New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is confident his good deeds have bought him his ticket into heaven. His political efforts in the areas of gun control, obesity and smoking have given him the certainty to say, "I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I'm not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It's not even close."
I can't say with any surety where this politician will go when he dies, but if this statement accurately represents his view of God, himself and eternity, it is safe to say he is in the same sinking ship as many others. How many times have you heard somebody say something to the tune of "I'm a pretty good person" when asked if they think they will go to heaven? The Bible calls this self-righteousness. It is no righteousness at all.
The prophet Isaiah pondered how God's goodness and our failures could be reconciled saying, "You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry. How then can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:5-6). Even our good deeds are tainted by sin in our hearts. Trying to wipe out our own guilt with good deeds is like trying to sterilize a countertop with a used tissue. It just can't be done that way.
In C.S. Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, a selfish boy named Eustace is turned into a dragon. Aslan, the good lion and Christ-figure in the Narnia stories, approached Eustace and told him that he may indeed be a boy again if he would only undress. Eustace recounted:
"I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and , instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. . . But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before . . . The the lion said–but I don't know if it spoke–'You will have to let me undress you.' I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.
The very first tear he made was do deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart . . . Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off–just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times. . . It smarted like anything but only for a moment. . . I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again."
We can indeed be made new and have the assurance of our place in heaven. It is through Jesus Christ's righteousness, not our own work.
The last verse of one of my favorite hymns, "And Can it be that I Should Gain" states:
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Have you boldly approached God's throne today to thank him for what Jesus has done for you?