No matter how good you are or how well you live it takes more than that to get to heaven. Animal sacrifices were done to forgive the sins of the Israelites in Old Testament times. However, those sacrifices did not forgive personal sins. When a God fearing and obedient Jew died, they went to Paradise or Abraham’s bosom. It was not possible to enter the presence of God unless their individual sins have been forgiven. These God fearing Jews in Paradise had to wait until Christ was crucified and went to Paradise so their sins could be forgiven and they could then enter heaven.

God’s plan was to replace animal sacrifice so that an individual could have their sins forgiven and could immediately enter heaven and into His presence as His child. It could only be done through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ.

James 2:10 – “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” Any time we break these laws we are guilty of sin and are a lawbreaker. Romans 3:23 – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” We are all born with a carnal nature but we are not considered sinners until we reach the age of accountability. The Bible is very clear; we cannot enter the presence of God as a sinner, which is why we must be forgiven. Yet, we know that young children who die go to be with our Heavenly Father. Therefore, at the point of accountability everyone becomes a sinner and is no longer innocent, is separated from God and lacks a relationship with Him. Eve, after sinning, asked the serpent, “Why have you done this to me, that I am separated from the glory given to me by God?”

As sinners, the law required that we be punished for our sins. God’s plan was to sacrifice His Son as a substitute for our sins so Christ could pay for our punishment and we could be redeemed and forgiven. Christ had to live a sinless life, without blemish, be sacrificed as a substitute for animal sacrifice, providing a way for forgiven individuals to enter heaven.

II Peter 3:9b – “Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” God created every one of us with a purpose. It is our requirement that we seek God’s purpose and direction for our lives. We know the two most important commandments and they are found in Luke 10:27 – “He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” If every person kept these two laws there would be no need for any other laws or a law enforcement agency. In addition, we are to have a personal relationship and be a friend of God.

So that man would not perish, Christ was crucified on the cross, the worst death possible. If a person would believe and accept that Jesus was the Son of God and divine, He was crucified to take the place for our punishment, if we accepted Him as our Lord, believe that He atoned for our sins, we are willing to repent and commit to becoming a new person in Christ, we are born again. Because of Christ’s death on the cross we can be given a new life, inspired by the Holy Spirit that God gives to those saved to help live a holy life as Christ teaches.

Not everyone who believes lives a holy life. Hebrews 12:14 – “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

Isaiah 29:13 – “The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” Matthew 7:22 – 23 – “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Matthew 7:13 – 14 – “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.”

Don’t let legalism trap you into thinking that you are to have a performance-based relationship with God. I have seen a number of Christians wear themselves out trying to please God through works. Some have become so frustrated and discouraged that they stopped coming to church entirely.

It is Christ’s crucifixion on the cross and God’s grace that forgives sin and not something we earn. Grace may be defined as God’s unearned favor. It seems like just before a president leaves office he will pardon a number of people. Assume a person was a murderer at age 18 and forty years later the president pardons him. The person may have deserved death yet he was offered a pardon or grace. We all have sinned and our guilt could be punishable by death. But Jesus died that we might live and be our salvation if we accept Him. Therefore, we can accept the pardon, God’s grace to forgive us, or we can turn it down. Grace then is what God does for us that we cannot do for ourselves. So without God’s pardon or grace we would then be left to receive what we deserve as just punishment.

How often have we met brilliant people who have been absolutely unable to comprehend or understand the meaning of grace? According to one survey, 40% of Christians throughout the U.S. believe they will get to heaven through good works. Why is it so hard to understand that we are saved by grace through faith? Many believe living a good moral life and helping others is all that is required to get to heaven. They do not realize that inwardly they have a corrupt heart. Or, there are those who understand God’s grace but do not apply it to how they live.

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