‘BE good and you’ll go to Heaven’, is a false notion and is not Christian faith. The Old Testament story of God’s people may serve as an illustration as to where ‘being good’ fits in.
Here, the Hebrew people are enslaved in Egypt. In their distress they cry out to God. He warns them of a coming judgement upon the land and how they may ensure that this passes over them. Having protected them from the judgement, he proceeds to lead them through the Red Sea and so out of the hands of the Egyptians.
God has saved them. They are ready to be a nation in their own right but if they are God’s own people, how should they live? God is good, and his own people, if they are truly his at heart and appreciative of their salvation, will want to honour him by being goodly (for that is what Godly means). Through Moses, God gives them laws and commandments. Learning to trust and obey these commandments doesn’t happen overnight. In due time the people are ready to cross the River Jordan and enter into the Promised Land.
Notice how being good issued out of their salvation and not that salvation was the result of being good. They were God’s own saved people before they ever entered the Promised Land.
The illustration holds up for us. Instead of enslavement to the ancient Egyptians, we are enslaved to whatever holds us back from God and his purpose for us. Happily, the passing over of judgement and deliverance from a way of life where God is distant or absent, are what Jesus offers to us. If we take him up on his offer, he doesn’t then present us with God’s laws engraved on tablets of stone. Being so much greater than Moses, Jesus is able to write the spirit of these laws on our hearts and wills. In this way, being good is something God works in us from the inside out.
The Christians’ entrance into heaven (the Promised Land), is a matter of what Jesus has done for us. It isn’t dependent on how ‘good’ we have been.
Shirley Baptist Church