(This is part 2 of my current sermon series called “The Hard Sayings Of Jesus”)
Let’s go ahead and get the disclaimer out of the way:
OK, we are looking at the hard sayings of Jesus. Let’s briefly go over again how Jesus communicated the Truth. He told stories/parables about Kingdom Truth. He spoke some things with authority—in other words, things we need to take literally. But then Jesus sometimes used hyperbole—over exaggeration. And there is a process that we can use to determine is Jesus speaking literally or using hyperbole. 2 Steps:
- Is It Possible? If it’s not possible, then it’s hyperbole.
- Is It Consistent With The Message And Principles Of The Kingdom? Jesus never contradicts Himself. If it contradicts the Message and Principles of the Kingdom it is hyperbole
If the either answer is NO, more than likely Jesus is using hyperbole. But if the answer for both questions is YES, then Jesus is speaking literally with authority. Let’s look at another of Jesus’ hard sayings. It’s found in Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV)
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
If you can remember only one thing from this message, it must be this: Good People Do Not Get Into Heaven. This is what Jesus is really saying here. Some of those who say “Lord” do not get into heaven. These are good, moral and honest people. This isn’t the thieves, murderers and liars. These are the people who talk a good game. Some even go the church more than at Easter and Christmas. So, is Jesus serious here? OK, let’s apply the 2 questions and determine is it a hyperbole or an authoritative word:
- Is It Possible?
- One of the many times that Jesus spoke harshly to the Pharisees, who were by our world’s definition good folks, was a parable; a sinner and a Pharisee went to church. The Pharisee talked about how good he was—the tax collector wept for how bad he was. And Jesus said in Luke 18:14—“I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God.”
- The first time Peter and John were arrested they said to the really religious people in Acts 4:12—“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”
- Think about this: Is it possible to do a lot of good things without Jesus being your Savior and Lord? It happens every day.
- Is It Consistent With The Message And Principles Of The Kingdom?
- Jesus said after the conversion of Nicodemus the Tax Collector in Luke 19:10—“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” Lost meaning no heaven.
- And Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-9—“8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast. Heaven is a gift not a reward.
Since the answers are both yes to our “litmus” test, then we need to see this as a literal authoritative word that we need to obey and follow. If we think about it, Jesus is sounding really hard on this issue of good people not getting into heaven.
But shouldn’t our goodness, our good deeds, even our good thoughts count for something? I mean, it’s not like we’ve committed murder or been physically abusive to others. It’s not like we’ve been chronic or pathological liars. For the most part, we’ve not used any power we might have to our advantage. We pay our taxes, express gratitude, and from time to time we help others.
Then why isn’t this enough? I mean, we have been known on rare moments to apologize when we’ve done wrong. We helped our neighbor a few times. Shouldn’t this be enough? To our normal and natural thinking, sure—it’s enough. If we do more good things than bad things—hey! We should be able to get in. Makes human sense, doesn’t it. After all, it’s good enough for the bank—if we put in a little more than we take out—it’s all good. It works in accounting, but not at judgment. Why doesn’t it work at judgment?
Because Heaven Isn’t A Reward For Good Behavior But The Result Of Being Righteous.
The Kingdom is God’s realm. And entrance into that Kingdom is dependent upon righteousness. Now how righteous are we to be? Jesus said in Matthew 5:20 (NIV)—“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” How righteous were they? Well, they were as righteous as a person could get on their own. They had come to be the epitome of human achievement in religion. They were obsessed with religious function. As far as the people around them knew, they were exceedingly righteous.
They seemed to do all the right things like praying and giving and fasting. They seemed to have all the right standards like not murdering and not committing adultery and making sure they kept every meticulous element of the law. It appears they were the ones who were exceedingly righteous and yet the righteousness that Christ demands must far exceeds theirs.
God requires a righteousness that is beyond a person’s capacity, a divine righteousness that comes from God, a standard that none of us are able to accomplish. Nothing is more dangerous than thinking that if we sincerely believe the right things, then that makes us a true Disciple of Jesus. So why can’t good people simply get into heaven?
