Is Your Best Good Enough?

I have asked the EE (Evangelism Explosion) question to a number of people. For those who don’t know what this question is, it goes like this: “If you were to die tonight and appear before God in heaven, and He were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you say?” I dare say that if anyone were to poll most Americans on this question, the number one answer would be, “I’ve done my best.” This answer has a certain appeal about it. It implies that the person is really thinking about his eternal destiny. It also implies that the God who hears this answer is a loving and gracious God, willing to accept “partial credit” as if it were full credit. It implies that God is not someone who will be quick to consign anyone to Hell. In short, it appeals very much to our postmodern culture. However, it is woefully inadequate as an answer to God.

The first challenge to issue to this answer is this: how do you know whether your best is good enough? What standard will you use in order to make this judgment? How do you know that the standard you are using is the same standard that God is using? Will you use other people as your standard? God does not judge according to that standard. God uses His own character as the standard against which all must be measured. Will you use the idea of a “curve” in your understanding of God’s judgment? Nowhere in Scripture does it say that God grades on a curve.

The law requires perfection, not our best. The Scripture says “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all the things of the law, to do them” (Galatians 3:10). If this is true, then the law is our enemy if we seek to gain heaven by doing our best.

The fact is that God is a loving and gracious God, but this does not cancel out His justice. His grace and mercy are shown in providing us with a perfect righteousness in Jesus Christ. His righteousness is reckoned to be ours when we come to faith in Him. It is not about us doing our best. It is about Jesus Christ doing everything, which He has already accomplished. God does not accept partial credit. He only accepts full credit. But He provides that full credit in Jesus Christ.

The other, more serious problem, is this: good deeds do not cancel out sin. Therefore, what are you going to do with your sin and guilt? Not even a lifetime of good works will ever cancel out one sin, since all our good works are owed to God anyway. In the death of Jesus Christ, God has provided an answer for this as well. For at the cross, Jesus Christ takes the burden of our guilt on Himself, if we believe in Him. He takes away the guilt of sin before God, so that all our sins, past, present, and future, are eliminated.

It is only as we surrender our own righteousness, which is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), that we can receive by pure grace the righteousness of another. Only then can we know that we have an answer to give to God when we appear before Him, an answer we know is acceptable. Our answer is then, “Lord God, I know that I have never done enough in my lifetime to deserve entrance into heaven. I can never plead my own righteousness before God. But I can plead the righteousness of Christ, which is perfect. It is because I trust in Him that His righteousness is reckoned to me as if I had done it. It covers over all my sin, and all my imperfect righteousness. He is all my plea.”

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7 Comments

  1. Steve G said,

    February 25, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    “I’ve done my best” really is a poor answer. Because if any of us are honest with ourselves and God, we know there are times we truly didn’t do “our best”. Times we knew what we were doing was wrong but we went ahead and did it anyway – out of selfishness, or pride, or anger, etc. Times when there were no “extenuating circumstances” so to speak. We were just plain stubbornly sinful.

    It’s really not a valid answer.

  2. Aaron Mansfield said,

    February 25, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    I can remember being 21 or 22, two young women came to my door and asked me the EE question, but they put it like this, “If you died tonight do you know where you’d go?” I said, “Southern California.” I was serious–my mom would come get me and I would be buried back home. I did not understand the question at all!

    I don’t think I would have understood it any better if it had been the full-fledged EE question. I considered myself an atheist, so maybe I would have rejected any notion of a judgment?

    I would have had a hard time understanding the notion of sin.

    We might be surprised how many people like that me are out there, too. No sense of God, no notion that if there is a God, He is a just and loving God… I suppose this is off topic– how would you have dealt with me? I am still trying to figure that out!

  3. Durell Flood said,

    February 25, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    “If you were to die tonight and appear before God in heaven, and He were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you say?”

    -I’m going to stick my neck out here and “challenge” this accepted form of evangelism. I don’t see the propriety in asking this hypothetical question. This question fails in that it does not represent what actually will happen. God’s not going to ask anything in the end of our earthly life or at the judgement. To ask what would be their grounds for being “admitted” into heaven/inheritance/etc. would be alright though. The biblical sense seems to more in the order of an edict/ decree/ sentencing.

  4. AJ said,

    February 26, 2011 at 2:57 am

    We are commanded to obey God’s law. Jesus warned us of the consequences in Matthew 25. The rich young man asking Our Lord, “What must I do to be saved?” is answered the same today: “Obey the commandments”, i.e., Love of God, love of neighbor.

