How do you get into heaven? Grab a piece of paper and answer this question, “If I were to die tonight, I’d go to heaven because?” Now that you’ve got your answer – take some time and listen to this challenging message to help you see if what you wrote down holds water! Don’t miss the end… Need prayer? visit my.oswegochristian.com/pray to post a request. Subscribe to our podcast on your phone to automatically have new messages downloaded weekly: in iTunes (http://my.oswegochristian.com/iTunes) or Android (http://my.oswegochristian.com/Google)
Everybody grab a pad of paper and a pencil, I want you to answer this one question for me:If I were to die tonight, I’d go to heaven because?I want you to write down as many answers as you can think – I’ll give you a moment…If you are online, watching on Facebook or listening later on a podcast – go ahead and open a notes file on your phone or grab a scrap of paper and write it. What are the reasons you’d go to heaven…Let me give you a little music while you’re waiting[Play “Good Ol Boys” (JO LYNNE add this to a slide that plays when they click on it) song]Are you good dad?Do you pay your taxes?You stop to help people change a tire on the side of the road?Give your extra change to homeless people?You work hard, don’t get into other peoples business?[fade out the music as Kent pulls them back in]Ok, let’s trade papers and grade them… Ha, no, don’t do that!Actually, I want you to fold those papers and hold onto them – but I want you to remember what you wrote on them…Let me ask you a question?What criteria do you use to determine if you are good enough or not?and specifically, I mean, if you are good enough to get into heaven?My guess is your are using comparisonBecause when we say we are a good ol boyWhat we really mean is,I’m not as bad as that fella over there…right? Here’s what I meanTHE BELL CURVEDo you remember back in school where if you got an F, you actually got an F-back in the day, there was a thing called, the Bell Curve for grading – they called itGrading on a Curve (Normal Distribution)[Draw the Bell Curve]Here’s the quick and dirty of how the curve worksThe middle of the curve, called the “Mean” accounts for 38% of the peopleThese are your C Students – let me hear it for the C StudentsOn either side of the mean you have the “Standard Deviation”, this accounts for 24% of the peopleThese are the B’s and D’sOn either side of that you have another 7%this makes up your A’s and your F’sA’s = take Kent to Disney LandF’s = Kent is not long for life in this land…Stick with me here…[Plot out some people]Ok, so, I’m a murderer – where do they fall on this curve?Yeah…What about a child molester? yes…Guy who steal pens from the office?Kid who lied to their parents?Person who had an affair?I think most people in America are grading themselves on a curve when it comes to their perception of their eternal relationship to GodBWe’re Good Ol’ Boys, how could God not let us in?I want to show you what Jesus does with this assumption…Check this out… Luke is just coming out of a parable about prayer to tell you to never give up praying – and Jesus is going to bounce off that subject to address another issue…Luke 18:9-149 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ILLUSTRATE:Can you imagine the moment Jesus starts telling this parable? The instant Jesus starts to talk and says there’s a Pharisee and a Tax Collector going up to the temple – it sounds like the start of a joke, right, Rabbi and a Priest… But the reality is, Jesus audience knows this isn’t a joke. They have an issue with how Jesus has already been handling tax collectors…Back in Luke 5, Jesus invited a guy named Levi to Follow Him – a guy we will come to know as Matthew… And when Jesus does this – the religious leaders start asking, “what is wrong with this guy – why would he go eat with tax collectors and sinners…”So, when Jesus starts off this story with these two characters, you can bet that the religious people’s stomachs tightened…It starts off ok, right – they go to the temple to pray, the Pharisee starts to thank God that He’s not like other people… He doesn’t steal stuff, he’s not into perverted wicked stuff, he doesn’t sleep around – he’s not stealing like this tax collector. Heck, he even refuses to eat a couple times a week to focus on his relationship with God and gives 10% of all his income to God…He’s a Good Ol’ Boy – maybe even better…Where would you guys put him on this list?He’s pretty much a Straight “A” StudentThis is the guy that makes all of us other guys look bad – right? This tax collector is in trouble…But then Jesus, in very few words turns the tablesHe will flip this whole dynamic on it’s head…13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’This guy knows how terrible he is, he knows he’s leveraged families into the ground, he knows that children haven’t eaten because of the taxes he’s enforced. he knows he has taken advantage of the poor and innocent…-This is the addict who looks his child in the eyes after getting clean and realizing they left them to be abused by strange men-This is workaholic father who realizes that he’s sacrificed his wife and children in order to build a careerHe can’t even look up, he can’t even get close-the word for beat in Greek means he hit himself over and over again“God have mercy on me, a sinner.”Where does this guy fall on the curve?honestly, he’s down here, he’s failed at life – he’s a selfish, self-centered jerkSo, what is Jesus’ resolution to this story?Check it out…14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”What is going on here?Jesus is saying,“the guy who scored high is low and the guy who scored low is high?”Can I share with you a little secret?God doesn’t grade on a curveSee, the problem with the curve is the standard is based on the highest common denominator-whoever scored the highest sets the curveGod grading system is pass/failJames 2:10For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
Romans 3:2323 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,Our world doesn’t like Pass/Fail, because we understand what that means – no one is perfect…We know that even most of the good things we do are self-centeredWhat I mean is I help someone because of how it makes me feel – it’s self-centered, I’m still getting something out of itThat’s why in Isaiah it saysIsaiah 64:6All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.This is vivid language – the translators went easy on the translation – the word for filthy rags actually means “Menstral cloth”He’s saying, even the good things we do are like these things we’d be embarrassed to just have out in the open for all to see… Jesus said, “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted…”See,The problem for you and I is that you can’t “outgood” your badAnd don’t get all uppity on me telling me how good you are and how unfair this whole system is…-you were thinking dirty thoughts before you even got into church today-you were ticked at your spouse and murdering them in your heart-you were lusting after a person who wasn’t your spouse last night while you watched that movie-if you had the opportunity and could get away with it you’d hurt that person who cut you off and almost put you into a car wreck yesterdaySo, what’s the answer – if you can’t “outgood” your bad and you no one is perfect – it puts you in a quandary doesn’t it?CLOSING ILLUSTRATION:That’s how God saw it too, this was not His intention – His intention was to live in relationship with humans – but we chose to be in charge of our own destiny – to know Good and Evil instead of knowing Him… And so, God sat in heaven, waiting for the perfect moment when He could redeem all of mankind too himself. He chose a people to be his people, because they would steward the blood line that would bring his son into the world. He chose leaders to conquer and nations to topple to bring the perfect set of circumstances for God to enter the world. And not enter it like super man coming out of the clouds, but as a baby. He himself would live a perfect life – he would do what you and I are incapable of doing. He would then allow himself to be captured and brutally murdered and through that process he would offer himself as a sacrifice for our sins – our dirty rags. So that whoever believes in him, shall not perish, but have eternal lifeAnd it all starts with doing what that tax collector did – taking your sins, beating your chest and saying, “have mercy on me a sinner”Today, I want to invite you to take those things you wrote down and I want you to write one big word over them – write “Jesus”