If you were to randomly walk up to a man on the street and ask him if he is going to heaven, he would very likely tell you yes. If you asked why, he would probably list the good things he has done. Unbelievers and even many churchgoers cannot understand why their works are insufficient for redemption. In fact, many people do not recognize their need for redemption at all.
The man on the street assumes that if he is a faithful husband and caring father who doesn't cheat his friends or slack off at work, then he is good enough to "make the cut" for eternal life. He doesn't recognize himself as a sinner, nor does he realize sin has separated him from holy God. He thinks he can earn a place in heaven through his own actions.
The trap for unbelievers-and, sadly, for many believers as well-is that they fail to recognize the Lord is the only one who can do something about man's sinful condition. Most of us look pretty good in our own eyes because, using others as a standard for comparison, we can always find someone whose lifestyle or misdeeds makes us look better. But when held up against God's perfect holiness, every one of us is lacking.
The Savior died for the sins of mankind and rose again so that each person who was unclean could be holy, as God is holy. The disciple John explained how sin is washed away from the believer: "The blood of Jesus [God's] Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). Good works mean nothing unless they are the result of a clean spirit. We can have personal holiness only by receiving the Lord Jesus Christ and His gift of salvation.
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