Am I good enough to go to heaven?
"He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life but the wrath of God abides on him."
Mary lived her whole life struggling to be good. She believed that if she was just good enough to make up for her bad choices, she would get to go to heaven. Heaven, she didn’t know too much about it, but it had to be better than life here on earth. Life was hard here, and lonely. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was missing something. There had to be something more. She felt restless, empty inside. Her mind wandered back a few years to the time she had thought she found heaven here on earth. One glance into those startling blue eyes was all it took to be lost in paradise. Lost her mind was what had really happened. The things she was willing to do just to spend those long glorious nights with him were now a constant shame to her. What had she been thinking? She knew better, after all she had been brought up in church, well-schooled in right and wrong. The guilt weighed heavy on her, it was her constant companion. Deep down, she was sure that God would never forgive her, but she had to try.
So Mary was in church every Sunday. She threw herself into good Christian works. She helped in the children’s Sunday school class, made meals for the sick, gave money to the poor, joined the Women’s group and made herself generally indispensable. It was exhausting. But Mary thought it was the only way. Her guilt made her feel unworthy of the very air she breathed. Every time someone gave her praise, said how wonderful she was, or implied they couldn’t do without her, Mary was filled with pride. Surely God would notice and approve. She longed for everyone to see how good she was; she needed to be better than them. If she was better, her own sin didn’t seem so bad. She could look in the mirror and hide the shame, cover it up with her best deeds and sacrifices.
Then Hattie came to church. Mary was shocked. She knew Hattie from high school. There was one first class sinner, and everybody knew it. If Hattie had met Jesus, then miracles were real. Mary was quick to welcome her. Next to Hattie, she would be a shining star. Plus she would get credit for being kind to a sinner. She was sure Hattie would join her in all her hard work. Her past was so dark. But Hattie didn’t wasn’t interested in the Children’s ministry. She didn’t want to cook for the sick and she said she had no money for the poor. She didn’t want to do anything Mary urged her to do. The only thing Hattie was interested in was sharing her life with the teenagers. Teenagers, really! They were the last people Hattie should be talking to with her past. She didn’t even try to hide her sins but announced them to anybody who would listen.
Romans 3:23 -For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God
Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord
Ephesians 2:8 & 9 -For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.
Something had to be done and Mary determined that she was the only one willing to do it. She took Hattie aside and explained to her how important it was to do good works now that she was a Christian. After all, they both new how much she had to atone for. She needed to make up for all she had done. Hattie looked at her with wide eyes. “Mary”, she gasped. “I could never make up for anything I have done. None of us can. When I met Jesus, I learned that He died for my sins. They are all forgiven. How could I deny his sacrifice for me by trying to atone for my own sins? That would be like throwing mud on his precious face, declaring his death wasn’t good enough for me. I could never do that. I can’t change my past. I can only do what he asks me to do and tell others my story so they don’t make the same mistakes. Or better yet, tell them what He did for me so they can find the same hope and freedom I have.”
Mary was at a loss for words, so much of her life was about earning her salvation. Hattie continued, “Don’t you know that you only have to believe in Jesus to have eternal life? If you are trying to earn it yourself, you are rejecting him, living under God’s wrath. Poor Mary, is that why you work so hard? That won’t get you to heaven. It doesn’t give you much of a life here either. The Bible says that we all sin and we all deserve to die for our sins. But Jesus did it for us. Our good works won’t save us. Salvation is a gift from God. We don’t deserve it, we can’t earn it. We just have to have faith that it is.”
“But, but” Mary stammered, this conversation wasn’t going at all like she planned, “the Bible says we have to be good, everybody says so.” Her world was falling apart. She was shaken to the core.
“Yes, Mary, the Bible is full of the rules to live by in order to have the life God intended for us. But it also tells us that it is impossible to follow them all. Every single person breaks the rules and is unable to stand in God’s presence. But God loves us so much and wants to have a relationship with each of us. So Jesus came, lived a perfect life which made him worthy to pay the price of our disobedience for us. If we believe in Him, we are forgiven. We give our lives to him and trust his sacrifice was enough to pay our penalty.”
All those years in church and Mary had missed all of this. Was it true, she wondered? Why hadn’t she heard it before? Of course she didn’t pay too much attention on Sunday mornings. She was always worried about what others were thinking of her and what she had to do to impress them. Maybe she should quit everything and focus her time on finding out more about Jesus. Perhaps he had his own plan for her to follow. If she could be rid of the guilt that bound her life, she would be willing to do anything he asked. She couldn’t believe it, but for the first time in her life, she actually wanted to be like Hattie.