One of the great misconceptions many hold when it comes to the idea of heaven is the belief that if one's good works outweigh their bad deeds, they will get into heaven. That sounds about right for most, but the questions that no one seems to be answering are first, how much is good enough, and second, how many good deeds does it take to offset a bad deed?
In talking with people of various faiths I have discovered that those who are counting on their good deeds outweighing their bad ones never really know if they are succeeding.
Psychologists tell us that the average person has something like 10,000 thoughts a day.
Let's suppose a person is a really good person for a minute and only a tenth of those thoughts are evil thoughts. Not so bad. That's only 1,000 wrong thoughts a day, 365,000 wrong thoughts a year, and a mere 29,200,000 wrong thoughts if the person makes it to 80 years of age.
How many good deeds would be needed to off-set that? I mean, God did say that he examines our thoughts as well as our actions.
Imagine for a minute the following scenario: I have been given a ticket for speeding. I go before the judge and she says, "I see you were speeding -- going 60 miles per hour in a 35 mile zone. How do you plead?"
I respond by saying, "Well, your honor, I was speeding, but you see, I'm a pastor and I was on my way to help someone in need; I was speeding, but it was for a good cause."
What will the judge do? Do you think for a moment she will say, "Well, OK then, I'm going to let you off the hook"? I don't think so.
Let's take this out a little further. Suppose the judge, before rendering her verdict, asks to see my driving record, at which point she discovers that I have 50 unpaid traffic citations, all of which are for speeding.
Confronted with this fact, I launch this defense, "Your honor, I know that I speed but you have to understand: I'm a pastor and my time is precious. I do a lot of good in this community, but I have a problem in this one area. I really think that you should overlook these violations in light of the fact that I do so much good. I mean, it is only one area in which I have broken the law. I've never robbed anyone or stolen anything."
What do you think the judge will do? I'll tell you what I think she'll do, she'll ignore my pleas and dispense the justice I deserve. In fact, if the scenario I described were true, I'd be making future calls on foot.
While we understand the consequences of the above illustration, it amazes me that so many thinking people can jump track and think the "all the good I do" argument will fly with the Judge of the universe.
The good news in all of this is that entrance into heaven does not depend upon what a person does, or doesn't do; rather it depends upon what God himself has done. God paid the price of the penalty of our transgressions, and He offers forgiveness to anyone who will accept it.
The Bible puts it this way, "Because of his kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it." (Ephesians 2:8 9, The Living Bible).
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.