Do Good People Go To Heaven?

2017 Messages

David Martin answers the question "Do good people go to heaven?" In this conversation he discusses good versus evil, the standard that we'd have to live up to get into heaven, and what the Bible has to say in Romans 3 about who does get into heaven. We find that entry into heaven is not based on our good, but on the good work God has done on our behalf.

David MarvinAug 6, 2017Romans 3:10-12; Romans 3:19-20; Luke 23:39-43; Romans 3:21-26

Love it! Welcome, friends in the room, friends in Fort Worth, friends in Plano. My name is David Marvin. I work with the young adults on Tuesday nights in our ministry called The Porch. I'm excited to get to jump in with you guys this morning.

Has anyone been on vacation recently? Has anyone just come back? Yeah, you did. You're all tan. We can see. I ask that because I'm going to start with a story about a vacation I went on not long ago with JP that will give us some tracks for where we're going. JP is our campus pastor. He called and said, "Hey, would you and your wife, Calli, want to come with Monica and me? We'd go for a week away. We found this steal of a deal at this all-inclusive resort. Would you be interested in going?" I was like, "Yes, of course!"

We had planned it all out, saved for it. We were really excited. The day came finally. We got on the plane with the Pokludas. We were going to get to hang with these friends of ours and spend the next week at an all-inclusive resort. We arrive at the location. We get on the bus. They take us to the resort and begin to check in.

We get to the resort, and there are two sides to the resort. There's a side that's just called the "family side" that has a lot of kids. Then there's the side called "Heaven," that is couples only. True story! We begin to check in, and they say, "Mr. and Mrs. Pokluda [who is JP], you and your wife are on the family side. We can take your bags. Your room is over here. We'll take you this way. Mr. and Mrs. Marvin, we're going to take you to Heaven."

I'm like, "Wow! Okay! Man!" I wish my first thought was like, "No, we'd love to stay with our friends," but I was like, "You win some; you lose some, buddy. I'm sorry. I'm going to have to go." We get on the golf cart. They take us over to the side of Heaven, and we head that way. All of a sudden, I have all these images of what Heaven is going to be like.

It's couples only. There are no kids who are around. JP is essentially staying at Chuck E. Cheese's, and I'm over here hanging. It's just going to be awesome. We're going to be bonding with young couple friends, beach ball. We're playing volleyball. It's going to be great. You see this picture of Heaven coming to your mind.

As we get closer to the Heaven side, it becomes very clear the picture I had in my mind was not exactly what Heaven looked like on this. It was like we entered into the construction zone. Everywhere we looked, there was scaffolding. In order to get to our room, they had to lift up a paint tarp to take us toward our room. There were construction workers everywhere trying to finish the resort.

What had happened essentially was the Heaven side was not complete, but the family side was full. So they were like, "Well, we have to stick these people somewhere. We'll stick them over here." They took us to the fixer-upper of Heaven. Everywhere we looked were just people in hard hats. Those who were there were not like who I thought would be there.

True story. We take our bags in our room. We set things down. Almost on cue, we hear very loud noises coming from the neighbor. It wasn't a neighbor who was excited to be on vacation. We look out the window and see our neighbor. It's a guy in a hardhat jack-hammering the concrete outside of our window. We're like, "Oh my gosh! Where are we? This doesn't exactly feel like heaven. It feels like hell."

The reason I start there is in the same way that when we got to the Heaven side the people who made it up really weren't the picture we had in our mind… It was not just the picture and what it looked like but also the people who made it up were very different than those who we thought would be there.

In the same way, as it relates to not a vacation resort but all of eternity, based on what we know, the majority of Americans believe that same experience of a surprise of the people who are going to be in heaven is going to take place tragically for millions and millions of people. Study after study shows that when it comes to what people believe are the people who will be in heaven, there's a very common belief inside of America, the majority of people…

In fact, a majority tragically even who claim to be Christians believe good people are the people in heaven. When it comes to the idea of who is on the heaven side for all of eternity, it's good people. This morning we're just going to talk about this idea. Let me just acknowledge this. If you're in the room and you're joining us… Maybe that's something either you believed or kind of makes sense (the idea of, "Good people go to heaven").

