"HOW GOOD is GOOD ENOUGH?"
By Andy Stanley
A.) Most people believe that "good people go to Heaven."
1.) They believe that there is a direct relationship between the quality of the life you live now and what eternity will be like for you later.
2.) When asked why they think they will get into heaven, (however they define heaven), their response amounts to, "I do...,I do....,I do...."expressing their opinion that there is a directconnection between works they "do" now and the reward these works earn for them later.
3.) People aren't too concerned about the topic of heaven or if they do talk about it, their talk is seasoned with, "I think", without citing research, statistics or references; this implies that they believe that everything will work out in the end and they don't really need to think about it or be concerned about it. They are convinced that, "Good people just make it somehow."
THERE ARE PROBLEMS WITH THIS VIEW ABOUT HEAVEN AND WHY ONE GOES THERE BECAUSE THE "GOOD PEOPLE GO TO HEAVEN" SYSTEM HAS SOME REAL FLAWS. BUT WE CANNOT SEE THOSE FLAWS WITHOUT FIRST UNDERSTANDING WHAT IT HAS GOING FOR IT, THAT IS, WHY IT APPEALS TO SO MANY PEOPLE.
B.) There are four reasons why many people Favor the "Good People Go to Heaven" system.
1.) It seems like a Fair system: at home, in society, at school, at work, good people get rewarded, bad people get punished. And we consider this Fair. A system that seems fair to us would appear to us to be the fairest one for determining entry into heaven
2.) It appears to be what the Bible teaches: there is a good God in a good place called heaven; it makes sense that good people would go there.
3.) Most people are convinced that they are good enough to get into heaven; very few ever answer the question, "Are you going to heaven?" by saying, "I'm bad- I'm not going." They believe they are good, (not perfect, because if only perfect people got in no one would get in), or at least somewhere in the middle so their chances are good.
4.) If more people would take the idea, "Good people go to Heaven" More seriously, it would have a real impact on society: people would try harder to be good and there would be positive results.
BECAUSE IT APPEARS TO BE A FAIR SYSTEM AND BECAUSE MOST PEOPLE BELIEVE THEY ARE "GOOD", MOST PEOPLE HAVE ASSUMED ALL THEIR LIVES THAT THEY ARE GOING TO MAKE IT TO HEAVEN. THAT IS WHY THEY DON'T GIVE IT OR RELIGION IN GENERAL, MUCH SERIOUS THOUGHT. AFTER ALL, EVERY RELIGION IS BASED ON THE "GOOD PEOPLE GO TO HEAVEN" SYSTEM ANYWAY. BUT THERE ARE MAJOR PROBLEMS WITH THE SYSTEM THAT "GOOD PEOPLE GO TO HEAVEN". THESE FLAWS UNDERMINE THE NOTION THAT IT IS A FAIR SYSTEM AND THEREFORE THE BEST SYSTEM.
C.) The three major problems which make the "Good people go to Heaven" system a faulty one.
1.) A.) Assuming, as many do, that there is no divinely revealed and so absolutely true instruction regarding what is good, there is no clear standard by which we can measure what is good.
--IF it is true that people can get closer to the "God" who rewards "good" works, (whatever one believes 'he', 'she', or 'it' is), it would seem fair for that deity, who set up the system, to give us the standard whereby we could determine whether we are doing good or not.
--BUT if there is no divinely inspired standard, then the God of the system, "Good People go to Heaven", hasn't given us a clue about the basis for judging our performance.
COURSE analogy: sign up for a course but there is no text, no instruction, no syllabus; one test, but no insight into what will be on the test, and your whole grade hinges on material you've never received. You wouldn’t call the teacher of such a course GOOD nor would you call the course FAIR.
JOB analogy: no job description but your work will be evaluated after three weeks and if you are not fulfilling the responsibilities you're fired! You wouldn't call the employer GOOD or the evaluation process FAIR.
RACE analogy: no start, no finish, no knowledge of the distance, no trail maps, no idea of how much time to complete the race. You wouldn’t call the officials who planned it GOOD or the race FAIR nor would you enter such a race.
We wouldn't call the teacher good, the employer good or the official good; we would judge them unfair, manipulative, even capricious. Yet we still insist that there is a "Good God" out there even though, not supplying us with a guidebook, He has designed a system as UNFAIR as the ones described in the analogies above.
"Making it up as you go along" won't work either since you have no way of knowing that this "God" will agree with what you make up.
At least the God of the Holy Bible has given us a hint. The God of those people who subscribe to the system described above (no divinely inspired guidebook supplied) just fired the gun when you were born and said, "Go for it!"
OK. SO WE WILL USE THE BIBLE AS OUR STANDARD. IT SAYS PLENTY ABOUT WHAT IS RIGHT AND WRONG. WE'LL JUST DO WHAT IT SAYS AND "THE GOOD PEOPLE GO TO HEAVEN" SYTEM WILL APPLY. HOWEVER, THIS APPROACH BRINGS US FACE TO FACE WITH THE SECOND FLAW.
C.) 1.) B.) The Bible does contain a standard (divinely inspired instruction), but the Bible itself says no one can pull it OFF. "The bar is too high. There is no curve" in the grading system.
The Bible says: Romans 3:10, "There is no One Who is righteous."
