Yesterday, a conversation that had occurred between two family members was shared with me. One individual is providing care for her terminally ill spouse and the other was visiting to provide love and support. It was uncertain how the topic arose but the family member whose spouse is ill stated: “I don’t understand what is happening I am good”. They went on to say “I am not like those who…..” and list names and groups that were engaging in obvious acts of evil. She ended her thoughts with words to the effect “I know God will accept me when I die because I am a good person”.
In the 5th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, we find teaching points that Jesus shared with people who were listening to Him on the occasion referred to as The Sermon on the Mount. Jesus taught new understanding while clarifying old truths. He shared in Matthew 5:17 “do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” He was reminding listeners that the law is and will always be relevant and God’s expectations still apply. He also said “for I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” These words seem to suggest we have a very high standard to shoot for but we know that all His teachings point to the fact that no matter how good we seek to become it is not goodness that will get us into His presence for all eternity. It is belief in the Gospel which tells us that Jesus chose to be born as a human and live a life that was exemplified by obedience to the Father’s will. During this time He brought clarity to understanding the kingdom and God’s desires. He performed extraordinary miracles and acts of love, freely gave Himself over to be brutalized and crucified and, although He died on the cross and was buried, He rose from the tomb. He made himself known to many before ascending into heaven to be with the Father. He will return again to bring those who believe salvation comes through Him into eternity with Him and to banish those who don’t believe to eternal separation from God. Our goodness does not allow us to bypass the necessity to accept Jesus as the key to heaven.
Prior to visiting the caregiver, the person who went to love and support her, prayed asking God for wisdom so as to be the presence God wanted them to be during that time. I know the woman who visited is sincere in her desire to tell people about God and, as much as she wanted to shout “you have it wrong”, she sensed God telling her that she needs to just listen to this struggling woman who now knows someone cares for both; her daily struggles and her eternal happiness. During their time together it was the first time this wife was even known to express her belief in heaven and so a door has been opened and Jesus is definitely knocking at her heart. The time they spent together did result in a sense of hope that God is changing lives. God will guide someone to share the true way to heaven with this husband and wife but for now we pray.
Many people hope that, when they are standing at the entrance to heaven, they have been good enough to get in. But as Jesus shared, they are in for a big disappointment. No matter how good we are, it’s not good enough. God doesn’t want people focusing on being good enough but on what Jesus has done for them to be invited into eternity with him. There is much misunderstanding and confusion amongst our family and friends and Jesus’ followers are called to share His love. This may mean God guiding us to speak some tough truth into someone’s life or to be a comforting presence as He tugs at his or her heart. Pray for God to arrange the divine appointments for you to be His ambassador in the lives of your family and friends.