Calvary Road Baptist Church

“Heaven-Bound Without Being Good Enough For Heaven – It’s Called Justification” 

In Second Corinthians 10.3-5, I want to point out to you the dilemma that I face, that every Gospel minister faces, along with moms and dads who fervently pray for their unsaved children’s souls: 

3  For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:

4  (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

5  Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 

Here the Apostle Paul elaborates to the Corinthian congregation the strategy he employed in his dealings with uncommitted and frequently wayward Church members and the lost people he sought to bring to Christ. This is how Paul and his ministry team dealt with the Corinthians. He revealed it to them as a matter of openness and transparency. He was not a manipulator. Nor was he a deceitful trickster.

Verse 3 is an admission that despite living in the human realm, Paul and his team did not engage in spiritual conflict after the manner practiced by most humans. Interestingly, the Greek term Paul employed to describe how he waged spiritual war, somewhat like fighting as a soldier in spiritual conflict, strateύoo, is the word that has come to us as the English word strategy, which refers to the big picture approach to waging war.

Verse 4 paints a word picture for his readers, showing the Gospel ministry to be something like siege warfare against a fortress, a castle, or a reinforced defensive position. Anyone who has seen the Lord of the Rings movies understands how it works. Not only does this suggest that the presentation of the Gospel is an offensive strategy, “Go ye therefore.” It also shows God blessing efforts to penetrate the fortress of the unsaved person’s mind. The goal of advancing the Gospel in this way resembles collapsing the unsaved person’s mental barriers that are erected as defenses against the truth.

Unsaved people do not want to be saved. But more than that, they don’t want to hear the truth, deal with the truth, ponder or consider the truth, or be responsible with the truth. To that end, lost people are constantly erecting barricades in their minds to resist the truth, much like fortress walls built to withstand the assault of the truth.

Verse 5 likens the objections and prejudices against the truth erected in the minds of unsaved people, which are really no more than imaginations that are without real substance, to the products of proud efforts to resist the knowledge of God and obedience to Christ. Thus, you are stubborn and proud who do not want to hear the truth, much less respond to it.

If you are unsaved, your mind is constantly working in the background to erect barriers to the truth. If you are confronted with a Gospel thrust from this direction, your mind will quickly set about the task of building up your resistance to truth coming from that direction. My challenge, and the challenge of your parents, and your Christian friends, is to bring another Gospel thrust from a different direction.

That is why we pray for you. That is why I come at you with an array of Gospel sermons arriving from different directions. And that is why your parents carefully orchestrate the events in the life of the family at home on Saturday night and before the services Sunday morning and Sunday evening. The goal is to bring you to bear on Gospel truth, eternity, sin, salvation, and the Savior, and away from college football.

Because we are all so slow of heart to believe, Luke 24.25, the hours leading up to a Gospel message are too important to waste on silliness, arguments, or other distractions. My own efforts, and your parents’ efforts, to influence the focus of your mind and heart toward the things of God must begin in the hours leading up to a preaching service. This is because there is no such thing as instant on when it comes to repentance and faith.

That said, there is no attempt to manipulate you. There is no desire to try and trick you. There is no concealment of our purpose and intent here. I intend, and Christian mothers and fathers also intend, depending on your age and circumstances, to present a Gospel message designed to persuade you to trust Christ. “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men,” Second Corinthians 5.11.

In light of what is at stake, we would be both foolish and neglectful if we did not seek to persuade you. Therefore, that is what is happening each time your parents bring you to Church. That is what happens each time an unsaved adult attends a worship service. I seek to come at you from a different direction each time, with the same goal for every Gospel message. The faithful proclamation of the truth is what we are about. Your response to the truth is between you and the Savior.

Understand that there is no design to deceive. There is no intent to deprive you of your free agency. No one becomes a Christian who does not want to become a Christian. And there is no such thing as obedience toward God apart from willing compliance. What is required by God is for me to communicate the truth and for God to miraculously do what only He can do with the truth and with you.

Those things said, the title of this message is “Heaven-Bound Without Being Good Enough For Heaven – It’s Called Justification.” It is probably the longest title I have ever affixed to a sermon, but this will be one of the simplest sermons I have ever brought to you.

There are only two parts to this message, relying on the restatement of facts already well-established: 

Part One Is “Heaven-Bound Without Being Good Enough For Heaven” 

I trusted Christ on March 31, 1974. My experience was not unusual. Some Christians do not remember the date when they trusted Christ, which is not uncommon. From that moment forward, I was heaven-bound. In a moment, I passed from death unto life. In a moment, my status before God changed from one who was His enemy to one who had become His child. My eternal destiny was, in a moment, forever changed.