As we know, a majority… You know, Pew Research Center, LifeWay, all these different studies show that's what people believe. I kind of understand why you would think that. It seems that, "Good people go to heaven" would fit within our sense of fairness or our kind of moral compass. It seems like if there was a good God out there… You know, if you're a good person, you'd go spend eternity with him.

It kind of seems to align with what most of the world religions teach. So yeah, "Good people go to heaven." If you think about it for any real amount of time, you're all of a sudden confronted with there are some serious problems with the idea of, "Good people go to heaven," the first being we really don't have a universally accepted standard of what is good.

Do you ever think about this? What actually qualifies as good? People disagree. You may be thinking, "No! For the most part, people accept there are certain things that are good, certain things that are bad." It's just not true. Everywhere you go, people have different opinions. People think different things are good, different things are bad.

There are people right now all over the world who think attaching a suicide vest to yourself and blowing up a stadium is good. It's not just good but "highest level of heaven" good. Think about that. Then there are people who would say, "No, that's not good at all! That's horrible!" On and on and on the different examples we get of what people believe is a good thing and a bad thing, what is right and wrong.

People disagree. There is no universally accepted standard of what is good. So if good people go to heaven, we're in trouble because we really don't know what counts for good. Even more so, we really don't have a grading system or a clear standard of what's passing. If good people go to heaven, what qualifies, what will pass as good? Is it 51 percent? You just have to tip the scale a little bit. Is it 70 percent?

This is where the grading system came from. You just have to get a C in order to get into heaven. Is it graded on a curve, so Mother Teresa threw this whole thing off for all of us? What is the standard? What's passing?

Then finally, the biggest problem with the idea of, "Good people go to heaven" is that it just flies in the face of what the Bible teaches. The Bible doesn't teach good people go to heaven as we're going to explore this morning. We're going to see from a passage the apostle Paul gives us in his letter to the Romans, chapter 3… If you have a Bible, you can flip open there where Paul lays out as clear of an argument of why, "Good people go to heaven" is such a bad, false idea and also indicates who will be in heaven for all of eternity.

Romans, chapter 3. Romans was a letter written by the apostle Paul to this church that had begun in Rome. Paul was the artist formerly known as Saul. He spent his life trying to kill Christians for the first half, and then he met Jesus and became the greatest missionary the world has ever seen. He lays out in Romans (which is the letter we're about to look at) the most clear doctrinal beliefs of Christianity.

He never met these Roman people, so from far away, he is like, "I need to teach these people what Christianity is all about, what it looks like to live out the Christian faith." He gives us the clearest really doctrinal statements inside of the book of Romans. We're going to look in Romans, chapter 3 where he lays out starting in verse 10 the idea of why, "Good people go to heaven" is so untrue. We'll start in verse 10. If you don't have a Bible, it will be up on the screens.

Paul says, "There is no one righteous [who has a right standing with God or can have a right relationship with God] not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

"Paul! What are you saying? It feels a little harsh. No one is good? No one does good? No one is righteous? Paul, you haven't even met every single person! Have you ever met my grandma? I'm pretty sure my grandma would qualify as righteous." Paul would say, "No. Even your grandma, every person you've ever met, every person you've ever seen, there's not a single person on the planet who is good."

There is no one who, by their own selves, has the right to have a relationship with God. There's no one right. To us, it feels a little bit extreme, but Paul lays out the first problem with the idea of, "Good people go to heaven," which is…

1._ No one is good_. No one is good enough for heaven. You could say as a point for this or just in general, Paul would say no one is good in general. There's never been a person… It really flies in the face of a lot of the things we say, and it can almost sit hard on us because as Americans, we're like, "Yeah, but, you know, he has a good heart." You'll hear things like, "Yeah, at the end of the day, I just feel like that guy has a good heart." Paul would say, "He has a wicked heart. There's no one good."

I think there are couple of reasons why it's hard, it doesn't sit exactly well with us. One of them is because it's very clear when you look at the Bible, we have a different standard just as humans of what is good than heaven's definition. So a human standard of good versus heaven's definition of good is very different. Here's what I mean. For the most part, when people say, "Hey, you know, he is a good guy" or describing what is good, humans mean good for the most part. Heaven's definition is good in every part.

