Can You Earn Your Way into Heaven?
"For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."
How good do you have to be to go to Heaven? Where is the bar set for our good deeds so we make sure we do enough of them to get over it?
The Pharisees of Jesus' day had expanded God's Law into hundreds of applications … some negative and some positive. "Do this. Don't do that. Then you will be acceptable in God's sight." The Pharisees were focused on outward acts, but they ignored the problems of the heart. You may be a "good and decent person" in your behavior, but what lies within YOUR heart? Do you hate? Do you covet? Do you lust? Do you lie? Are you impatient with your spouse or your children? Are you quick to condemn? Do you have a hard time forgiving people that have wronged you? Are you bitter? Do you worship money or career or popularity? The list of how dark our hearts can be goes on and on …
I recently asked an old friend where he was with his beliefs. I had shared the Gospel many times in the past but that was at least 10 years ago. His reply was disheartening. "I'm all good in that department … full time usher every Sunday!" I don’t know his heart, of course, but it sure looks like he is relying on his "good works" to get him into Heaven. It won’t.
Jesus' point was this: outward acts, no matter how pious and lawful, are not enough. Your righteousness needs to go way beyond that to enter Heaven. The Pharisees and Scribes blew us all out of the water when it came to being religious, but that didn't clean up the mess that was in their hearts. Only the love & forgiveness of Christ is strong enough to do that.
Jesus' words beg the question: How can I possibly be more righteous than the most pious religious leaders of the day? Jesus Himself is the answer. Check out Romans 3:21-22a …
“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe … ”
Jesus is the only one who ever measured up to perfect righteousness … and He is offering to place His righteousness into YOUR account. Will you accept His offer by faith and put all of your eggs in His basket? It is the only way you can get to Heaven.