Most people believe in heaven – in fact, according to Pew Research 74% of Americans believe in heaven (58% believe in hell). Most of the people who believe in heaven also believe they will get there. These beliefs are based on a very powerful assumption: there is a good God who has a good place for good people…because I’m a pretty good person I’m probably good enough to get to the good place.
This assumption may seem logical on the surface – it might even seem fair at some level. But this assumption is riddled with problems – the core of which how do we ever know how good is good enough. “Good enough” simply becomes a moving target leaving us with nothing more than a “I hope I was good enough” confidence of going to heaven.
An encounter Jesus had with someone who, by most standards and even his own admission, would not have been considered “good enough” was the focus of part 1 (No Thing’s Enough) of CCC’s Nobody’s Perfect series. What happens in this encounter flies in the face of the assumption that good people go to heaven.
Take a few minutes to read the encounter here in Luke 23:32-43 and the next step of considering the following questions about how “be good” isn’t any more helpful than “try harder.”
- If God were to appear and ask you why you should get into heaven, how would you answer the question?
- Why do you think the assumption that drives most answers is, “Good people go to heaven”?
- Why do you think the one criminal mocked Jesus? In what ways might he be communicating his belief Jesus was no better than him?
- Why do you think the other criminal defended Jesus?
- How might him saying he deserves his punishment be an acknowledgment he wasn’t a good person?
- Why do you think he asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom? Do you think that’s a reference to heaven? Why or why not?
- Based on a standard of goodness, why should Jesus not have allowed the man into heaven?
- If the standard to get into heaven is being “good enough” how do we know what “good enough” is?
- Why do you think Jesus told the criminal, “today, you will be with me in paradise”?
- How does Jesus’ response fly in the face of the assumption that “good people” go to heaven?
- If the standard to get into heaven isn’t “good enough” what is the standard?
- What does Jesus’ death have to do with the standard?
- What next steps will you take to let Jesus be “good enough” for you?
Nearly every major religion in the world provides a path to God based on the good things we do and the bad things we don’t. The common denominator in almost every religion is what we do in this life determines what happens to us when this life has ended. They can’t all be wrong, can they?
Jesus’ encounter with the criminal on the cross indicates they are all wrong (or at the very least incomplete). Jesus’ encounter with the criminal on the cross indicates there’s a different path to God. Jesus’ encounter with the criminal on the cross confirms there is a good God but also that this good God is so good he has removed “good enough” from the equation and replacing it with what Jesus has done to redeem us from sin.
Today is Monday – make it a day where you embrace that it’s not about we D-O but about what Jesus has D-O-N-E!