A song came out in the early 60’s called “The Last Kiss” by Wilson and the Cavaliers. It’s about a couple out on a date who get in a car accident. The girl dies in her boyfriend’s arms. He mourns her death singing, “Oh where, oh where, can my baby be? The Lord took her away from me. She’s gone to heaven so I got to be good, so I can see my baby when I leave this world.”
This song can sum up the attitude of a lot of people. We have a tendency to think if we live a good life, if the good works we do outweigh the bad, then we will have earned our way to heaven.
Unfortunately, the Bible does not allow anyone to earn their way to heaven. Scripture teaches that good works have nothing to do with one entering into a right relationship with God. This relationship is nothing we can earn, because God has already done everything for us.
“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” – Titus 3:5
“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.” – Ephesians 2:8-9
“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” – Hebrews 11:6
If our eternal salvation was on the basis of works and we could earn it, God would be in debt to us: He would owe us something (Romans 4:1-3). The Bible teaches that God owes us nothing, and our own righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). So that whether we are having a good day or a bad day, we still fall short of salvation from our works. If we could earn our salvation, why would Jesus have had to die on the Cross?
The simple reason is that God has a perfect standard, and all of us have sinned and fall short of this mark (Romans 3:23). We like to compare ourselves to others and feel that we are not so bad after all. However, God compares us to Jesus Christ, and next to Him we cannot help but fall far short, all of us, without exception.
Here’s an illustration for an example that some of you may have already heard before. Out in Southern California, there is an island off the coast called Catalina, 26 miles from the pier at Newport Beach. Suppose that one day three men are standing on the end of the pier.
One is an alcoholic, grubby, sick, and living in the streets. The second is the average American, and the third a fine, upstanding, pillar-of-the-community person.
All of a sudden, the alcoholic leaps off the edge of the pier five feet out into the water. The other two yell, “What are you trying to do?”
The man in the water yells back, “I’m jumping to Catalina!”
The second man, the average man on the street, says “Watch me. I can do better than that!” He proceeds to jump, landing ten feet out, twice as far as the alcoholic. The third man, moral, upright, outstanding person that he is, laughs disdainfully at the two men in the water.
He moves back about fifty yards, takes a running leap and lands twenty feet out, twice as far as Mr. Average, and four times as far as Mr. Alcoholic.
The Coast Guard fishes them out of the water and asks what they are doing, to which they all reply, “We are jumping to Catalina.” Mr. Average boasts of his beating Mr. Alcoholic, and Mr. Great boasts of his accomplishment in beating both of them.
The Coast Guard officer could only shake his head and exclaim, “You fools! You are all still 26 miles short of your mark.”
Although we often consider ourselves better than-or at least as good as others, we are still far from the target God has set for us. How would we ever know how good is good enough? It would be impossible for any of us to jump from the pier to Catalina, and it is impossible for any of us to reach heaven by our own deeds-apart from Jesus Christ. As Jesus Himself puts it, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Here are other Frequently Asked Questions and how the Bible answers them.