Monday, January 05, 2015


For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 5:20)

How good do you have to be to go to heaven?  We don’t expect to see Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin walking arm in arm down the streets of gold.  “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”  (1 Cor.6:9-10)  So the question is not, “Do bad people go to heaven,” but, “How good do you have to be?”  Jesus gives the shocking answer.

He says that we must have a righteousness superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees.  Yet, they were some of the most religious people who have ever lived!  They were experts on the Bible, fasted and prayed regularly, paid tithes and gave offerings, and were consistent in gathering for worship.  Their religious code was stricter than the Law of Moses.  Jesus said, however, our righteous must exceed theirs to go to heaven!  You would have been impressed with their piety, but Jesus said of them, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.”  (Matt.15:8)  No matter how they—or we—clean up the outside conduct, we are inwardly corrupt.  The self-righteousness of the Pharisees is inadequate.  Compared to the irreligious, such people seem righteous, but God doesn’t grade on the curve.  Each of us are examined in relation to His perfect holiness—and all of us miss that mark, falling woefully short of the glory of God (Rom.3:23).

So, how good must you be to go to heaven?  You must be as good as God!  It gets worse, “For the wages of sin is death…” (Rom.6:23a), and that isn’t limited to physical death, but, “the second death…the lake of fire.” (Rev.20:14-15).  What bad news for all of us!  Yet, the very word Gospel means, “good news.”  The good news is that the rest of Romans 6:23 goes on to say, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  There was one Perfect Man—Jesus Christ—that met all the righteous demands of God.  Not even His enemies could find real fault in Him.  He paid the price of death to meet the impeccable standard of justice a Holy God required.  Even more, when we place our faith in Christ, His flawless righteousness is deposited in our account, so that when God views believers, He doesn’t see us as we were—we have been crucified with Christ (Gal.2:20)—He sees us as we are—in Christ.  “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  (2 Cor.5:21)

Remember that list of bad folks—like us—shut out of Heaven?  Paul went on to add, “And such were some of you.  But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”  (1 Cor.6:11, emphasis added).  As Paul Harvey famously said, “And now you know…the rest of the story!”

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