It is human nature to want to belong somewhere. Belonging to a group can be by choice or entitlement. For example, we have nothing to do with which gender, ethnic groups and families we’re born into; but we get to decide who we want for friends, what professions we pursue, which associations we join, and which other groups appeal to us. Other times, we belong to a group based on our beliefs, likes, and dislikes.
For instance, when it comes to the issue of spirituality, each individual fits into one of four groups. People in group one think they are good enough the way they are, and will go to heaven. In other words, they think they qualify to go to heaven because they do enough good and are morally good people. People in group two think they are so sinful that God would want nothing to do with them; they live under self-condemnation and hopelessness. Group three believe they are sinners, but not beyond redemption. They understand from the Bible that Jesus died to pay for their sins. They have gratefully trusted Jesus with their sins, and look forward to going to be with Him in heaven when they die. In other words, they are heaven-bound, but based only on God’s grace and faith through Jesus, and not on anything they have done. People in the last group believe there is no God; they are called atheists.
The Bible makes it clear that no one can get saved by obeying the law or being good. The apostle Paul explains it this way, “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:4-5 NIV). Nobody is good 100% of the time, and those who try to keep the law are unable to keep it 100% of the time. In addition, if salvation became available to us based on how good we were, it could be easy for us to boast about getting into heaven on our own merit. Salvation, according to the Bible, is only by grace through faith.
For those who think there is no hope for them, I have excellent news! God loves you so much He’s already made plans for you to be forgiven and restored to live a productive life, and for your name to be written in the book of life. He is willing and able to forgive your past, no matter how horrible. Consider the day Jesus was crucified; two thieves were crucified as well, one on each side of Him. One thief asked for forgiveness; he petitioned Jesus to remember him when He got into His kingdom. Jesus forgave him and promised the thief that they’d be together in paradise (see Luke 23:43). Similarly, there is hope for you; God is able to, and will forgive you if you repent!
The Israelites were in-and-out of favor with God so much because of their frequent unfaithfulness. To them, He promised, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18 NIV). Your responsibility is to admit to God that indeed you are a sinner, ask for forgiveness, and accept His forgiveness. He will forgive and indwell you through His Spirit. You will then become a new creature, because the Bible says, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)
The people in group three are the people whose names are written in the book of life, because they have placed their faith in Jesus. They understand that they cannot keep the law perfectly, and there is nothing they can do on their own to gain God’s favor (see Isaiah 64:6). The grace of God has set them free from sin and hell, and like the thief on the cross, they will be in heaven with Jesus someday.
Although atheists believe there is no God; that belief will not change the fact that God does exist. It will also not excuse them from punishment for rejecting God. Contrary to the atheists’ belief, the Bible says they do know God exists, because “The requirements of the Law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness” (Romans 2:15 NIV).
So which of these four groups can you honestly identify with? Have you trusted Jesus for salvation? If not, why not; what’s holding you back? You might be a good person, but God is not looking for good people; He is looking for perfect people like Himself (see Matthew 5:48). You cannot be perfect until Jesus’ righteousness is credited to you, and that comes only after you’ve placed your faith in Him. You cannot get into heaven on your own merits!
If you are thinking you are hopelessly sinful, I invite you to try praying to God in Jesus’ name. Ask Him to forgive you and make you His child, and He’ll do that! You’ll be amazed at the result. You’ll never know until you take this step. You’ll prove 2 Corinthians 5:17 to yourself and people who know you.
Free will is a gift from God, but our choices have consequences. Each person is free to choose what they want to believe, whether they have facts to support it or not. Similarly, God has the right and the responsibility to honor His Word! Jesus once announced to a crowd, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:3). Do you claim to be an atheist? Please understand that your belief will not excuse you from God’s wrath and judgment. You need to rethink your position and put your faith in Jesus before it is too late.
God is in the business of renewing, remaking, and restoring. Until you place your faith in Him, you are spiritually dead. Only He gives new life; avail yourself of that today!