Earning Our Way to Heaven?

News outlets have been reporting that the Roman Catholic Church is planning on beatifying former Pope John Paul II as soon as May 1.  To be beatified, one must conduct a miracle.  Catholic authorities are claiming that a French nun with Parkinson’s Disease has been healed after praying to the former Pope.  John Paul II will need a second miracle to be become a saint.  Such news is a reminder of how misguided we can become in regard to matters of faith.  When we interject our own spurious interpretations of Scripture, it leads us away from a God-exalting, truth-honoring worldview.  There is much I could say in opposition about the beatification of the former Pope.  Suffice it to say Jesus never taught us to pray to people, only to God.  The notion of venerating a person runs counter to the biblical principle that God alone is to be glorified.

However, this news story points to a larger issue that plagues so much of the world’s religious understanding: that being good and doing good will make you right with God.  Pope John Paul II enjoyed a long tenure and did much to advance the perception of the papacy.  He wrote books and tirelessly toured the world to advance the beliefs and causes of which he believed.  As such, the public is pushing for the former Pope to reach sainthood.  In 2005, at the funeral mass for John Paul II, the crowds shouted, “Santo Subito!” or “Sainthood immediately!”  Because he did so much good, many believe, the Pope should become a saint.

On any given day, I could go to a public place (even here in the Bible Belt) and take a poll on how a person gets to heaven.  Without fail, the majority of responses to the question, “How can you get to heaven?” would be based on good works.  Many people believe that as long as their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds, then they will be right with God.  The Scripture teaches something much different- “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).  Salvation is not the result of balancing deeds, it is the result of Christ cancelling out our sin-tainted deeds at the cross.  I am saved not because of what I do, but because of what Christ did.  No amount of good works a person could do would ever satisfy the perfect, righteous standard of God.  We must trust in the perfect work of Jesus at the cross and in the Resurrection to atone for our sin and put us in right standing with God.

Don’t misunderstand: good works are very important.  Yet, we must remember that Good deeds are the result of salvation, never the basis for it.  I do good, not as an effort to be right with God, but because I have already been made right with Him on the basis of His work and my faith in Him.  Take a moment today to thank God that your salvation is not dependent on you.  If it were, we’d all be in trouble!  “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

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