Cornerstone

“God’s ‘process’ isn’t some capricious series of tests to evaluate whether you’re good enough to get to heaven. Rather, it is a perfect execution of judgment where he essentially asks just one question: ‘How are you going to pay for all of the sin that you’ve committed in your life?’”

Lately I've found myself drawn into a show on Netflix called “3%.” It’s an intense show set in a dystopian world, where society is divided into two regions: the Mainland, where people live in abject poverty, and the Offshore, where people live in abundance and affluence. Upon turning 20 years old, each person on the Mainland has one chance to prove that they are worthy of going to the Offshore. Their one chance is by passing the Process, a test which takes place over several grueling days, challenging the candidate’s intellect, inductive reasoning, social skills, and physical abilities, all while putting them under extreme psychological duress. Pass the Process, and your life will forever change for the better. Fail, and you’re sent back to live out the rest of your life in squalor. Only 3% of candidates make it through (hence the title), and those who run the Process provide the candidates each day with this harrowing reminder: You create your own merit.

While watching the show, I can't help but wonder: how would I fare in the Process? Would I pass? Would I be good enough and considered worthy to join the privileged few? And if I had to prove my worth to someone, how would I do it?

Unfortunately, I think many people are under the misconception that this is how salvation works: there's a bad place (hell), and a good place (heaven), and people who prove to be good enough get to live in heaven. Presumably God is the judge of who goes where, so you’d better prove to him that you deserve a spot in the good place. You’d better prove you’re worthy of his mercy. You’d better create your own merit.

But the Bible paints a very different picture than this. The Bible tells us that God “dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim 6:16) and that he is perfectly holy and just:

The Rock, his work is perfect, 
For all his ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity,
Just and upright is he.
- Deuteronomy 32:4

What’s more, God is the perfect judge, because he knows and sees all things about us:

O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
And are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
Behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. 
- Psalm 139:1-4

Our perfect God sees all of our sin and must rightly judge it, and upon that kind of inspection we know that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

God’s “process” isn’t some capricious series of tests to evaluate whether you’re good enough to get to heaven. Rather, it is a perfect execution of judgment where he essentially asks just one question: “How are you going to pay for all of the sin that you’ve committed in your life?”

Under this framework set out by Scripture, we see that if God is the perfect standard we must meet to be considered worthy of heaven, then no person anywhere - no matter how many good deeds they’ve done - would be considered good enough. If the salvation process for humans was to earn their way to God, there would not be a 3% success rate of some extra-holy elite. It would be a flat out, across the board, big fat 0%.

And if that were the end of the story, things would be quite hopeless indeed. However, again the Bible presents a picture counter to what we expect. God loves every single person he created, and wanted to give all of them a way to get to the good place where he is. So Jesus, who is God himself, voluntarily came down from that good place and lived among us here on earth. He lived his life without sin (1 Peter 2:22) so that he himself had nothing to pay for. If Jesus were to go through God’s perfectly just evaluative process, he would pass with flying colors. But instead of just passing for himself, he did an incredible thing.

On the cross, Jesus picked up our moral tab, if you will. All the things we’ve ever done wrong in our life, all the sin we’ve ever committed - the sin we know about and the sin we don’t - he willingly chose to take upon himself on our behalf. And when God asked for payment for that sin, Jesus gave the most precious thing in existence: his own life. That’s why we say, “Jesus died for your sins.”

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
- 2 Corinthians 5:21

What’s more, we know that Jesus didn’t die just for one subset of holy people, but for the sins of the every person on earth: He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

Jesus’s death on the cross means that instead of 0% of people having a way back to God, or only a super-holy elite 3%, 100% of all people on earth have the opportunity to be with God in heaven. The only thing we have to do is be humble enough to admit that we cannot pass the process on our own. We must admit that we cannot create our own merit. Our merit must come from Christ alone. And if we believe in our heart and confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, then when we die and we go through God’s perfectly just evaluative process and he asks us, “How are you going to pay for all of the sins you've committed in your life?”, we can answer, “I have nothing to offer, no merit of my own. But Jesus paid it all, and by grace His merit is mine.”

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 
- Ephesians 2:8-9

Ashley Ross

Ashley is a member of Cornerstone and serves as a Web Content Editor.

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