    I’ve like to add some more:

    Luke. 13:24 , “Make EVERY EFFORT (strive) to enter by the arrow gate for MANY I say will try and not be able!” Here, JESUS Himself is telling you to MAKE EVERY EFFORT (strive) to enter into eternal life, for many will try and not make it! (The pastors are telling you just the opposite…make NO effort! Who are you going to believe?)

    Heb 12:14, ” MAKE EVERY EFFORT to live in peace with all men and TO BE holy; without holiness NO ONE will see the Lord.”

    Heb. 4:11 , “Let us therefore be “DILIGENT to enter that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience.” (The context of this passage is a warning and admonition to again “Make every effort”. There are MANY such passages in Hebrews issuing similar warnings.)

    Very clear, if Faith is claimed but not working through LOVE then, it is A SYSTEM OF LEGAL DEBT WHEREIN, AS LONG AS A BELIEVER HOLD AND TRUST UNTO CERTAIN DOCTRINES (Like Jesus is Lord, etc) without producing good fruits , so as to put God UNDER A LEGAL OBLIGATION TO SAVE THEM.

    Gal 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

    This “law of Christ” is not the Mosaic Law Paul opposed; this law must be obeyed for salvation.

  5. Logan Almy said,

    February 28, 2011 at 9:54 am

    AJ,

    How does the law of Christ differ from the law of Moses?

    Is a person required to obey the law of Christ perfectly in order to be saved? Do people do this?

    What is the relationship between faith in Christ and obedience to the law of Christ (as you define it) in our justification?

  6. Adam Manthei said,

    March 6, 2011 at 12:10 am

    Personally, (and I’m USUALLY wrong if you ask most people), I think salvation is not just about Jesus. It also involves the Father, and lastly, it involed each individual. So, the father sets the rules (repentence and obedience) and extends the invitation (particularly through Jesus, who shows the way) and it’s the individuals responsibility to respond by repenting of sin and obeying. To me, this is the entirely of the Bible. Except maybe Paul.

    I often hear (and used to believe) that no one can be saved without the human sacrifice of Jesus. Here’s the intersting thing: that’s not scripturally true. Tradition is hardcore about that, but not the scriptures. Oftentimes, we get tradition confused for scripture. Remember those 2 guys in the OT went to heaven (Elisha and Enoch?). And Isaiah says if you repent and obey your sins will be forgiven (Isaiah 1) and so does Jesus. I know there is that verse that says, “No one come to the father but through me,” but Jesus can’t have literally meant that literally otherwise what about Elisha and Enoch? And what about babies that die? And what about retards? And what about people who never had a chance to hear about Jesus? What about aborted babies? And scripturally, what about all those times when asked, Jesus says, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He doesn’t say, “Repent and beleive in me.” At least, not all the time. He does sometimes though. I know you were going a totally different direction than this, but I have these unorthodox thoughts sometimes and I love to get them out. :)

  7. greenbaggins said,

    March 7, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Adam, interesting questions (as usual from you :-) As to the Old Testament believers, Jesus tells us in John 8 that they believed in the promise of His appearing. He says that Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it, and was glad. The promise of Jesus Christ goes all the way back to Genesis 3:15, and the promise of the seed that would crush the head of the serpent. In other words, OT believers were saved by believing in the promise of Jesus Christ before He came, whereas New Testament believers are saved by looking back on His person and work. As to retards, it is important to note that faith can work on several different kinds of levels, as can their sin. It is a bit mysterious, of course, but I would deny that retards are incapable of believing in Jesus Christ. People who never hear about Jesus will not be saved. But that does not mean that they are without excuse. Romans 1-2 plainly tells us that everyone knows enough to leave them without excuse, even if they may not know enough to save them. If there is a disparity there, it is the fault of humanity, not of God. With aborted babies, God is both just and merciful. There won’t be any mistakes on Judgment Day, and that is as much as the Bible tells us about them. The statements about the kingdom of heaven are statements about Himself, since He is the King of the kingdom of heaven (see in particular Philippians 2).

    Now, for the real point. Many people ask these kinds of questions, and though there are answers, most of the time it is a smoke screen that allows them to avoid answering the real claims of Christ. The real question is still this: will you submit to the claims of Jesus Christ, or not? Will you put your entire faith and trust in Him or not? You do not have forever to close with Christ.


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