September 9, 2012

If You're a Good Person, You'll Make it to Heaven - Sep 9, 2012

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Since July we've been working our way through a sermon series entitled, "The Lies of Satan". Today we examine one final lie. Now, of course we've only looked at a handful of the lies that Satan uses to turn people away from the LORD. As we move through our lives, Satan will uses many additional lies. The lies he uses on me may not be the same ones he uses on you. Those he uses on us may not be the same he uses on others. We need to be vigilant.

Hopefully this sermon series has helped us to be more conscious of Satan's lies - so that we can readily identify them and counter them with God's Word. We must continue to train in God's Holy Word. The more we study God's word, takes notes from God's Word and absorb God's Word, the better we'll be able to see the deceptions that Satan lays in our path. Be in that Word dear Christians, and take the threat of God's enemy seriously.

The lie that we're going to examine today is this: "If you're a good person, you'll get to heaven." To begin with we read from...

Romans 3:9-24 (NIV)

9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. 10 As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Now, we can't really know which lie Satan uses the most. But this one is probably right there at the top of his list, "If you're a good person, you'll get to heaven."

Perhaps Satan uses this lie so often because he knows our tendency to judge ourselves in comparison to the people around us. As Christians we may say that we believe that all sins are equal, but sometimes I'm not so sure we believe it.

Jonathan Acuff says it well when he writes...
"...we only believe all sins are equal when our circle of friends is equal. It's easy to believe that when none of your friends has done anything with bigger consequences than something you've done. It's easy to believe all sins are equal when the worst sin you've heard confessed is that someone in your small group doesn't love their enemies enough. But it's a lot harder to believe that when you run into big, "gross" sins.

The idea of sin equality gets shaken up when you meet a guy who cheated on his wife or stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from his company or used to work at a male strip club. It gets flipped upside down when a girl in your church admits she's had multiple abortions. Suddenly when you bump up against those things, the safe, comfortable belief that 'all sins are equal' gets bruised a little. Like being relieved that someone behind you ran the red light even worse than you did, you think inside, 'At least I haven't done that. Sure, I've made some mistakes but I've never done that. That's a big sin right there."

And then you've got a little caste system going. You don't measure your sins against God's Word. You measure them against what other people are doing. You start to define holiness by a standard other than God's. The funny thing is, that approach usually works in your favor. If you look hard enough, you can usually find someone who's blowing it far worse than you, and knowing that you're not like them makes it a little easier to be like you" (Stuff Christians Like p.196)

The Devil knows how humans work. Not only do we judge our own goodness in comparison to others, we also have a nature that is intrinsically arrogant. The Scripture itself reveals that that human beings naturally place our own thoughts on a level above others.
"Every way of man is right in his own eyes but the LORD weighs the heart" (Proverbs 21:2 NIV).

"There are those who are clean in their own eyes but are not washed of their filth" (Proverbs 30:12 NIV).

"Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them" (Proverbs 26:12 NIV).
You don't have to look far to see people who think they're way better than they really are. Ever watch the show "American Idol"? If you haven't seen it, it's a singing competition in which people compete to earn a record contract and the title of this year's "American Idol". Part of the draw of the show is the amazing singers they find, but part of the draw is also the terrible ones. People come and sing before the panel of judges thinking that THEY have amazing voices that everyone else loves to hear. Surely they're as good, if not better than the people on the radio.

But they're not.

And when they get the boot from the panel of experienced voice judges, a lot of them get angry and refuse to believe it. In their mind they're the next superstar. In their own eyes, they're not just good, they're great.

Now, even if you're not that deluded, Satan will wager that he can find some part of you that says, "I'm pretty good."

But we're not talking about a mere singing competition when it comes to who gets into heaven. Here the stakes are big. This is eternity we're talking about. And still, Satan's lie that we can be good enough takes hold.

