Before we can answer that question, we need to recognize some things about God and ourselves.
1. First of all we need to understand that the Lord God is a holy God. He exists in all His majesty, being the Creator-Owner of the Universe. He is a loving, caring God, but equally He is also a holy lawgiver. His holiness demands that His law be kept perfectly. He can have nothing to do with any lawbreaker. It is right to say that only perfect people can live with a perfect God.
“. . . without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)
On the other hand, we are helpless sinners. We were born into the world lawbreakers, alienated from God. We are far from perfect; we are sinners. God’s law says that all sin demands a “death” penalty.
“For the wages of sin is death . . .” (Romans 6:23)
This “death” penalty is not just physical death, but also something the Bible calls the second death—an eternity of suffering in the Lake of Fire.
“The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:14-15)
Because we are sinners, we are destined to pay this “death” penalty for eternity. We are helpless to save ourselves from these awful consequences of sin. Needless to say, this is not very good news. We need a way whereby our names can be written in the “book of life.”
But God has not left us in a lurch. He made a way to restore our relationship with Him—a way to escape the second death.
3. God provided a substitute. God Himself came to earth to live as a man. His name was Jesus. Jesus was perfect—sinless. Because He had no sin of his own to die for, He could die for someone else’s sin. In His love, He died in our place—taking the eternal consequences of our sin on Himself. Being an infinite God, His sacrifice was an infinite payment. He took care of all sin for all time in one brief moment on a Roman cross 2000 years ago.
“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18)
Jesus died in our place, as our substitute. But Jesus did not remain dead. His resurrection was evidence that the “death” payment had been made in full.
“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. . .” (1 Corinthians 15:20)
As a living Savior, He now offers us eternal life with Him in an eternal home, a place the Bible calls “Heaven.” We can have our names written in the “book of life.”
That is good news. Now the question is this, “What must we do for God so that he will give us this eternal life? Does God require penance, confession, prayer, church attendance, baptism, giving to charity, attending mass? If we promise to change our behavior, will this please God?”
The answer is, “No. Absolutely NOT!” Indeed the Bible tells us that . . .
“. . . you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
“. . . he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (Titus 3:5)
“Well, what if I work real hard at keeping the Ten Commandments? Will God give me eternal life then?”
Once again the answer is, “No He won’t.” The Bible says . . .
“Therefore no one will be declared righteous (perfect) in his sight by observing the law. . .” (Romans 3:20)
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10)
We may live good lives, but God’s standard for conduct is absolute perfection. Only perfect people can live with a perfect God. As sinners we fall far short of what God requires for a person to live in His holy presence.
” . . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23)
So then, to receive this gift of eternal life, just what does God require? How do we get our names written in the “book of life?”
4. Here is the answer. “God requires us to trust Him.”
That’s all, nothing more. He just wants us to have faith in Him and His promise. Specifically, God wants us to believe that when Jesus died on the cross, He was dying in our place, paying the “death” penalty for our sin. If we believe that, then the Bible says God gives us eternal life with Him in Heaven. He has promised.
“I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.” (John 6:47)
God wants us to rest in the fact that He alone has saved us from the second death.
Not only did Jesus pay our sin penalty, but the moment we believe, God clothes us in His perfection, a righteousness that is not our own, but is counted as ours because we trust Him.
” . . . God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” (Romans 4:24 NIV)
“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:22 emphasis added)
Clothed in His righteousness, we are equipped with all the perfection we need to live in the presence of a perfect, sinless God.
When we trust Him, we can honestly say that we know that we will enjoy life with God, both now and forever in Heaven.
” . . . the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:11-13)
In summary, these are the questions you face:
1. Do you understand that only perfect people can live with a perfect God?
2. Do you understand that you cannot do anything to make yourself good enough to live with a holy God?
3. As a sinner, do you recognize that you are helpless to save yourself from that eternal second death in the Lake of Fire?
4. Do you understand that Jesus—the eternal God—died on the cross in your place, paying your sin-debt once for all—in one moment of time?
5. If you understand these things, then do you believe that Jesus died in your place?”
6. If you have truly and honestly said, “Yes,” to all of the above, then on the basis of your trust in Him, God has counted His perfection as yours. You are now one of those of whom it can be said:
“Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” (Romans 4:8 NIV)
Truly you can say. . .
” . . . I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)
Bible verses appear in italics and are taken from The Holy Bible: New International Version. 1996, ©1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. Used by permission.