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.”