While growing up I somehow got the mistaken idea that in order to please God and go to Heaven I had be “good enough”. I imagined God with an antiquated adding machine, keeping track of my good and bad deeds. At the end of my life, He would push the big "TOTAL" button and the result would determine if I went to Heaven or to Hell.
I tried very hard to be good. I made every effort to get along with everyone, went to church practically every Sunday, and even tried reading through the Bible. I eagerly started with Genesis, but somewhere around Leviticus my enthusiasm waned.
I figured I still scored on the positive side with God. Yes, I had my faults, but surely, I had done nothing bad enough to end up in Hell, had I?
Then in my mid-twenties I met Bill and Peggy, a couple whose concept of God differed drastically from mine. When they described their relationship with Jesus, they spoke of Him as their loving friend and Savior, an ever-present source of strength and guidance—not some aloof numbers-cruncher.
What a revelation! I desperately wanted that kind of relationship with Jesus. So during church one Sunday, I prayed and asked Him to come into my life and save me from my sins. He became my friend and constant companion, just as He was to Bill and Peggy.
I started reading my Bible and found it alive and relevant. I discovered scripture passages that corrected my misconceptions.
God is not busy tallying up numbers on some heavenly calculator. In fact, Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." (NIV)
And no matter how good I try to be, it will never be enough. Romans says that we all fall short—none of us meets God's standards. Only Jesus’ death on the cross could pay the price for us to enter Heaven. All that is required of us is to put our faith in Him.
A list of good deeds will not even gain me admittance to a sporting event or a concert here on earth. Can you imagine how the ticket taker at a movie theater would respond when she asked for my money and I slid my good deeds list under the window? She would probably raise one eyebrow, skeptically glance over the list and then repeat the price. How could I have counted on good deeds to get me into Heaven?
Trusting in the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, instead of my own ineffectual efforts, has brought me wondrous relief and peace. It is pure joy to know that the Lord loves and welcomes me into His kingdom based entirely on the awesome purity and holiness of Jesus alone.
©2011 Pamela D. Williams
Originally published in the CHURCH OF GOD EVANGEL MAGAZINE (August 2007)
©Pamela D. Williams