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How Good Do We Have to Be?

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This is the title of a book written by Harold S. Kushner. Full disclaimer: before seeing this book on a shelf along with several other used books, I had never heard of either the author or the book, therefore I have no idea of its contents.

What intrigued me about it however was the title, because this is THE question that people have been asking for thousands of years.

Just how much do I have to do, and how good is good enough to make it into heaven?

We all know that the underlying belief system for many people is one based upon works. If you’re a good enough person, meaning that at the end of your life your good deeds outweigh the bad, that’s all that’s required to gain entrance into heaven.

If you’re like me, you’ve heard this all of your life. That’s how pervasive this belief is.

So, is it possible to be ‘good enough’?  If so, how exactly do you measure what ‘good enough’ is? Is there a sliding scale or barometer of ‘good’? Has the criteria for ‘good enough’ been made available to us all?

For the answer to those  questions, let’s go to the official source of information for understanding heaven’s entry fee: God’s Word.

The Psalmist declared that there were none that were good. Not even one!

The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.   Psalm 14:2,3

Jesus, in response to the question of “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”, said “Why do you call me good? there is none good but one, that is, God…”  Matthew 19:16,17

The man that asked Jesus this question was very wealthy, and believed (like many of us) that the key to inheriting eternal life was found in the word ‘good’. He likely thought he could donate a sum of money or possessions, or that by doing a “good thing” it would ensure him entry into heaven.

Unfortunately for this man (and billions like him), the scriptures are clear that any priority placed on ‘good’ is misplaced. That is because ‘good’ as defined by man is never going to be ‘good enough’.

That is why Jesus said that there is no one good, but God.

In other words, apart from God man can never be ‘good enough’ to inherit heaven. If he could, there would have been no need for Jesus to come and offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. Indeed, He has died in vain if we ourselves could somehow be ‘good enough’.

If your church or denomination teaches you that God will accept you because of your good works, you are sitting under deception. God will only accept you because he sees that your sins have been covered by the blood of his only Son.

If we were to humble our hearts and really think about it, is there really anything within us that is good, except for the Lord himself? For me personally, I know that the answer to that is NO!

Any good found within me has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with Him!

How about you?

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

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Does it really matter what you believe?

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According to some people it doesn’t. After all, don’t all roads lead to Heaven? And at the end of it all, isn’t God going to give everyone a free pass into Heaven? Or at the very least, give us another chance after death to make things “right enough” to earn a spot in heaven?

That actually sounds nice doesn’t it? I mean, if God is love and all, why wouldn’t He let everyone into Heaven? What kind of God would exclude good people anyway?

I used to believe this, every last word of it. You might say my “religion” was built upon the premise that if God was who people said He was, at the end of the game all of our scores will be added up and guess what?

We all get in because God is a swell guy that sees all the good works we’re doing. You know, working hard to get to Heaven and all that.

Being raised as I was without any religious or Bible education, I was simply doing what everyone else who was raised in similar circumstances was doing; I invented my own religious belief system. A system built upon my own works and good deeds.

And I was doing fine until…

One day someone told me that Jesus was the only way, that He loved me, and that He died just for me, and right then my “religion” was exposed for what it was: just another frail attempt by a sinful man to justify his own sinful behavior.

When I started going to church and reading the Bible for myself, I soon realized just how far off the mark I had drifted. As a matter of fact, reading the Gospels alone was enough to convince me that what one believes actually did matter.

You see, what I discovered was that according to the Bible, there was such a thing as right and wrong. Not only that, but I also discovered that my opinions about it didn’t really matter all that much, because you see the Bible confronted me with a TRUTH that rendered my own opinions pretty much worthless.

This is why it grieves my soul today when I hear people say “there’s good in all churches” (not true). Or when I hear people say ”well, they may not teach it just like the Bible says, but its close enough” (no, it’s not). Or my all-time favorite: “I know they say some things that don’t line up with the Word, but I just take the good stuff and throw away the rest”.

Is God so wishy washy that he considers close enough or good enough to be sufficient? I mean seriously, is this kind of like horseshoes, where close enough earns you points?

Do we really believe that close enough or good enough is really “good enough”? Is this really something we want to leave to chance? Isn’t it serious enough to want to know for certainty?

Can someone even define “good enough” or “close enough”?

And can we of our own making devise a religion that will make us good enough, much like I thought I had done?

Well, not according to God’s Word we can’t!

As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;  Romans 3:10

So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.  Mark 10:18

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Prov. 16:25

It DOES matter what you believe! It matters because it matters to a Holy God, and it is only because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ that we are saved today.

Good enough? Not me. The only good in me is HIM.

And that’s all that matters!

Be blessed!

Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

When “works” replace Jesus…

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Recently I came across an article that talked about pastors filling in their church calendars for the new year. The gist of this article dealt with whether or not the items that made their calendars was real ministry or simply “busy work”.

