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:
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:
Have you boldly approached God’s throne today to thank him for what Jesus has done for you?