Summary: This sermon explains God's grace and its implications.
In June 2006 Warren Buffet, the world’s second-richest man at the time, announced that he would donate 85 percent of his $44 billion fortune to five charitable foundations. Commenting on this extreme level of generosity, Buffet said: “There is more than one way to get to heaven, but this is a great way.”
Many people think like Warren Buffet. They think that there is more than one way to get to heaven.
But, is that what the Bible teaches?
Today I want to explain God’s grace and its implications.
Mark says at the very start of his Gospel, in Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel [i.e., the good news] of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” We have started to explore exactly why Mark describes Jesus as “good news.” We’ve seen who Jesus is: that he has the power and authority of God himself. We’ve seen what he came to do: to rescue sinners like you and me by dying for us on the cross.
This week let me begin by asking you to answer the following question: “If you were to die tonight and God asked you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you say?”
I don’t mean to be morbid, but if you were to die tonight and you found yourself standing before God and he asked, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” what would you say?
According to the Bible, answers to this question always fall neatly into one of two categories: “the right answer” or “the wrong answers.”
I. The Wrong Answers
Let’s look at the wrong answers first.
The wrong answer is one that places confidence in what I am or what I have done. So if you said, “God, you should let me in to heaven because I. . .,” I’m afraid you’re on the wrong track.
Perhaps you said something like, “Let me in God because I’ve been pretty good on the whole. . .
• I’m a good person.
• I don’t steal.
• I don’t lie (well, not unless I absolutely have to).
• I give to charity (not as much as Warren Buffet but I still give what I think is a lot of money to charity).
• I’ve certainly never killed anyone. (Actually, there are lots of people worse than I am.)
• I pay my taxes.
• I don’t drive through red lights.
• Other people like having me around, God, so I imagine you will too.”
They sound like reasonable answers. But I can assure you that none of these things are of any use at all when it comes to entering heaven.
Another wrong answer is the religious one. You may be relying on your religious habits to get you into heaven. So perhaps you said something like this: “God, you should let me in because. . .
• I go to church.
• I never take your name in vain (and when others do, I strongly disapprove).
• I do good things in the community.
• I’ve been baptized.
• I go to communion.
• I sing in the choir.
• I pray daily.
• I read the Bible regularly.
• And there aren’t many people you can say that about in this day and age.”
You’re correct that you’re in a minority. But the religious answers are still wrong. If you said something like that, then let me say to you categorically that doing these religious things will not get you into heaven either. Again and again, Jesus taught that religious observance has no power to save people. If you are putting your confidence here, then please don’t because you have been misled.
In fact, any answer which places confidence in what I am or what I have done is absolutely useless. Answers that begin “God, you should let me into heaven because I. . .” will do you no good at all.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with those things in themselves. It’s good when people try to live honest, selfless lives. But the good things we do won’t get us into heaven. Why? Because they can’t solve the problem of our sin.
Remember what Jesus said in Mark 7:20-23, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
The good things we do count for nothing before God because our key problem lies deep down in our hearts. When Jesus talks about the heart he’s not simply talking about the pump that sends blood around the body. He’s referring to the very core of our being—the source of all our urges and instincts, desires and dreams.