The Bible says: Romans 3:20, "NO ONE will be declared righteous in His sight BY OBSERVING THE LAW."
The Bible says: Romans 3:23, "For ALL have sinned and FALLEN SHORT of the glory of God." (God's grade of "perfect".)
No one can ever be as good as the Bible says we must be to enter heaven.
Exodus 20 - The Ten Commandments no where says that this is how we get to heaven; they were never given to us as a standard of obedience which guarantees us life with God in eternity. (Rather,"through the Law we become conscious OF SIN." (Romans 3:20) "For whoever keeps the whole Law and yet stumbles at just ONE POINT is guilty OF breaking ALL of it." (James 2:10)
The Law may help to establish an orderly society or guide a community of faith in how it may serve God on earth, but it was never intended to be the standard for measuring who is good enough to get into heaven.
OK. OK. SO WE WON'T USE THE BIBLE. WE WILL DETERMINE GOOD AND BAD ON THE BASIS OF THE STANDARD WITHIN EACH OF US. GOD HAS GIVEN US AN INHERENT KNOWLEDGE OF RIGHT AND WRONG. HOWEVER, CAREFUL CONSIDERATION OF THIS APPROACH DEMONSTRATES THAT IT IS FLAWED ALSO BECAUSE
C.) 1.) C.) The human race is unable to develop or agree upon a consistent standard for determining what is good and providing clear direction on how to be good enough to get to heaven.
NOT INDIVIDUALLY: what you think is right, I may think as wrong and what you may think is wrong, I may think is right.
NOT INTERNATIONALLY: in other countries, a different understanding of right and wrong often confronts us: -- Judas' actions in betraying Jesus were praised as honorable in one country.
NOT OVER TIME: the local or national sense of right and wrong keeps changing (IF WE DON'T USE THE BIBLE AS OUR STANDARD AND RELY ON OUR OWN INTERIOR BAROMETER.)
There is no consistency so how can we ever supply certainty.
SO, NO MATTER HOW WE TRY TO ARRIVE AT A STANDARD, WE FIND THAT AT BEST, THE STANDARD WE MIGHT CHOOSE DENOUNCES ANYTHING LESS THAN PERFECTION, AND AT WORST, THERE IS NOT A CLEAR OR CONSISTANT STANDARD. THESE FLAWS MAKE THE "GOOD PEOPLE GO TO HEAVEN" SYSTEM UNFAIR BECAUSE WE CANNOT ARRIVE AT AN ACCEPTABLE STANDARD.
C.) 2.) The second problem with the "Good People Go to heaven" system is that there is no way to measure our progress.
WE DON'T KNOW WHERE THE CUT-OFF POINT IS: 50/50; 49/51; 70/30. How much of our life has to be good for us to be good enough to get into heaven.
WE DON'T KNOW HOW MUCH TIME WE HAVE LEFT: you could die this year with 30 to 40 years of bad left to make up for.
WE DON'T KNOW THE PIVOTAL DAY: we could get motivated if an angel appeared and said, "Today is the half way point." But no angel ever shows up to tell us that.
HOW FAIR IS THAT SYSTEM IF GOD NEVER TELLS YOU HOW MUCH TIME YOU HAVE RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING OR HOW MUCH TIME YOU HAVE LEFT.
C.) 3.) The third problem with the "Good People Go to Heaven System" is that if you believe in it then you must also believe that Jesus is a liar.
MOST PEOPLE WOULDN’T SAY THAT. However, if you think that he merely did the best with what he knew, you are patronizing him and not aware of the role he assumed For himself.
AND IF YOU REGARD HIM AS A TEACHER AT ALL, He really messes up the "Good People Go to Heaven" system because JESUS TAUGHT THAT BAD PEOPLE GO TO HEAVEN AND THAT GOOD PEOPLE DON'T
Jesus told "professional" good people they were going to hell; Matthew 23:13, 15 / Matthew 5:20, Luke 18:9-14
Jesus told the bad people that there was hope for them; Luke 19:7, 10 /Matthew 9:11-13
Jesus told a criminal (an unreformable career criminal who had no opportunity to do good works) that his life of crime was "no problem" For Jesus;
Jesus taught that good people don't go to heaven and that bad people sometimes go to heaven.
JESUS TAUGHT THAT GOOD WORKS REALLY AREN'T EVEN THE ISSUE; THE ISSUE IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO JESUS: LUKE 23:32-45
The thief recognized his sins - "We are getting what our deeds deserve."
The thief recognized the innocence of Jesus. "This man has done nothing wrong."
The thief recognized who Christ was - "YOUR kingdom" - Jesus is THE King, true God.
The thief acknowledged his need For Jesus "Remember me" - his entrance into heaven depended upon Jesus.
And so does ours. Promising Jesus we will change or do better will not get us to heaven. Relying on Jesus as our substitute, counting on the fact that He remembers us and intercedes for us, that is where our certainty lies; not in a system of good works, but in the work of the Good Shepherd.
Andy Stanley is the son of internationally recognized pastor and best-selling author Dr. Charles Stanley. Andy currently serves as senior pastor of North Point Community Church in North Atlanta. He received his master of theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. He has written and his wife, Sandra, coauthored "The Toddler ABC Book." They are the parents of three children, Andrew, Garrett and Allie.