship with God.