Think about this hypothetical question: “If you were standing before the gates of heaven, and God were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’ what would your answer be?”
It’s an interesting thought experiment that I’ve put to many people. What reason would you give God for why He should let you into heaven?
Some answer: “God, you let everyone in!” This view says that since God is love and would never punish anyone, everyone gets into heaven. But this view ignores the justice of God and several Scriptural passages that talk about how God punishes sin.
Numbers 14:18 says, “The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty.” We see both God’s forgiveness, but also His punishment of sinners.
Many churches have abandoned the idea of the Lake of Fire as outdated, but its truth shows us that not everyone will be in heaven.
Some answer: “God, I tried my best!” This is the idea that as long as you try to be a good person and do more good than bad, you will make it into heaven.
There are two problems with this view. The first is that we do far more bad than good. Consider the Ten Commandments briefly. Have you always put God first? Have you refrained from stealing, lying, disobeying your parents, and coveting for your whole life? No one has.
The second problem is that even our good things are tainted by sin. Isaiah 64:6 says, “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Proverbs 15:8 says, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD.”
Some answer: “God, I did all the religious things you told me to do!” By this they count good things like attending church, reading the Bible, going through confirmation classes, tithing, praying and getting baptized.
But religious acts are never promised to save us. Baptism cannot wash away your sins. Going to church cannot absolve you. Jesus talked about people who counted their religious works to save them in Matthew 7:22-23: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
The only answer that will satisfy the question, “Why should I let you into heaven?” is this, “God, there is no reason at all that you should let me into heaven. I am a sinner. But I believe that Jesus died for my sins, and I am accepting His sacrifice on my behalf.”
Pastor Joshua Hawn serves at First Baptist Church in Park Rapids.