Former Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg is an activist for a number of causes. As a result, he believes that he is a shoe-in for heaven. The New York Times reports:
But if he senses that he may not have as much time left as he would like, he has little doubt about what would await him at a Judgment Day. Pointing to his work on gun safety, obesity and smoking cessation, he said with a grin: “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”
These remarks reflect a common misperception of how things are going to shake-out at the judgment. Many people believe that if their good works outweigh their bad works, then they will have eternal life. Likewise, if their bad works outweigh their good works, they will not. The problem with this formulation is that it has absolutely no support in scripture. It misunderstands the Bible’s teaching on sin and grace.
The Bible teaches that we are all sinners by nature and by choice. Our problem is not merely that we have bad deeds. We have bad hearts (Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 3:10-18). That means that even our so-called “good works” are marred by sin and are unacceptable to God as a basis upon which to award eternal life (Isaiah 64:6). Because of sin, we all stand in need of a renewal of our nature, not just a change of our deeds.
That is why the gospel is such good news. Where we failed, Jesus succeeded. While we have evil hearts and evil deeds, Jesus has a pure heart and only righteous deeds. Jesus lived the life that we should have lived, and he died the death that we deserved to die. After three days in the grave, He came back to life, and he is alive right now in the flesh seated at the right hand of the Father. In other words, Jesus died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins (Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 3:18). And he was raised as the firstborn from the dead—the living proof that God will raise us up from the dead too (Col. 1:18). But we do not obtain this salvation by amassing good works. We can only receive it by repenting of our sin and by placing our trust in Jesus. Salvation comes down not to what we’ve done for ourselves but to what God has done for us through Christ.
The good news is that the Lord’s arm is not too short to save (Isaiah 59:1). It’s not too short for Michael Bloomberg, and it’s not to short for you. God is able to reach you and to save you from the sin that you never would have been able to rescue yourself from through good works. All that is required is simple repentance and faith.
Romans 3:20 By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Titus 3:5-7 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.