How much can I get away with and still get into heaven?

A little while ago I read in a newspaper a list of modern irregular verbs – words which express the same thing in different ways depending on who you it is you are talking about.

I am a skilful driver, you are a reckless driver, he is a maniac behind the wheel!
I am generous, you are extravagant, he throws his money away.
My children are determined, your children are wilful, his children are out of
I know how to express myself, you have strong opinions, he is always arguing.
I am occasionally economical with the truth, you often bend the truth, he’s a liar!
I am prudent, you know how to take care of number one, he’s a selfish so-and-so.

There are all kinds of actions and attitudes which we know very well are wrong when we see them in other people, but when WE do them, they’re alright! We can always justify our own actions. We see so clearly faults in other people’s lives which we turn a blind eye to in our own lives. Which brings me to the question for this morning.

How much can I get away with and still get in to heaven?

People used to try and live by the 10 commandments – now they only care about the 11th – “Thou shalt not get caught!” So many people live on the basis of “how much can I get away with?” And still get into heaven?

Even if they wouldn’t admit it, most people DO still think about what happens when we die? Is there an afterlife? Is there a God? They DO care about getting into heaven.That’s why, although not so many people go to church every week, and not so many get married in church, when it comes to funerals around 99% of people opt for a religious funeral. They like to hedge their bets, just in case!

We ARE spiritual beings, not just mind and body but spirit as well. We have this God-shaped gap in our lives. “Our hearts can find no rest, until they find their rest in God.” More and more people are interested in “spirituality”. The sad thing is that they look for answers in weird religions and New Age mumbo-jumbo instead of looking for God’s answers in the church. People do wonder about the afterlife, so they live their lives asking “How much can I get away with and still get into heaven?”

This morning I have good news and bad news for you – bad news first.

Bad news – you can’t get away with ANYTHING!

The Bible has a word for all the wrong things people say and do and even think. All the selfish acts which hurt us and hurt our fellow human beings. The Bible word for these bad things we do is “sin.”

Christian Tradition talks about seven deadly sins, or cardinal sins: they are: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. Seven ways human beings can mess up. In fact there are as many ways to do wrong as there are human beings. Somebody said that “sin” is just a little word with “I” in the middle. And whenever a person puts “I” in the middle of their lives, whenever they focus only on themselves and leave God out, that is sin. We all know what sin is. And we all know that every one of us are sinners! We all know we have done and said and thought things which we should not have done! We know every human being sins, and the Bible tells us so as well.

Romans 3:10 As it is written: “There is no-one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no-one who understands, no-one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no-one who does good, not even one.”
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

If we are honest with ourselves we all know that is true. We have all sinned. We all fall short of God’s standard, which is perfection.

A newspaper once asked its readers, “What’s wrong with the world?” A famous author replied very simply,
“I am.
Yours sincerely,
G. K. Chesterton”

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And I am afraid there is more bad news. Because the Bible explains that human sin has consequences. Three separate and serious consequences.

Sin brings on God’s anger – our reading from Romans 1
Romans 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
Sin makes God angry
19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Nobody has any excuse. God has revealed his divine nature through the beauty of all He has created. Human wickedness tries to ignore God’s glory – but it cannot!
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened
This is the essence of sin – neither glorifying God nor giving thanks to Him. Running away from God and hiding from Him. Ignoring God and pretending he doesn’t exist. That is sin.
. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
False Gods – idol worship. False religions. These make God angry.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is for ever praised. Amen.26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.
“God gave them over!” God gave them up. Human beings abandoned God so God abandoned the people He had created. He let them get on with their evil ways.
28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worth while to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practise them.
So many kinds of sin – but people go on inventing new ways of doing evil. Doing wrong and encouraging others who do wrong. Even though they know, their consciences tell them that God has clearly said that those who sin will die.
So sin brings on God’s anger and leads to God’s judgment. Sin deserves to be punished! Some people have problems with the idea that God will one day bring people to judgment. But God is a just and holy God – and judgment is the inevitable expression of that justice!
Listen to these words of Jim Packer – the author of Knowing God
“Why do men shy away from the thought of God as a judge? Why do they feel unworthy of him? The truth is that part of God’s moral perfection is his perfection in judgment. Would a God who did not care about the difference between right and wrong be a good and admirable being? Would a God who put no distinction between the beasts of history, the Hitlers and Stalins (if we dare use names), and his own saints be morally praiseworthy and perfect? Moral indifference would be an imperfection in God, not a perfection. And not to judge the world would be to show moral indifference. The final proof that God is a perfect moral being, not indifferent to questions of right and wrong, is the fact that he has committed himself to judge the world.
It is clear that the reality of divine judgment must have a direct effect on our view of life. If we know that judgment and retribution face us at the end of the road, we shall not live as otherwise we would. But it must be emphasized that the doctrine of divine judgment, and particularly of the final judgment, is not to be thought of primarily as a bogeyman, with which to frighten men into an outward form of conventional righteousness. It has its frightening implications for godless men, it is true; but its main thrust is as a revelation of the moral character of God, and an imparting of moral significance to human life.” (Jim Packer)
So sin makes God angry and brings on God’s judgment. And sin has other effects as well.
Sin separates us from God – spiritual death

Because God is a holy God whose eyes are too pure to look on sin, human sin separates us from God. That separation is spiritual and it is eternal – it is forever. That is why if we want to get into heaven, into the presence of God in glory for eternity, we can’t get away with anything! Because even the littlest sin cuts us off from God forever.

As C. S. Lewis said “The safest road to hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

Sin leads to physical death

God is the source of all life. When sin cuts us off spiritually from God, it also limits our human life. Sin condemns our bodies to die. Romans 6:23 “the wages of sin is death”

So here is the bad news. Sin brings on the anger and the judgment of the Holy God. Sin leads to death – spiritual death and physical death.

From cover to cover the whole Bible is concerned with this one theme. Judgement Day is coming – there will be a day when all the wrongs in the world are put right. When all those who have done wrong get their just desserts! How can sinful human beings escape the judgement of a Holy God? Because God’s standard is perfection – and none of us will live up to that standard! How do we know judgement is coming?

Acts 17:30 In the past God overlooked .. ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

The Easter story is God’s demonstration to the world that there will be a day of judgment!

Good news – there is a way of escape!

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God has made a way of escape. We can’t get away with anything. Sin HAS TO be punished. But God has made a way for our sin to be dealt with – a way for US to be forgiven! And that way is Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.

Isaiah 53:6 All of us were like sheep that were lost, each of us going his own way. But the Lord made the punishment fall on him, the punishment all of us deserved. (GNB)

There is a green hill far away outside a city wall.
Where our dear Lord was crucified. Who died to save us all.
He died that we might be forgiven. He died to make US good.
That we might go at last to heaven saved by His precious blood.
There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin.
He only could unlock the gates of heaven and let us in.

God will forgive us. More than that God will accept us as His beloved children and give us the free gift of eternal life, life in all its fullness, because of what Jesus Christ the Son of God has achieved by his cross and resurrection!

Christians don’t claim to be perfect. BUT we don’t want to go on trying to get away with everything we can. We realise they have done wrong – and will keep on doing wrong! We realise we will never live up to God’s standard of perfection – and that we deserve God’s judgement. But with humility and gratitude we have accepted God’s free gift of forgiveness and eternal life.

John’s gospel puts it this way.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

How much can I get away with and still get into heaven? Absolutely nothing! Sin makes God angry and brings divine judgment. Sin leads to spiritual death and physical death. ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But hear these words of Jesus.

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

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