In other words, the human definition is, "For the most part, he is a good guy." Or, "For the most part, they're a good person." Heaven's definition is it's not good unless it's entirely good in every part. Similar to things just in life, we know if any part of it is bad, the whole thing is bad. If you've been on vacation, you come back, and you were gone for a considerable amount of time, there's something that usually happens where you begin to go to the fridge and begin to take inventory on, "What can we keep? What can we not?"

Stuff has gone bad in your absence while you were gone. One of those for us at one point was the milk. We came back (had been gone). It was like, "Oh, there is something not right here." You pull it out. You look at the curdling that's taking place. Here's what never happens in that moment.

You're never like, "Honey, get the strainer out. We have to get some of this and save some of it because there are some good parts left in it." No, you say, "If there's any part bad, it's entirely bad." The Bible teaches that as it relates to the standard of good that God has, if there's any part bad, it's entirely bad.

The second reason I think why it's hard for us to believe the idea of there's no one good… We may be able to say it, but I think if we really thought about it, there's something that just doesn't sit right. There's no one! Everyone is bad. Everyone is evil.

I think this is because some of the sense of what is good that we believe or some of our standard of what is good is really so based on comparison that as we look around the world and we see kind of the worst of human atrocities and the bad things people do and then we may compare it to the best of human life, we find ourselves somewhere in the middle. We kind of feel like, based on the worst of the worst, we're really not that bad. We're somewhat good.

We begin to form this scale inside of our mind where maybe on one side, we put the epitome of what is good in terms of human living and human deeds and what a good life would look like. Then on the other side, we would put the epitome of evil. Then we'd place ourselves somewhere on the scale. We just don't feel like we're close to the epitome of evil.

Maybe for you, if you were doing your scale, you would put someone on this side like Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa was the nun who spent her entire life serving the least of these, serving Jesus and serving lepers in Calcutta. She just did incredible things with the life she had on this planet and this incredible good.

We would say she may be at the epitome of what is good and a good life. Maybe we're not quite there with her, but we're not all the way over here to the epitome and really the universally accepted standard of what is evil, which is… Oh my gosh! That's not right. Oh man! Hey, the Aggies get hated on too much around here.

On the other side, we would say something like Hitler. If this is on one extreme and this is on the other extreme, we'd kind of put ourselves somewhere in the middle. Maybe we would say God's dividing line on who is going to spend eternity with him in heaven is right here. It's really the worst of the worst who is going to spend eternity in hell and not in heaven.

Everybody kind of this side of the line and Mother Teresa is better. Maybe we would have different standards in what we think would be good. Maybe it's more like right here in 50 percent. Maybe you're like, "Hey, top 10 percent, just like college." You have to go over here in order to spend eternity with God.

Even though we would disagree likely in terms of where we may put the line, the funny thing is generally if you ask people, wherever they put the line, they usually put themselves on this side of the line. If it's over here or over here, they're typically right here. They may be like, "Yeah, you know, there were some times in college where I got over here and flirted with the line a little bit. Now as I get older, I'm mature. I pay my taxes. I'm a good person."

We would put ourselves over here. The Bible says when it comes to the standard of what's good enough for heaven, the line is not right here. It's way over there. Even Mother Teresa, every person you've ever met, the best person you know falls way short because the standard is perfection. There's no one good from God's eyes.

If it's your first time back in church for a while, you may think, "Isn't the Bible stories about a lot of good guys and the good lives they lead and how to be a good person?" The Bible is not a book full of stories about good people. It's a book full of stories about bad people and one good guy. The bad guys are so bad, they kill the one good guy named Jesus. That's how bad humanity is.

You may be thinking, "Wait. There are some good dudes in there. I mean, just think of a few like Father Abraham. Let's go Father Abraham, father of the faith. He heroically stepped out and started the people of God, the God of Abraham. All this thing began from Father Abraham." Abraham was a guy who pimped out his wife twice, which is at least two times too many. Can we all agree? I mean, Abraham is not like some heroic, amazing guy.

David. Maybe you're like, "David! David and Goliath. He killed Goliath. He was a man after God's own heart." David slept with his best friend's wife and then had him murdered in order to cover it up. I mean, think about that. If that happens, we're going to slow your roll on you serving in re|engage if that's a part of your story. We're going to be like, "Uh, we're going to need to really take this one slower here." This guy is writing the Bible. Think about it!