It made for interesting reading, especially when one of the pastors posted a link to his calendar for everyone to see. Imagine my surprise when lo and behold nearly every day of the week was filled from early morning till late in the evening.

Everything from early morning Bible studies and Zumba classes, afternoon staff and business meetings, to evening choir practice and healthy cooking classes filled this church’s calendar.

Frankly, it was the busiest church calendar I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them. At first glance one would be inclined to say that this church was very busy, and they certainly were. I couldn’t imagine them squeezing anything else into an already stuffed daily agenda.

There was something odd however about this church calendar. I couldn’t figure it out at first, but I couldn’t shake the notion that in spite of so many agenda items something was missing.

Then it hit me. There was something missing! In fact, I noticed two missing items. The first was that there was no time built into the calendar for corporate prayer. The second thing that I noticed missing was there was not one single event or activity geared toward anyone outside the four walls of the church!

As I studied this I was reminded of something that Jesus said to the church at Ephesus, one of the seven churches mentioned in the book of Revelation.

2 “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; 3 “and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.    Revelation 2:2-4(NKJV).    Emphasis mine

Lets look at these verses in detail because I think we might see ourselves in them.

Jesus recognized the works that the church had been doing. He called attention to their labor and patience, and how many of us can relate when it comes to having patience when doing the Lords work?

Jesus also mentioned the church’s disdain for those who practiced evil. All of us understand this don’t we? We are trying to live a Godly life in the midst of a perverse and increasingly evil society, and it’s only going to become more challenging.

He goes on to list several more very positive attributes of the church at Ephesus, leaving no doubt that He knew this church intimately. Hmmm…do you suppose Jesus knows the church you attend in such intimate detail?

At first glance this church could be the model for all other churches in the area. Things were going good, and I imagine there was quite a buzz about all the wonderful things the church at Ephesus was doing.

But, and there’s always a but, right? There was a problem in the church, a problem so important that Jesus couldn’t let it slide without calling their attention to it.

It all began with the word “nevertheless”. Just hearing the word sends thoughts of “uh oh, here it comes” to our minds. Even after all of the praise Jesus gave the church, there was a “nevertheless” that cast a dark shadow on what was an otherwise glowing report.

Nevertheless, he said, this church had lost their first love.

Ouch!

What does this mean, to have lost your first love? It means that the church at Ephesus no longer loved the Lord with the same level of intensity they once had. Their passionate love for Jesus had been replaced by something else.

They had lost their zeal for Christ. Typically when this happens, we just go through the motions of serving God. Our heart is no longer motivated by the love of Jesus, we become content to do as many good works as we can, placing our trust in the deeds themselves rather than Jesus.

Ask me how I know this!

Do you know what this is called? It’s called RELIGION, and it ceases to be about a relationship with Christ. The church at Ephesus abandoned their first love in exchange for cold, formal, impersonal RELIGION.

This is the same poison that has infected the Church today. The poison of RELIGION has suffocated the once fervent relationship she had with Christ. This is why there is such apathy in the pew today. We have supplanted relationship with form, with rules, with do’s and dont’s.

But it doesn’t have to be like this! There’s more to the story! In the next verse, Jesus gave the church at Ephesus an “out”. He told them to REPENT. That’s right, simply REPENT.

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”   Rev. 2:5   KJV

I believe that this is the message for the Church today. Remember where we came from, acknowledge we have strayed, repent and get going again.

Return to the love of Jesus, then watch how much impact our works will have on the world around us!

Maybe we should put THAT in our church calendars!

Be blessed,

Ron

 

 

Already Clean….

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You’ve heard it all before,right?

Good enough…

Follow the rules…

More works…

More faith…

Fall in line…

All of us who know Christ have been told some variation of the above.

Maybe it was when you joined your church.

Maybe it was what you were taught as a child in Sunday School or some other bible class.

At some time in your life you reached a point where you just knew that you could never be…

Good enough………….you could never…

Follow all the rules……………you just couldn’t do…

More works………………..you grew weary of trying to somehow have…

More faith…………………and you simply couldn’t bear to…

Fall in line…………..and be like everyone else.

And then you found it. A verse in the Bible where Jesus was talking about a vineyard,and suddenly it all made sense!

1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.   John 15:1-4 KJV
Did you find it???
Now lets look at this again but this time through the Amplified Bible
1 I AM the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser.
Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit.
You are cleansed and pruned already, because of the word which I have given you [the teachings I have discussed with you].
4 Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me.
Do you see it? It’s right there in verse 3. Jesus said that you are already cleaned because of the word that He had given you.
The Word that…
Makes you Good enough…
Teaches you that rules won’t save you…
Increases our faith every time we read it…
Separates us to fulfill His calling upon our lives…
What freedom! What perfect liberty we enjoy in Christ!
Free from religious rules and laws.Free to follow His footsteps wherever they may lead us.
Already clean!
And all I had to do was say “YES” when He knocked upon my heart’s door. Isn’t God good?
Be blessed,
Ron