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