I mean, Moses. Moses had an anger problem that wasn't just an anger problem. He killed a man with his bare hands. I mean, there is some serious anger management that needs to take place if that's a part of your story. That's Moses. Peter, the leader in the early church, betrays Jesus three times. Then even after he is leading the church, he gets rebuked for being a racist. Paul spends half his life trying to kill Christians.

The Bible is not a story about a bunch of good people. It's a story about a bunch of broken, sinful people and one good guy who dies for all the bad guys. Paul says there's no one good, myself included, yourself included. The problem with, "Good people go to heaven" is no one is going to get there.

He then moves into really, "Well, maybe no one starts good, but maybe you could do good things, and that could earn your way to God." He goes there next in verse 19. Here's what he says. "Now we know that whatever the law [the Old Testament law, the Prophets and first half of your Bible] says, it says to those who are under the law…" He is speaking about the Jewish people. "…so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God."

What is Paul saying? Paul is essentially addressing the fact that, "Hey, you know, people are going to break the law who don't have the law for sure." So non-Jewish people broke God's law because they didn't have it. He says even those who had God's law, all of them, every mouth is silenced because even they are held accountable because they broke God's law.

Verse 20 is such a huge verse. "Therefore no one will be declared righteous [right with God or have a right relationship with God or be given the right to have a relationship with God] in God's sight by the works of the law." Let me read it again. "Therefore no one will be declared righteous [meet the standard] in God's sight by [being obedient to God's law, being good, obeying God, or doing good things doesn't make you good with God] ;** rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin."**

The law doesn't serve as a path toward having a relationship with God. The law points out all the ways we've broken God's law. Doing good doesn't make up for doing bad. Keeping God's law doesn't make up for breaking it and the times we've broken God's law, Paul would say.

2._ Doing good won't make you good enough for heaven_. Doing good doesn't make you good with God. The way you behave or good behavior doesn't make you gain good standing with the God who is there. Paul says there are no actions that will make it up. I think we know this.

Here's what's so interesting about the idea of, "As long as you're a good person and you do enough good things to outweigh the bad things, then you can spend eternity with God." Or, "As long as you obey the law more than you've broken the law, it will make up for the times you've broken the law."

In what justice system on the planet does that work? There's no justice system that exists where, yeah, you could go in and be like, "Yes! Okay, I stole the car. Yeah. Yeah, I did it, but I pay my taxes. I try to be a good person. I drive the speed limit. I'm going to drive the speed limit with this stolen car. I may have broken the law there once, but I keep it all these other different times."

It wouldn't make up for it. There's no judge who would be like, "You have a good point." Think about it. I mean, this wouldn't even work in your own home. If you have kids who are in trouble and they plead their case, they're like, "Yeah, I hit my sister, but I cleaned my room. I did all my chores. I feel like I kind of earned one. Right? I can hit her." I mean, you'd be like, "That doesn't make sense."

Doing good or obeying the law doesn't make up for the times and the ways we've broken God's law. Paul says doing good will not make you good with God. You cannot do enough to earn your way back or to earn your way into a relationship with him. Jesus, in Matthew, chapter 5, gives his very first sermon, the Sermon on the Mount.

In the midst of some of the very first words we hear from the Son of God in this message, he looks out into this audience, and he even says you can't be good enough to earn a relationship with God. Your behavior, no matter how good or no matter how bad, is not the deciding factor in whether or not you will have a relationship with God.

He looks into the audience. Inside of this big crowd, there's this group of people called the Pharisees. The Pharisees were these professional essentially religious people. They were people who didn't have a job. Their job was to follow God's law. "That's what we do 24/7. We follow God's law so you don't have to."

That was their motto. That's what they lived by. The Pharisees had memorized the Pentateuch. I mean, most of us are like, "Where is Leviticus again?" They're like, "Let me quote. Chapter 20? Is that what you want?" These are who the Pharisees are. They lived their life as devoted to God as possible.

Jesus looks into the audience and says, "Unless you are better than these guys, you will not enter into heaven." The audience likely gasps in a moment and goes, "Man, if they don't get in, who could get in?" Jesus nails home the point 20 verses later by saying, "Unless you are perfect… You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." "Jesus, what are you saying?"

