Often when talking with someone about God, heaven and hell, you’ll hear something like, “but I’m a good person. I’m pretty sure I’ll go to heaven.”
This is wrong on pretty much every level. Christians don’t believe people go to heaven by being good. We only obtain eternal salvation because of Christ, and we believe in Christ because the grace of God acting and creating faith within us. So we are saved by grace through faith. Both being a gift of God.
The problem with this is also the “good person” fallacy. There is no such thing as a good person. People are evil. We are wicked. And when people compare themselves to themselves, they make themselves superior because they are defining good how they want to and compare themselves to people who in their eyes are bad. “I’m not as bad as…”
It’s like the saying that “things could be worse,” but applied to the person, “well, I could be worse like..” But Christians don’t compare themselves to one another. We are commanded to compare ourselves to the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, the perfect man. And often something can be missed when doing so, because people will cherry pick verses from the Bible to make a Jesus that conforms to their image. So, they will pull out, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” And they’ll say, “see, I don’t do that.” And often, they don’t mean the same thing Jesus does, and they use this and maybe a few other verses to summarize Jesus’ life, while ignoring what Jesus’ own disciples taught and believed about Christ.
Like Paul, who in Romans 1 tells us how every man suppresses the truth of God, and how we all have chosen to worship the creature rather than the creator. Which gets to the fundamental issue of sin. Sin isn’t an action, it is a nature, a state of being.
When someone says they do good things they generally mean that they don’t kill or steal. Maybe they give some money away or help people here and there. They pay their taxes. They don’t cause trouble in society. That is their definition of being good.
This definition falls way short. Being good is a state of being, not what someone does. A sinner sins. He’s not a sinner because he does sinful things, he does sinful things because he’s a sinner. The perfect man acts perfectly. He’s not perfect because he does perfect things, he does perfect things because he is perfect
Thus, even the “good” a sinner does is sin. A sinner gives to the poor and helps the needy. This is sin. Why? Not because the action itself is a good action, but because the sinner who does the action does it in sin. How so? Well, remember what Paul said in Romans 1, how sinners worship and serve the creature rather than the creator. So even if someone helps the needy out of the “goodness of their heart,” the truth is that goodness in their heart isn’t goodness, but a desire to serve and worship creation over and above God.
So though the action is commended, a sinner cannot do anything else but sin. However, this makes little sense to American’s today. But that’s because they have not sought God’s definitions. It’s easy to feel like a good person when you ignore God.