I think it is safe to believe that every person on planet earth who would label themselves “Christian”, at a minimum, hopes that in the end he or she will be able to avoid final punishment, and instead enjoy whatever God has in store for His own.
Now that punishment and that reward is as varied as the tens of thousands of Christian churches that dot the globe. And it seems to me, those who do want to end up on the good side, with God’s people, want to come on their own terms. Most of them, if you ask, will agree that you must be good (by some measure) or at least good relative to being better than those who are worse sinners than themselves. Many people envision some cosmic being with a set of moral scales in his hand where one’s life is weighed with the good on one side and the bad on the other. The hope is that the scale will tip toward the good and God will approve on that basis.
The inevitable result of this sort of flawed thinking is that we measure ourselves morally by ourselves. Joe reasons “I am more moral and more generous than Sam” and church “A” reasons “We are better than church “X””.
Interestingly, God hardly figures into the equation at all. He is seen as largely being the score keeper of the universe. Oh, He did in some way send Jesus to show us how we should live and he was killed for being a good guy but God did raise him from the dead so….?? What does it all mean?
Well, its different from what most people think.
Not one person can ever be good enough to be accepted by God….without regard to which church you favor. The reason Jesus came, lived a perfect life and gave that perfect life as a perfect sacrifice was that everyone was condemned. Every last one of us comes up short when measured by God’s standard and not by ours. We all defy God’s rules on purpose. Some are worse than others but all of us are equally guilty.
Every person who breaks God’s law has committed a capital crime. The person who offends must die. Jesus came to assume your law breaking (sins) and mine and loved us ungodly people so much that he died for us. Our sins are taken away by his sacrifice and we are then, and only then, able to be in fellowship with God. Because God is boss he accepts us as his own children when we take him at his word about Jesus and start obeying his commands the best we can.
God doesn’t grade on the curve. There are only those who pass and those who fail. Those who pass do so only upon the merit of Jesus. And those who fail do so because they refused to acknowledge and believe God’s record of his Son the Lord Jesus and his work.