There is no one who can behave their way into a relationship with God for all of eternity. That's the standard. The standard is perfection. Doing good will not make you good enough for heaven. On the flipside the clearest example we see of how someone's actions, their past, or their behavior is not something that will keep (according to God) them out of heaven for all of eternity…

On the flipside, Jesus gives the clearest example of how someone's behavior or their past sin will not keep them out of heaven. It happens in some of his last moments on the planet, the very last conversation we know Jesus had. He is hanging on a cross. He is taken away, and they lead the Son of God away to crucify him. They take him to this hill called the Hill of the Skull. They put him between these two criminals.

The criminals who were crucified in that day weren't people who just kind of did a misdemeanor or speeding on their camel in the school zone. That's not someone who was crucified. Someone who was crucified in that day for criminal acts would be on par with a criminal act that would get you capital punishment in our time.

Likely, there was something along the lines of murder, rape, something that had taken place where they had run from God and done evil acts. That had led to the death sentence they had (these two criminals). Jesus' perfect holiness in human form was crucified in the middle of them. In Jesus' last conversation, he began to have a conversation with these two criminals.

As they're hanging there, one of the criminals looks over, and he says, "Look. You saved other people. Save us and yourself! You allowed lame people to walk, blind people to see. Save yourself, and save us with you!" The second criminal interrupts the first one, and he begins to say, "Don't you know what you're saying? We deserve to be up here." He acknowledges, "We deserve this right now. The actions I've done merit what is taking place right here."

He looks over at Jesus, and in some of his last words, he has the audacity to ask Jesus for a favor. After spending his entire life likely running from God, doing something that whatever it was was bad enough… Maybe it was murder, ruining the lives of people he lived around. Whatever the criminal had done, it was not something you would look at and be like, "He fits on the scale somewhere over here."

He has the audacity in his last moments to ask Jesus for a favor, and the favor is, "Jesus, will you remember me when you come into your kingdom despite the fact that I've run from you?" I mean, what can he offer the Son of God in this moment? Think about this. What…is he going to rededicate his life on the cross? "Jesus, I promise I'll never do it again, any of this." There's nothing he can give.

He looks over at Jesus, and what does God in human form say? How would you think he would respond? "Nice try. Fourth quarter? Really? You're going to call it in right now?" He says, "Today, you will be with me in paradise, despite having done nothing right and everything wrong." Doing good won't make you good with God, and doing bad won't keep you out if you do exactly what this man did, which is call on the one who can save: Jesus.

Paul says the problem with, "Good people go to heaven" is no one is good. Doing good doesn't make up for doing bad, but God can and has made a way, which is where Paul goes next. This is what he says. "But now…" As in, something has happened. Observing the law won't make you good, but now a righteousness from God.

"But now apart from the law [apart from obeying] the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets [that's the Old Testament] testify. This righteousness [right standing with God] is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…"

All have fallen short of God's standard. "…and all are justified [made right with God] freely…" It's without cost to them. "…by his grace through the redemption [the purchasing] that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement…" As in, he died in the place of whoever would accept what he did on the cross. Atonement just means, "I'm going to atone. I'm going to pay for the debt you owe."

"…through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he [God] had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished…" For thousands of years, there had been sin that hadn't been paid for. Jesus, on the cross, paid for every sin that's ever been committed for whoever would accept it. "…he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."

There's a lot there to look at, but our third idea from the text we're going to pull out is…

3._ Only God can make us good_. Only God can make us good! The idea of, "Good people go to heaven" falls apart, Paul would say, because no one is good. Doing good won't make you good. There is a way, and it was provided by God only through God and from God. In other words, the idea of doing enough or behaving in a way that would earn you a relationship with God is just too great of a task. The gap is too great.

The distance between what is required, perfection, and where humanity falls is just too far. Everyone falls so short of where the standard is because the standard is way over there. God, who is just, which is why Paul says so he can't lower the standard… We may be like, "That standard of perfection? Take it easy! That feels a little harsh. Boys will be boys. Can't we just…? I look the other way all the time!"

