Jesus is for Losers

… Jesus said to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
– Mark 2:17

“I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”
– Luke 15:7

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
– Romans 3:23

The only ones who will receive the benefit of Jesus’ payment on the cross are those who are humble enough to admit they need a savior. If you refuse to believe you need a savior, or believe you can earn your way to Heaven by being a good person, then Jesus is not for you. You will be judged on your “good works” rather than Jesus’ good works. And how can you possibly compare to Christ? Humble yourself and cling to Christ. Become a loser for Jesus and live forever.

[Note: The title of this blog post was inspired/stolen from the song “Jesus is for Losers” by Steve Taylor.]

How Good do You Have to be to Enter Heaven?

Have you ever done something blatantly wrong, and then performed some good deed to make up for it? Maybe you talked badly about someone behind her back, then in an effort to make up for it, you treated her extra nicely the next time you crossed paths. Or maybe you disrespected your parents, and a religious leader told you to recite a prayer twenty times or make a difficult journey to someplace in order to “pay” for your sin.

As humans, we desire to be self-reliant and autonomous. But when we hurt someone else, we have feelings of guilt that don’t coincide with our autonomous lifestyle. Why do we care whether or not we’ve harmed someone? It’s survival of the fittest, right? We just need to look out for ourselves. Right?

The fact is, we all feel a sense of guilt when we harm other people. This is not a product of our environment and upbringing. We have guilt, because each one of us is imprinted with a moral code and a conscience that notifies us when we’ve broken that code. The moral code is written in our hearts. And it was written by God.

No one can claim that murder, rape, and hatred are neutral actions. We all know they are wrong. We are all aware of the difference between good and evil.

When we break the moral law written in our hearts, we rightly feel guilty. If we continue to ignore our conscience, eventually it will wear out and cease to notify us of our transgression. The Bible calls this the hardening of the heart. Sociopaths and serial killers fall into this category. Hitler would fall into this category. These are people whose hearts are so hardened that they no longer view their obvious sins as wrong. In fact, anyone who lives unrepentantly contrary to God’s moral law would fall into this category. You probably know someone who does this. You may even be one.

So, what do we do with our guilt? We’ve all broken the moral code within us, as well as the expressly written code of conduct in the Bible. No one is guiltless in the matter of sin. Anyone who claims to be without sin only needs to examine the 10 Commandments to find himself guilty of breaking God’s laws.

Ultimately, the question we have to ask ourselves is how can a sinner like me enter Heaven? How good do you have to be to enter Heaven?

Well, here’s the bad news… You have to be perfect.

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
– Matthew 5:48

“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
– Matthew 5:20

“There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.”
– Romans 3:10-11

God is holy, and we are not. God demands holiness, and we can never be holy on our own. No amount of prayers, penance, or praise-worthy actions will ever make up for the fact that you are not perfect. Just one sin keeps us from ever living up to the perfect standard of God.

So, if you have to be perfect to get to Heaven, who could possibly get there?

Well, here’s the good news… Jesus was perfect.

“And having been made perfect, He [Jesus] became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.”
– Hebrews 5:9

“For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”
– Hebrews 10:14

You see, we will never be perfect on our own. But Jesus lived a perfect life for our benefit, and it’s only with Him as our representative that we can be seen as perfect in God’s eyes. We don’t deserve to go to Heaven, but because Jesus was perfect and paid for our sins, God no longer sees our sins as ours, but as Jesus’. God punished Jesus on the cross for all of our sins – past, present, and future – so that we could escape punishment. That is why we are now seen by God as perfect.

It’s through Jesus’ perfect life, punishment, death, and resurrection that we have attained perfection. It’s not our own perfection, but Jesus’ that will get us into Heaven.

So, if you’re looking to make up for your sins by doing good deeds, stop it. You can never make up for your sins. Instead, trust in Jesus’ payment for your sins to remove your guilt and provide you with the necessary perfect status before God.

This was a free gift from God – not something you earn. If you try to earn it, you lose it. The only way you can get to Heaven is through Jesus Christ’s perfection.

“But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.”
– Romans 4:5

How to Make Yourself Righteous in 5 Easy Steps!

…That was basically the theme of a sermon I heard this morning. The speaker defined righteousness as “good people doing good work.” And here I thought “none is righteous, no, not one” and that any righteousness Christians have is solely due to the imputed righteousness of Christ. The only reason we can be considered righteous is because God gave us this righteousness, and it’s not of ourselves. There’s nothing we can do to gain righteousness. Compared to God’s law, our “righteousness” is like filthy rags.

The speaker insinuated that we could attain righteousness through our own efforts. That through training and discipline, we could become righteous and live lives full of joy and peace.

Whatever this ideal life is, it’s certainly clear that people like the Apostle Paul never attained it. Paul clearly wrestled with his fallen nature and never suggested anyone could live a righteous life through their own power.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

– Romans 7:18-20

Today’s speaker didn’t mention anything about the limitations of our fallen natures and our total reliance on Christ to sanctify and redeem our lives to prepare us for good works. Want to be righteous? There are no tips and tricks. Ask God to make you righteous. All of your unrighteous living is due to an unrighteous heart and your fallen nature. There’s nothing you can do to change those. You need God to do it for you.

So, instead of telling people that they can affect their righteousness through behavior-modification, you should be driving people to their knees, asking God to make them more Christ-like by changing their hearts, and thus enabling them to do good works and live “righteous” lives. Instead of depending on ourselves, we should be depending on God.

And you shouldn’t set the expectation that people can attain totally righteous lives in a fallen body and a fallen world. That’s not possible. We won’t be capable of that until Christ returns and we have new, righteous bodies.

Like Paul, we should expect to fight a constant battle between our desires to serve God and the desires of our flesh. We will never overcome this until Heaven.

Thank God our righteousness is not based on our own behavior, but is solely based on Christ’s behavior. His perfect righteousness is ours by faith alone. When you find yourself sinning and in the midst of guilt, just have faith in Christ’s righteousness and be grateful that you will always be considered righteous in God’s eyes, because of what Christ did for you.