Firstly, here is your regular reminder to get some good ol wisdom from Proverbial Thought.
Perhaps you have heard the line – or even said it yourself – “I believe I can get to heaven, because I am basically a good person. I do a lot of good things, at least way more than the bad I do!”
There are a few reasons why this is wrong, and I will explain this some a little later.
First, a story:
You are a car. You were built with the modern combustion engine, and you run on gasoline. As you drive around, you occasionally speed or roll through a stop sign; but overall you follow the rules, let people merge ahead of you, let people take the closer parking spot at the store, and do your best to keep your engine running well.
One day, you realize that the way you are living is actually harming your surroundings and causing some issues within your engine, because it runs ever-so-hot and fills the air with corrosive and poisonous gases. You decide to clean up your act! You switch to a biofuel, like E-85. You still live much the same way, but now you have much less of an effect on your surroundings. Good for you! You are now the envy of so many other cars who wish to live the same way as you!
There is still one problem: No matter what kind of fuel you use or how well you drive, you are still polluting your environment even just a little. No matter how well you drive, even if you follow all of the rules of the road and let every one else get ahead of you on the road and in the parking areas, you still pollute your environment at least a little. Your good intentions will always stain your environment and hurt the air.
One day, you learn of the Master Mechanic. When you choose to let the Master Mechanic work in your life, he offers an upgrade you can not get on your own. He switches out your engine for a fuel cell and tells you to obey all traffic laws and offer your spot on the roads and in parking areas. He tells you that you have to come to Him regularly to ensure your engine is running smoothly. In the process, you will no longer pollute the air or run too hot. Instead, all you produce clean, pure water. You may still drip the occasional break fluid or wiper fluid when you forget to check in with the Master Mechanic, but He fixes you right up and helps you clean the spills when you remember to spend time with Him.
Did you get it?
Perhaps this was a little too straight-forward, but here is the explanation:
Our hearts are like the engines. While we eventually come to realize that our actions have consequences, that we can do many things to make our bodies run efficiently and healthy by changing habits or diet, we still have a problem. We may occasionally do truly selfless acts, but we all have selfish motives at one time or another. We all deny God in some way at one time or another. We all put ourselves in the place of God at one time or another.
This is called sin. One sin is enough to taint every part of our lives. No matter how good our intentions, we all will fail in the end to live perfectly pure and clean lives. A car that runs on biofuels will still require oil to help the engine run smoothly. A person doing good works will still do many things with selfish intentions, or make something (including their good works) more important than God, or they may think they might have the control that God alone has to decide who suffers and who does not or who lives or dies.
What a person like this fails to realize is that even good intentions can lead to horrible results. I know of someone who once was told by his dad not to let anyone touch the car in the driveway. It seems like a simple enough request. His friend called and said, “I need a ride to the store, can you help?” He thought, “Sure. What could be the harm of a quick five-minute drive?”
His friend came over, and they pulled out of the driveway. At the stop sign at the end of the block, they rolled through the stop sign and were struck by another car. His friend was killed almost instantly.
You see, his dad wanted no one to use the car, because his dad had gone to find new brakes having taken the ones from the car to match.
This young man had good intentions, but his desire to do something good at the sake of disobeying his father led to drastic repercussions.
It must be remembered that even our good intentions may have unintended consequences. Think of the age-old cliché “Be careful what you wish for!” As the show Once Upon a Time … puts it, “Magic comes at a price.” There are countless ways to express this.
The Whole Point
Here is what it all means:
Apart from the work of Messiah Jesus through the Holy Spirit living in us, we can do nothing on our own to get us to Heaven. While we are capable of good works on our own, they are meaningless without God. We must believe in the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus, that He brought us grace, forgiveness, and peace for our sins.
All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God. All have turned away,
they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
“Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
. . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . .
Romans 3:10-18, 23
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.