Paul would say, "That's because you, David, are not just." God, in perfect justice, in perfect holiness, required that every debt has to be paid. Every offense has to be paid. There's no judge that, if they looked the other way, you'd be like, "Yeah, that's a good judge. Good judge right there."

What does God do? He provides a way to fill in the gap because he knew humanity could never get there on their own. It was too great a task. There are things in our lives still that are too good of a task for any person to bridge. There are just things like, "If anyone attempted to do that, there's no person on the planet who could."

If we had a swimming competition and the swimming competition was, "We're going to swim from New York to Europe," people in the room are like, "I swam in high school. I think I could give it a shot." You may make it five miles. I may make it half a mile. Michael Phelps may make it 50. Nobody is making it to Europe. It's too great a distance. The Bible presents the reality of where God is, and the standard that's required is too great a gap for anyone to reach on their own.

If you're inside the room and maybe this is the first time you've heard this or this idea of the standard that's required and that feels harsh to you or like God is sitting up there being like, "Try a little harder, you guys. You have to be perfect. You have to get everything together," the picture that's presented is not of some God who is some distant force away saying, "Be better for me."

It's a God who says, "I died in their place. I died in the place of anyone who will accept it." The standard is perfection, but it's not a perfection I'm believing or I'm saying they have to begin to meet on their own on their behavior. It's a standard, and it is a path only I can bridge the gap. I have bridged the gap by dying in their place for them.

If you have some picture inside of your mind… There's someone specifically I really want to talk to. They have this picture of God being some force who is distant and really doesn't care. "Try a little harder up there." That's not what the Bible presents. The Bible presents a God of such lavish love that he sees the gap being so great that he comes and takes on human form to die in their place because it was too great a distance to bridge.

He reaches down in humanity, and he comes in the form of Jesus and dies on a cross made of wood he created from a tree he gave life to. He is nailed by hands he formed in their mother's womb as they drove the nails into a cross. He is not some distant force who doesn't care. He is dying for the same humanity who is putting him on the piece of wood, the same humanity inside of this room and on this stage, because no one is good enough. If you think you're good enough, you're arrogant.

I used to think that the idea of when you ask someone about eternity, "Are you spending eternity with God?" and they would respond with, "You know, I'm not sure. I'm trying to be a good person. I guess we'll have to wait and see. You really can't know. I don't want to be arrogant and say I know I'm going to heaven. I'm trusting that with God, and I try to live a good life…" I used to think that's humble. Then I realized it's arrogant. It's arrogant! It's arrogant because it assumes, if you live a good life, you could be good enough for God.

The idea, "I can't really know, and I don't want to be arrogant and say I know I can have eternity with God," the idea, "I'm just going to keep trying to be good" is humble is a lie. It's arrogant because it assumes, "If I behave enough, then God will let me in." The Bible doesn't teach, "Whosoever behaves should not perish and have eternal life." The Bible teaches, "…whoever believes in [Jesus] should not perish but have eternal life." It does not teach whoever behaves will have eternal life.

It is whoever believes or puts their trust in what Jesus did on the cross to pay for their sin and their death and dying in their place. In a moment of faith, Paul says, you've been given the righteousness of God, forgiven, totally redeemed, or purchased. The very righteousness Jesus has (if you've trusted in what he did on the cross) is yours. The Bible says, "…he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." Think about that! In a moment of faith, of trusting…

"I trust in what you did in my place. I'm not putting my faith in what I have done or what I haven't done or the things in my past. I'm not going to allow those things to be barriers because, God, you say they're not barriers, and you say they won't be the way I enter into a relationship with you. You say the only way is by putting my faith in Jesus. When I trust in that, I have the righteousness of God given to me."

If you've never had that moment, today in a moment, whatever your story is, whatever the past behind you, you can experience and put your faith in the one thing that will give you access to heaven, the one thing Paul says will make you forever right with God: accepting the free gift of what Jesus did in your place to die and to pay for your sin, pay for my sin, and rising again.

The Bible doesn't teach good people go to heaven. It teaches forgiven people go to heaven. There is only one way to get forgiveness: Jesus. It's not good people in heaven and bad people in hell. It's forgiven people in heaven.