Inside the human soul there is also something called, "wishful thinking". The thought of an eternal existence in hell is so terrible, that we close our eyes to the possibility of it. We think, "Man I hope that doesn't happen. Surely that can't happen, that'd be unthinkable." And we hide under our wishful thinking like a child under a blanket, hoping that hell is some divine joke. That in the end God will just say, "Ha! Gotcha! Come on in everyone! I didn't really mean all those threats, that was just to make you be a little nicer."

But we don't have to guess about what God's going to do when all people stand before Him for judgment. He says that He'll judge everyone on the basis of what they've done. And His standards of judgment are clearly laid out in the Bible.
"The soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20 ESV).

" Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48 NIV).

"10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it" (James 2:10 ESV).
Only the perfect person is holy according to God's standards. And none of us are perfect.

As we've moved through this series, one thing I've noticed is that Satan's lies often imply something. Have you noticed that, that there's often something that Satan is communicating between the lines? And when you read between the lines you find the heart of the deception. Satan says, "If you're a good person, you'll make it to heaven". The implication is that we actually CAN be good people. But it's just not true. Not according to God's standards. According to human standards, sure, we can be good neighbors and good friends and helpful, charming people. But according to God's standards we call woefully short.

When I took Greek in college, Prof. Kuehne used to give us quizzes every day. Most of the time all he required was that we got a passing grade. But at the end of some of the sections we'd take tests where we were required to get 100%.

We'd have to memorize and write out declensions of Greek verbs and stuff like that. We'd know what we had to write, so it was fair, but we still had to get 100% before we could move on. If you didn't get a century, you could take the test over, outside of class. But you had to get everything right.

That's what God's standards are like. One sin and you flunk the test. But when it comes to holiness, there are no retakes. And we've all flunked. Our lives are full of red marks, and there is nothing we can do to erase them. There is no purgatory where we can receive a beating as a substitute for our lack of holiness.

That's why the Gospel of Christ is so precious. In the Gospel we learn that Jesus has already passed the test of holiness. And when He suffered on the cross He took away our red marks replacing them with His perfect score.

You see, there is only ONE good human being in God's eyes - His Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible calls Jesus, "the Righteous One" (Acts 7:52). On two different occasions during Jesus' ministry God the Father spoke audibly from heaven saying that Jesus was His Son with whom He was well pleased. God the Father was well pleased with Jesus because Jesus was 100% sinless.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes...
"21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV).
According to God's standards only Jesus is sinless, so only Jesus is good. But Jesus has offered His sinless record to all sinners. By simple trust we are connected to Jesus and get credit for being holy, when we haven't been. We are DECLARED good because Jesus ACTUALLY WAS good and offered Himself as a sacrifice to erase the record of our sin.

We don't have to live in fear of God's punishment anymore. We don't have to close our eyes and make believe that everything might to be alright. We don't have to go on stupidly comparing ourselves to other sinners and deluding ourselves into thinking that we're somehow good enough - in Christ WE ARE GOOD ENOUGH, for in Christ we are perfect.
"3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” w
4 Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness" (Romans 4:3-5 NIV).

Beware the lie of Satan, that if you're a good person by the things you say and do, that you'll make it to heaven. He tells this lie because it take Christ, our only Savior, the only sinless one - out of the picture. With this lie Satan would place us back on the treadmill of earning our own forgiveness. We can run on that treadmill forever, and still not get anywhere. With this lie Satan would place us on the false throne of judging others as lesser people, greater sinners than ourselves, which is kinda like saying one dead body is more dead than another.

Instead, let's hold onto the truth of God. We're all bad people according to God's standards. Every sinner in this room. Every sinner you meet. Every sinner who ever lived. But in Christ, in Christ things are different. Everyone in Christ is a saint.

By the way, the apostle Paul liked to start his letters to Christian churches by calling his fellow Christians "saints". The Greek word "saint" means "holy one". With this little greeting Paul was reminding his fellow followers right off the bat that in Christ they were "holy ones" in the sight of God.

Dear saints, beware the lies of Satan. Stay near to Christ by staying in His Word. By our faith connection to Christ, we will make it to heaven, not by any piddley work of our own, but by the righteousness that comes from God, through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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