Having gone to Church services less than a half dozen times in my entire life, I could not have put what happened to me into words. I appreciated the fact that I was confronted with the Gospel truth that unless I turned from my sins and trusted Christ as my Savior I must suffer the wrath of God. Gospel means good news. I understood the good news that I, a sinner fully deserving eternal punishment from God, would be delivered from certain condemnation and eternal torment by simply trusting God’s son, Jesus Christ. From then until now, I have learned a great deal from the Bible about what happened to me in that instant. I have come to understand that when a sinner trusts Christ as his Savior, more than thirty individual miracles are worked on and in a person that he would never know of without being told in the Bible.[1] But I did know this while knowing little else. I was on my way to heaven without being good enough for heaven. I needed little convincing that I was a sinner because my sinfulness was as evident to me as it was to anyone who knew me.

I had not grasped the seriousness of my sinfulness, the damnation of my sinfulness, and the outrage of a holy God toward my sinfulness. The Spirit of God addressed that issue when He convicted me of my sins.[2] But forgiveness resulted when I trusted Jesus as my Savior, as when anyone trusts Jesus as their Savior. An altered status before God is the result. A radical change in standing before God is the result. And an altered direction and destiny is the result. What does this mean? It means that any sinner who trusts Jesus Christ as their personal savior receives such astonishing and miraculous blessings that they are instantaneously bound for heaven, but without ever being good enough for heaven.

How can this assertion be proven? Easily. 

Adding to those three towering Old Testament figures (I might have used Elijah as another example), I make mention of the apostles Peter, John, and Thomas. 

8  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 

10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 

God’s people have always been sinful. This side of heaven, we will always be sinful. Why so? Because God’s plan for those who are heaven-bound has never been for us to get to heaven because we are good enough. Consider this matter of salvation for the believer in Christ, which has three parts. The first part is salvation from the penalty of sins. The sinner who trusts Jesus is forgiven all his past sins. By the way, we are also forgiven all our present and future sins. First John 1.7 assures us that “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin,” with cleanseth referring to a continual process of Christ’s blood addressing our sin problems this side of eternity, past, present, and future.[7] Additionally, we are continually saved from the power of sin in our life, so that while our lives are not sinless by any measure, they are improved by the grace and power of God through the indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.[8] Ultimately, of course, we will be delivered to the Savior, saved from the presence of sin altogether and our hope realized.[9]

When considering the three parts of our salvation, salvation from the penalty of sins, salvation from the power of sins in your Christian life, and eventual salvation from the presence of sin when we get to heaven, at no point is the person this is happening to ever deserving of his or her salvation. This is because every aspect of a sinner’s salvation is by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. Which is to say, it is undeserved. Which means? It means every time you see a Christian’s sins, inconsistencies, flaws and defects and shortcomings, and anything else about a believer in Christ you find fault with and do not like ... that is the point! No other kind of Christian exists because no different Christian is possible. Might this be why Paul uses the phrase in his letter to the Romans, “the body of this death?” 

Part Two Is “It’s Called Justification” 

If each of us is a sinner, but some of us sinners are heaven-bound. How is that accomplished? How does someone who is alienated from God by sin, an enemy of God actually, gain heaven someday?

Let me first set before you how this is not accomplished. It is not accomplished by being good. It is not accomplished by doing things that make God happy, by you satisfying Him in any way, or by you giving Him what He wants from you.

Every religion in the world is built on the notion of achieving their idea of heaven by becoming good enough, satisfying their notion of God by doing something that will make Him happy, or happy enough to let them into His heaven. Yet, the Bible declares that not only is everyone born spiritually dead and incapable of doing anything that might please God, even attempting to do so is an outrage to God.[10]

Only in the Bible do we find the remedy for this intractable problem of God demanding from you what you cannot give Him. I think it is easiest to understand by a consideration of a single Greek word, dikaiow. It is not a difficult word to understand, but it represents a concept in the Bible that goes completely against the grain of human reasoning and pride.

The Greeks only and always by this word referred to declaring someone righteous, to be in the right, to have right standing.[11] The Roman Catholics, to this day, do not grasp the proper meaning of this word because of the egregious error made by Augustine back in the day, imagining the word referred to making someone righteous.[12] But there is no evidence in the Bible that anyone has ever been made good enough to get to heaven by God.