1) The Problem Of Sin
Romans 3:23—“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are all flawed somewhere, broken deep inside. John Wesley called it “Original Sin”. We have inherited from Adam and Eve that broken nature. It’s just waiting for the right time to come to the surface and take over our life.
The Greek word for sin means to miss the mark. We miss the mark when it comes to personal holiness. We miss the mark when it comes to judging others. We miss the mark when it comes to showing grace and mercy. We miss the mark when it comes to doing the things that God wants done. Not all the time, mind you—but we do miss the mark of what God wants of us and from us.
Sin is serious because of the penalty—death and separation from God. In James 2:10—For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. The Law of God is one single Law. Just because someone put as the heading “The Ten Commandments” doesn’t make it 10 separate laws. When we break God’s Law, we become broken from the relationship we are designed to experience. All us of are broken somewhere—and we cannot fix it.
2) The Issue Of Holiness
1 Peter 1:15-16—“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” Our God exists as complete and absolutely perfect holiness. We were created to be exactly like Him—but remember point One—Sin! When compared to the holiness of God, Isaiah said in 64:6 that our best acts are nothing but filthy rags.
We are made in His image so that we can reflect His Image. God is absolutely Holy and since we are infected with sin, there is no way we can stand before or in the presence of God. Heaven exists in pure and inexplicable glory where nothing of sin can exist or remain. Being good is different from being Holy. Being good is acting nice to others for the most part. Being good is acting joyful for the most part. Being good is acting grateful for the most part. Being good is going to church on most Sundays. Being good is reading your Bible for the most part. Being good is helping someone from time to time. Being good is paying the bills on time. Being good is NOT telling someone what a moron they are. Being good is doing our best even though we have flaws and faults.
The issue for God is not about being good but being Holy.
Being Holy is being exactly like God in every detail.
No exceptions and no exclusions. Holy is being sinless, and we already established that every single one of us is a sinner. Heaven is God’s realm; it belongs to Him and Him alone. And He is the one who determines what it takes to get it.
3) The Need For Righteousness
Romans 4:3—What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Righteousness means at the core, being in right standing with God. But because of sin—plain and simply stated—we are not in the right standing with God. And we never will by our best efforts. So God had a plan—that plan was for Jesus to live the Perfect Life and them become the perfect sin-offering by placing upon Himself every sin of every sinner. In doing so, He paid the price was should have been ours to pay—separation from God. Then, if we do as Abraham did, believe that His sacrifice alone atones for our sins and removes it from being our responsibility to pay—then God forgives us and puts us in that right relationship.
Righteousness is received in two acts. The first one is done by God and the second one is done by us.
Righteousness is first imputed, then righteousness must be imparted.
Imputed Righteousness comes when we put our faith in the redeeming work of Jesus on the Cross. It’s faith in God’s gift of forgiveness. By Grace—Through Faith
But Imputed Righteousness is only the beginning. Righteousness must also become that Imparted Righteousness. Imparted Righteousness is what we receive from God in those moments we actually get it right. It’s the reason for: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” It happens when we give up our ways for the will of God. It happens when we get involved with what God is doing. It happens when we live out the what someone called The 4 GREATS.
- The Great Invitation—deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Jesus
- The Great Love For God—with all your life
- The Great Love For Others—putting their needs ahead of your own
- The Great Commission—leading people to Jesus
Getting into heaven isn’t about being good. It is about being connected to the One who IS Completely Good. So, how do you get into heaven? It’s by obeying. Listen again to verse 21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” What is that Will Jesus is speaking about?
- Confess And Repent: Confess doesn’t mean name all your sins. Confess means that you agree with God’s perfect judgment that YOU are a sinner. Repent means then to turn away from that old life and follow Jesus into the New Life.
- Trust And Believe: Trust that God will provide everything you need and believe that He will never give up on you.
- Surrender And Follow: Surrender your will and Follow His Will.
- Learn And Do: Be a disciple and learn what Jesus is teaching. Then do the things you have learned. In other words, obey Jesus.