Summary: You don’t have what it takes to win a place in heaven by your good works.

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Sometimes at carnivals you will see what is called a high striker (also known as a strength tester or strongman game). A person is given a mallet, which he uses to hit a lever as hard as he can. When the lever is struck, a puck is sent up a tower. If the lever is struck with enough force, the puck will rise high enough to hit a bell.

High strikers are usually used to impress others (maybe a date, maybe a group of friends). But they can often end up embarrassing a person. A young man might discover he’s not as strong as he thought he was. He doesn’t have what it takes to make that bell ring.

Today we are starting a new series called “You Don’t Have What It Takes.” This series is about three things you will never be able to do no matter how hard you try:

• You can’t be good enough.

• You can’t control the future.

• You can’t please everyone.

You can try to be good enough to win a place in heaven. You can try to control the future. You can try to please everyone. You can pick up your mallet and swing with all your strength. But you will always fail.

There is good news, though. When we finally admit that we don’t have what it takes, we free ourselves to find help from God.


The Apostle Paul was a person who discovered that he wasn’t good enough—even though, compared to others, his life was very impressive.

If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless (Philippians 3:4-6).

Today, people have their own Christian list of accomplishments: (1) I was born into a Christian family. (2) I was baptized when I was a child. (3) I have been a church member for 40 years. (4) I give ten percent of my income to the church. (5) I have served on church boards and committees. (6) I never miss a church service.

I can never gain God’s approval by what I DO or what I DON’T DO.

• Abraham – “I am nothing but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27).

• Isaiah – “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).

• Peter – “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8).

• Paul – “Christ Jesus came to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15).

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin (Romans 3:20).


But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith (Philippians 3:7-9).

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