Heaven? Are you good enough?
“Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James2:15-17 NIV).
We know people who believe that being good and doing good is the path to God. Then we know people who believe it is all faith and grace that brings us to God, and not what we do. In reality, James makes it clear there is a balance we must be seek between faith and deeds, and it starts with faith and pours out as good deeds. The things we do that we consider “good” are to be those inspired by the faith and belief we have in our God, our Lord, and with the help of the Holy Spirit. In other words, our goodness, and the good deeds that results from that goodness, all spring forth from the heart, mind, and will of the one true God.
Anything we do, that God is not at the heart of, will usually find its source in our pride, our need for recognition and acclaim, our desire to control, and our desire for success. This is something we must seriously consider before we pat ourselves on the back and think we are such good little Christians. Where is our goodness coming from, God or our own selfish motives?
Jesus spoke to this very issue near the end of his ministry, and just before his death. Shortly before he was arrested, Jesus sat down with his disciples and told them the parables of the 10 Virgins and the Talents, which he then followed with the story of the Sheep and Goats. We can read about this in Matthew, Chapter 25. In these three stories, Jesus summed up the whole of his ministry, “Believe in the one who sent me and be prepared for my coming, use the gifts given you by the Holy Spirit, and use them to grow my kingdom and to serve my people.” In other words, have faith in God and in His son, Jesus; be filled by the Holy Spirit and allow God to grow us into Christ-likeness, and to use His gifts, so we can serve Him by serving others right here, right now. It is progression that starts with faith and naturally progresses to serving the Source of Grace, Himself.
Two parables and a story, spoken by Jesus to his disciples in one of his last teaching moments on earth. It was as if he was adding a final summary of his life and teachings so that they would not miss the main point. We need to pay attention as well. All three, taken together, make plain how important this is to God. Let’s consider our own lives for a moment. How are you doing in these three parts of our faith journey?
- Do you believe in God or believe God? If you believe God, do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? If not, this is the first and most important step to take.
- If you have accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord and given over control of your life to Him, God will send the Holy Spirit to live within you. The Holy Spirit imparts many gifts from God when we need them to love and serve Him, while loving and serving others. Have you noticed a difference in your life in this area? If not, then pray about it and allow God to open your heart to know His Holy Spirit.
- Finally, how would you rate yourself on your level of service to others, ministering to the needs of others, giving sacrificially for others in time, deeds, or money?
No matter how you answered the questions above, it is not the answer that it really important.
It is your desire to grow that really matters to God.
There are those we can look to who have moved far ahead of us on the journey to fulfilling the will of God in these areas. These people are great role models and encourage us as we struggle. The rest of us are either on the path, moving along as Christ leads, temporarily off the path due to difficulties or disruptions, or not on the path at all.
Remember the answer that Jesus gave when the religious leaders of his day challenged him with this question, “What is the greatest commandment?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).
How we serve in the good deeds we do is a direct reflection on our love for God and our neighbor.
Where are you at this moment? Do you wish you were more like those way down the path? Do you wish you could just be on the path? Take a moment to lift your heart’s desire up to God. It will be His joy to bless you and help you toward the destination He has planned for you. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jer 29:11 NIV). Why wait any longer? Pray your heart cry to God now, and then enjoy the journey!