In a couple of rather pessimistic articles (197) (198), I have asked if we, as a culture, are beyond the grace of God. Then last Saturday's Omaha World Herald came to my house [Editor's note: this article was written on October 1, 1996.]--and my pessimism deepened. Why? Because there was a section in that paper that reviewed George Barna's recent book on the state of religion in America. His conclusion from all of his polling was that religion in America is so confused, it is as if Jesus Christ never came. And this in a nation that has, for many years now, basked in the benefits of the amazing grace of God who sent Him! I am pessimistic about God's grace continuing when it is obvious that most of us are taking advantage of His grace without making a legitimate return to Him for it (2 Chronicles 32:25).
In Barna's statistics there is the amazing revelation that 90% of Americans consider religion very important to them, yet over 50% say that the way to heaven is by good behavior. That means that more than half of the people who are religious are deceived.
Jesus Christ said, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matthew 7:22-23; KJV).
Now here is an amazing thing! Jesus is going to reject as workers of iniquity those who base their claim to the privilege of going into His Kingdom upon their religious activities. And such activities! They prophesied in the name of the Lord. They cast out demons in the name of the Lord. They did wonder-inspiring works in the name of the Lord. Yet Jesus will reject them--not because they did these things, but because they thought by doing them that they merited heaven!
And we have countless multitudes who have never, ever, done such things. They have never prophesied in the name of the Lord, they have never cast out a demon in the name of the Lord, and they have never done a miracle in the name of the Lord, yet they think that they will be given a place in heaven because they did enough good things in their life on this earth. It blows my mind that people can even entertain the notion in their brain that they can be good enough for God when Jesus pointedly rejects those who were good enough to have power over demons!
My friend, what is your hope of heaven based upon? Jesus said that our righteousness must exceed that of the religious leadership of Israel who prophesied in the name, cast out demons in the name, and did miracles in the name. Does your righteousness exceed that? How then can you continue to rest on your laurels, expecting that God will accept you in that day?
Where are you going to get a righteousness that exceeds such powerful performance of good? Over 50% of those calling themselves Christians will perish in Hell forever; will you be one?