"I grew up thinking good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell, but the truth is God requires a person to be not just good, but totally perfect."
O God, you take no pleasure in wickedness; you cannot tolerate the sins of the wicked.
— Psalm 5:4
Why such a strict standard? The answer is found in God's character. Because God is totally perfect, He requires the same thing from us. The Bible calls the wrong things people do sin, and He cannot tolerate even a little bit of it in His presence. Since we have all done things wrong we miss God's standard of perfection and must be eternally separated from God. The Bible calls this separation death, and without God's intervention there would be no hope for any of us.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 6:23
Although He has stringent rules regarding sin, God also loves people very, very much. And so He created a way for us to be with Him even though we have a sin problem. Instead of condemning each individual person to eternal separation, God punished his own Son, Jesus, for the sins of everyone. Jesus lived a sinless life, He died a painful physical death, and was then separated from God for three days. On the third day He came back to life as a demonstration of His power over sin and death.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
— Ephesians 2:8–9
Because the consequence of sin has been satisfied by Jesus, God now offers eternal life in heaven to everyone as a free gift given to those who believe in Him. To put it another way: we simply have to trust that God will follow through on His commitment to provide eternal life. Because salvation is God's gift to us, He does not take our good deeds or personal merit into consideration.
For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
— John 3:16–17
Have you received God's gift of salvation? You can do it right now by trusting in the work of Jesus and believing that God will do what He promised: give you eternal life. There is no need for flowery language or religious fanfare, and you will likely not hear bells ring or angels sing — but if you have trusted Jesus for salvation you can be confident of your eternal destiny.
I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life
— 1 John 5:13
Wording borrowed with permission from www.ClarityMinistries.com