Can I work my way to heaven?

According to Christian researcher George Barna (www.barna.org) 72% of all Americans and 53% of Christians believe that it might be possible for someone to earn their way into heaven through good deeds.  This doesn’t go so far as to say that these people believe that they are working their way into heaven but that some others might be accepted because of good deeds.

John 14:6 says, “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

There is one way to heaven and that is through Jesus.  There are no shortcuts or alternative routes.  This belief is likely held out for people who seemed good but never could be bothered by Christianity.  We don’t like the idea that God would punish someone who was “relatively good.”  But the fact remains that pretty good doesn’t meet God’s standard.  We are all sinners and we are all in need of forgiveness, even those who were pretty good and who tried to live a good life.

Once again, we must go back to the idea of absolute standards.  God set the standard at perfection.  If we can make it into heaven by being good, how good is good enough?  How could we ever have assurance of salvation if making it into heaven depended on some other standard that we were never given?  But we were given a standard.  The standard is perfection and we fall short of it.  And because of that we need the forgiveness of Jesus.  Good deeds are not going to be enough.

Good deeds do not address the issue of sin.  We all sin, even the best of us.  But how can a good deed make up for something bad that we have done?  Once hurtful words are out of our mouth, they can’t come back.  Once we have done something wrong, we can’t undo it, only hope to repair the damage from it.  Only forgiveness addresses the issue of sin.  Forgiveness is what is needed to make it to heaven, not good deeds.  There are no good deeds that can make up for the bad things that we do, no matter how many good things we do.

Is Satan real?

According to Christian researcher George Barna (www.barna.org), only 27% of all adults and 40% of Christians believe that Satan is real.  This means that people don’t take him seriously.  Satan is depicted as a fallen angel in the Bible.  He is depicted as a real force every place that he appears.  He is not simply a symbol of evil, he is the father of lies and is a master deceiver. 

Satan is the one who deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden.  It was he who tempted Jesus in the desert, even twisting scripture in an attempt to get his way.  And it is Satan who will ultimately be thrown into hell when the Day of Judgment arrives.

1 Peter 5:8 tells us this about Satan: Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Satan would like nothing more than for us to disregard his existence.

Why does this make a difference whether Satan is real or symbolic?  Everyone is willing to acknowledge that there is evil in the world today.  The difference is whether it is just something that happens because of sinful people, more or less as a fact of life that we will encounter evil, or if it is an organized force.  The fact that Satan is real means that he is working to destroy all those who follow God. 

Every Christian must deal with three forces that cause them to sin – the world, the flesh, and the devil.  The world is full of sinful people who tell us to be like them.  The flesh is our own sinful nature that we battle with, even with the help of the Holy Spirit.  And Satan whispers deceptions in our ear that we can get away with our sin and that it won’t hurt anyone.

Satan is not the only reason that we sin.  It is in our very nature since the fall of Adam and Eve.  But Satan is real and wants us to fail and wants us to turn our backs on God.  He wants us to live life our own way and forget about worshipping our loving Creator.

Is the Bible accurate?

According to Barna research, (www.barna.org) half of Americans believe that the Bible is accurate in what it teaches.  This number improves to 79% of Christians who believe that the Bible is accurate.  This does not include that the miracles performed in the Bible are literal or that the Bible is 100% historically accurate, only that the principles taught in the Bible are accurate.

One of the best known verses regarding the Bible itself is 2 Timothy 3:16.  “All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”  Many look at the Bible as being a collection of books written by many diverse men over the span of centuries.  This is absolutely correct.  But what many people don’t recognize is the amazing continuity between the books of the Bible.  The message is the same from book to book because God was behind the writing of it all.  God used the individual personalities and writing styles of many different people but He inspired the message.  Because of this every word can be accepted as not just the opinion of some well intentioned people but as the very words of God penned by those people.

If such a large number of people believe that the Bible is accurate, a bigger question remans – why don’t people live according to Biblical principles if they believe them to be accurate?  It goes back to the idea of absolute standards. People believe that the principles may be correct but they don’t apply to this day and age as they were written to a group of people thousands of years ago. 

Or the answer may be even simpler.  People believe that the Bible is accurate but they haven’t taken the time to read it so they can’t actually live according to what the Bible says. It doesn’t matter how accurate the Bible is if we are unfamiliar with its teachings.

I have a cell phone that can probably do a lot more things than send text messages and make phone calls.  But I have no desire to do anything more with it than that.  I have an instruction book that will tell me how to do everything else with my phone and I trust its accuracy.  But I’ve never read the book.  And I have no desire to make my cell phone do more because I’m happy with it as it is.  This is the way many people treat their Christianity as well.

Many people are happy with their Christian life as it is and don’t bother to read the Bible because they don’t want any more out of their life.  They fear that it will change them and cause them to do things that they don’t want to do.  In truth, knowing the Bible only makes you more fulfilled in your Christian life and will never detract from your life.

People may believe that the Bible is accurate but it takes more than just belief to make a difference.  People need to act on this belief.  If the Bible is accurate in its teachings, then we need a desire to learn its teachings.  Only then will it make an impact on our lives.