Did You Know..?
Did you know that the Bible teaches that going to heaven has nothing to do with being "a good person"?
The basic idea in the passages that follow is that "works of the law" refer to obeying God's law (10 Commandments plus others); to be "justified" means to be considered just and worthy of heaven; "faith" means faith in Christ's power to save rather than in your own; and "flesh" refers to this earthly world.
The apostle Paul points out that if all you had to do to go to heaven was be a good person, then Jesus came to earth and died a horrible, painful death for absolutely no reason:
"I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. " (Galatians 2:21)
Several passages (some listed below) state that salvation relies on faith (in Jesus' power to save you) rather than on any amount of good or charitable works, and that without salvation by Jesus, every single human is under wrath (destined for hell) because all have disobeyed God:
"...we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." (Ephesians 2:3)
"...yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified." (Galatians 2:16)
In another place, Paul uses himself as an example of a very good person - and yet shows that he relies on Christ for salvation and not on himself:
"If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness, under the law blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith" (Philip. 3:4-9)
Paul explains that the purpose of God's law is to convince us that we are all sinners so that we will turn to Him in repentance:
"For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:20)
And finally, Jesus gives an example of where the person who thinks they are doing okay because they don't steal, cheat or murder, is actually worse off than one who is full of sin but admits it:
Jesus said, "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:10-14)
In summary, we see that good works have nothing to do with going to heaven - no one is good enough so God provided a different way: simply believe that Jesus will vouch for you when it comes to the final Day, ask forgiveness for your sins and dedicate yourself to serving Christ for the rest of your life. (Check out Find Out About Jesus for more information.)
Did you know that going to church does not mean that you're a Christian?
A person is not a Christian if they simply attend a certain type of building regularly (i.e., a church) - a Christian is someone who lives in a restored relationship with God.
Now in order then to be a Christian, you must have at some point admitted that you failed God and ignored Him - probably that you failed Him for a good many years. You must ask forgiveness for this, and you must ask that that forgiveness be through Christ - because the only way we can be forgiven and not punished is if there is someone who has already taken the punishment - and because of His great love for us, God in Jesus took that punishemnt for us - he took the punishment we deserve. Third, as a sign that you genuinely understand that God is Lord and His way is right, you have to live a life of service to God - that means living the way He directs and seeking to glorify His name. Such a person as is described here, once forgiven, will be living in a restored relationship with God and therefore a Christian.
...Notice I didn't once mention Church or living a "good" life in there? There are literally millions who call themselves "Christian" who have no idea what it means. Check out Find Out About Jesus for more information.