Question: Some people claim to be Christians, but they sure don’t act like it. How can they go to heaven when they don’t live the way the Bible says that they should?
Answer: The scriptures say that a changed heart will show in a changed life. Unfortunately, even after we become Christians, we will still make bad choices again and reflect poor standards of behavior. We are not Christians because we earn God’s favor by living perfectly but only because we’ve trusted in Jesus Christ to save us in spite of our sins. The apostle Paul wrote that all people have sinned and have fallen short of the God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23
Once we accept Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross as the payment for our sins, we are sealed for salvation by the Spirit of God. From that point on, for the remainder of our lives, the transformation continues. We can’t lose our salvation when we sin because Jesus already paid the penalty for our past, present, and future sins. Understand that a person who spends eternity apart from Jesus does so because he rejected Him and lived in indifference to His will for his life.
We Christians, followers of Christ, are still human and fail at living up to the standard He set for us. It’s a lifelong process and never happens overnight. When we fail, others see it, and we can be a bad example to those we would like to teach and grow. Throughout the Bible, we read that God chose people as His own because He loved them, certainly not because they deserved it. We have a sinful, selfish nature that causes us not to choose to follow Him but to do what is right in our own opinions. At times, we ignore God, even though He is always near and standing by to forgive us and assist us. The prophet Micah wrote about the relationship God desires with us when we turn away from sin and return to Him:
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us. You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will be true to your promises, as you pledged on oath to our fathers long ago. Micah 7:18-20
Thanks to Jesus for making a way for us to be with Him for eternity, even though we don’t deserve it and didn’t earn it! Here’s a funny poem about our notions of who should and should not be in heaven.
Heaven’s Surprise by J Taylor Ludwig, copyright 2004
I was shocked, confused, bewildered
as I entered heaven’s door,
not by the beauty of it all,
nor the lights or its decor.
But it was the folks in heaven
who made me sputter and gasp–
the thieves, the liars, the sinners,
the alcoholics, the trash.
There stood the kid from seventh grade
who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor
who never said anything nice.
Uncle Bill, who I always thought
was rotting away in hell,
was sitting pretty on cloud nine,
looking incredibly well.
I nudged Jesus, “What’s the deal?
I would love to hear Your take.”
How’d all these sinners get up here?
God must’ve made a mistake.
“And why’s everyone so quiet,
so somber – give me a clue.”
“Hush, child,” said he, “they’re all in shock.
No one thought they would see you.”