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How good do you have to be?

By Jake Heppner

Have you ever wondered just how good you have to be to 'make it' into heaven? What kind of standard will God use to evaluate my life? Will he compare me to murderers and kidnappers and see that I'm not such a bad person, or will He find things in my life that will condemn me?

     Mark 10 records the question of a young man who asked Jesus what he had to do to gain eternal life. Jesus first asked him if he had kept the commandments, and, surprisingly enough, the young man proclaimed that he had kept the commandments acceptably. Jesus' next statement, however, defines the difference between the individual who is merely morally religious, and the individual who is a Christian: "Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me."(Mark 10:21).

     Keeping the commandments is good, but no one can truly keep them with perfection; the commandments are a valuable tool in defining sin, but are incapable with dealing with our hearts, only our actions. Jesus taught that hatred we hold in our heart is equal with murder, and lust we embrace in our thoughts is on par with the act of adultery. Jesus is looking for true followers: not just people who outwardly 'behave,' but people who will make Him their Savior, pledge their allegiance to Him, and allow Him to transform them from the heart. The term 'Christian' defines an individual who has put Jesus at the center of their life; their faith for forgiveness from God rests solely on Jesus' death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, and they have decided to follow Jesus no matter the cost or consequence. The young man who came to Jesus in Mark 10 was willing to keep the commandments, but unwilling to give up what was most precious to him - his money - and unwilling to risk persecution - whatever 'cross' Christ may ask him to bear.

     So how good does one have to be in order to 'make it' into heaven? The answer lies not solely in our morality, but in our faith in Jesus as Savior. Philippians 3 describes the need for a righteousness much higher than the small righteousness we could perhaps achieve with our own morality: each one of us needs a righteousness equal with God's righteousness, a righteousness that can never be earned or deserved, but can be received as a gift from God, "...that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."