Not Abraham. Not Moses. Not David. Not Peter. Not Thomas. Not John. Not anyone! Certainly not me. And not anyone you have ever known who has claimed to be a Christian. God’s plan is not to make you, or me, or anyone else, good enough to get to heaven. His plan, instead, is to justify you.

But what is it to justify someone? It is not to make someone righteous. It is to declare someone righteous, provide an official decree of good standing in the sight of God, and gift you the righteousness you do not have and can never earn, the righteousness of Jesus Christ credited to you. Thus, when justified, you enjoy the status that you did not earn and do not deserve, but which was purchased by the shed blood of Christ on the cross of Calvary. Peter sums it up in First Peter 3.18: 

“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” 

That is what happened to Abraham in Genesis 15.6. That is what happened to Jacob at Peniel.[13] Paul wrote of it in Romans chapter four, referring to both Abraham and David. It is the only way an unrighteous sinner can acquire the standing of a righteous person before God. You cannot earn it. It must be given to you, and faith in Christ is the only means by which that occurs.

That sinful men such as Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, Peter, Thomas, and John gained heaven proves what justification must be, the means by which God saves those who are sinning because we cannot not sin! Not this side of eternity.

How glorious, gracious, and merciful is God that He would demand from us what we cannot provide and then provide for us what we cannot provide! God actually saves His enemies.[14] Christ died for the ungodly.[15] The Holy Spirit of God works the miracle of the new birth to breathe life into the dead! 

Two points in this sermon. First, heaven-bound without being good enough for heaven. That is what God does. Second, how God accomplishes it. It’s called justification.

Two items for your consideration before we conclude. Romans 5.1: 

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

You may be unaware of this, but a state of war exists between you and God, and He is going to win. He always wins. He only wins. He is God! So, you will either be justified by faith in Christ, or you will suffer the unending wrath of God for all eternity.

Now, please, Romans 8.28-30, where we see eternity past connected through the present to eternity future: 

28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

29  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

30  Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 

Here we see five things God does. God foreknew. God did predestinate. God called. God justified. God glorified. Two things were done by God in eternity past. Two things are accomplished by God in the here and now. One thing is accomplished by God in the future and affects all eternity.

Please notice that one of the two things God does in the span of a person’s life before eternity in heaven is justified. If you hope to see heaven throughout all eternity rather than writhing under the wrath of God in the lake of fire, it will be because God justified you, and He only justifies by faith, as we saw in Romans 5.1. No one goes to heaven because they are good, because no one is good, yet not good people go to heaven. Thus, the excuse that Christianity is fraudulent because some Christians are observed to be not good is completely bogus. There are no other kind of Christians.

Justification is a thing. It is a God thing. And it is a thing that happens only to those who are not good, yet they are going to heaven. You have no hope of avoiding ceaseless torment without being justified, yet one who trusts Jesus can only be justified.

But you don’t want to become a Christian. That is your privilege. And no one will become a Christian who does not want to become a Christian. I grant that. I am probably the person who taught you that.

Understand this if you understand nothing else. If you persist in your determination not to want to become a Christian, you will never be justified, and you will die in your sins and suffer the unending horror of damnation.

I am not suggesting that you will ever be able to arrange for your justification because you cannot. Ever. But it would be better for you in Hell, should you eventually die without Christ, to have struggled to incline your desires toward becoming a Christian.

You might not ever want to become a Christian. But you should go to your eventual death wanting to want to become a Christian, wanting to want to trust Christ. Because eternity is a long time to be wrong.


[1] Listed in Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. III, (Dallas, TX: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948), pages 234-266.

[2] John 16.8-11

[3] Numbers 20.1-13

[4] 1 Samuel 13.14; Psalm 89.20

[5] Matthew 16.22-23; 26.31-35; Mark 9.5-7; John 13.6-9; Galatians 2.11-21

[6] John 20.24-29

[7] Rogers, Jr., Cleon L. and Rogers III, Cleon L., The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: ZondervanPublishingHouse, 1998), page 592.

[8] Philippians 1.6; 2.13; 1 Thessalonians 2.13; Hebrews 13.21

[9] Romans 5.2; 8.24; Colossians 1.5, 27; 1 Thessalonians 1.3; 2.19; 5.8; Titus 1.2; 2.13

[10] Isaiah 64.6

[11] Rogers, page 324.

[12] David R. Anderson, Free Grace Soteriology, (Grace Theology Press, Revised Edition edited by James S. Reitman, 2012), page 96.

[13] Genesis 32.30

[14] Romans 5.10

[15] Romans 5.6

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