It’s that time of year where many of us are making resolutions to better ourselves. Maybe we want to exercise more. Perhaps we want to pray more. Or maybe, we just simply want to show more kindness to those around us. Whatever the resolution, the focus is often on good behavior or good habits.
When it comes to heaven, this type of thinking often carries over. Most people think you must be good to get into heaven, but how good is good enough? Where is the definitive line for eternal acceptance? We so easily miss the simple teaching of the Bible that no amount of goodness or good works will ever earn us heaven: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8–9).
God is not asking us to be good; God is demanding that we be perfect. His standard is above even our highest one. No matter how good we may be, we cannot be as perfect as God demands.
Have you ever had an unkind thought, said a curse word, been impatient, done something out of selfishness, stolen from or hurt someone? Of course. We all have, and in so doing, we have missed His standard of perfection: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
What makes that bad news even worse is that a holy God has no choice but to punish sin. We deserve to be separated from Him forever in a place the Bible calls hell. No amount of goodness we have done, are doing, or will do can change that: “As it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).
But here’s the good news: our sin has already been paid for. Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ—the perfect Son of God—came into the world and died in our place. God punished Him where He should have punished us: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21).
Christ paid the price for our sins by dying in our place. His resurrection on the third day proved that God accepted His Son’s death as complete payment for our sins. Because the price of our sins has been paid, we simply receive eternal life as a completely free gift—not something we work for, earn, or achieve.
Note the words of Ephesians 2:9 again: “it is the gift of God.” By trusting in Christ alone to save us, we can receive that gift. The moment we do, He promises “Most assuredly, I say he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).
We will NEVER be good enough to get to heaven, but because of the cross, we don’t have to be. The moment we trust Christ, God forever accepts us based on what He did for us on a cross.