I'm going to close here. I had an experience that kind of paralleled this not long ago. I got a phone call from a friend who said, "My company has seats at a Mavericks' game. I have tickets that are mine, and I'm not going to use them. Would you like to use them?" I was like, "Yes! Absolutely! Date night! This will be awesome!" I was super excited, got these tickets. I went and picked them up from him and planned it all out. I took my wife. We were really pumped to get to go do this.

I pick up the tickets from him. We get to the stadium. All of a sudden, I look inside the tickets, and I pull out a parking pass. I had just stopped at an ATM because you have to get cash to pay in one of those lots. This was not just any parking pass. It was like the Lexus parking pass attached to the American Airlines Center. You park and walk right in. I'm like, "This is incredible! I didn't even know this existed! This is amazing!"

I park the car, walk in, take the tickets. We begin to go find our row. We're stoked. We didn't know where our seats were, so we found our gate (107 or whatever it was). We begin to walk down, and we see where our ticket is in (whatever letter it was). We begin walking. We're walking past, "It's not this row, not this row, not this row." We begin to walk past every single row until we're on the floor.

I'm like, "Oh my gosh! This is unbelievable!" I had no idea what, in accepting this free gift, everything that was coming with it. I mean, we're like, "Here's Dirk right here." He is right in front of me inches away. I've never experienced anything like this before. We're both like, "This is amazing!"

I look around, and it becomes very clear these are not my people we are surrounded with right now. I mean, they are like dressed super nice. Everyone is super pretty. They all kind of know what they're doing. I'm not even sure they know what basketball game is going on right now. They know what to do. They're like, "Oh Beverly, come on!" I just feel out of place. I'm like, "I feel like I don't belong here, and I think they all know." They're about to call security and be like, "Who is this imposter in here?"

True story. Even the way you order food… The American Airlines Center has concession stands. When you're in the front, concession stands are not something you go to. They come to you! Even like ordering food, the lady comes up. She is like, "What do you want to order?" I'm like, "I don't really know how this works. Is it free? Is it not?" I mean, I didn't want to ask, "Hey, Bill. How do you order?" I'm like, "My wife doesn't know how to order. Can you believe this? Is it included? I'll have what he is having."

I just felt so out of place. I'm like, "I do not belong here." Then all of a sudden it hits me, and I'm like, "I do belong here because of one reason! I have a ticket. It's not because I know the seats, I purchased it, I know how to order, or anything else but for one reason and one reason alone: I accepted the ticket and this free gift.

This is the message of Christianity. It's not someone who deserves or has the right to have a relationship with God based on how they behave or how they act any more than someone would deserve to sit on the front row at the Mavs game just by being like, "Hey, I was a really nice person. Mark Cuban, can I come down there?"

Any more than someone doing that would deserve to have a relationship with God… The only way anyone will ever gain access to eternal life and have a relationship with God is not by doing good but by accepting the free gift and the access Jesus alone requires. If you think you deserve that relationship, you're arrogant. If you think you could ever deserve it, you're arrogant. May God have mercy on you. The message of Christianity is all have fallen short. There are no good people.

In order to become a Christian, it requires saying, "I'm not a good person. I'm not going to trust in what I do or what I haven't done. I'm trusting only in what you did, Jesus. I don't need a second chance. I need someone to save me. I'm trusting in the God who was there who stretched out his arms to die in my place. I'm accepting freely that gift on my behalf." Paul says in that moment, all the relationship, all the benefits that come with it of knowing God and walking with him, and eternal life are yours, forever sealed, if we just accept it. Let me pray.

Father, saying thank you for dying in our place, for becoming a man, feels almost silly and embarrassing. Yet there are no words. Thank you, Lord, that you made a way, and you bridged the gap. On the standard of perfection, you didn't require that we try harder, but you were tried and crucified in our place. Would that never grow old to me as a follower of Jesus (the simple message of the gospel).

The temptation from my heart is to let that not move me toward just incredible gratitude, not move me toward expressing that message toward friends, neighbors, family, and people I share life with who believe good people go to heaven. They bought the lie. Father, would that never grow old. Would you help it to remain just a fire in our hearts? Thank you, Lord, it's not good people who go to heaven, but it's forgiven. In Jesus, all who trust in him are forgiven. Amen.