Psalm 15

LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.

Not long after I had become a Christian instead of just being the church goer I’d been all my life, I paid a visit to my mom. She was living in Florida at the time, enjoying the final years of her life. During our last conversation before I had to leave, I asked her if she was sure she would go to Heaven when she died.

“Well, I’ve tried to live a good life,” she replied, “And I go to church as often as I can.” Of course she was sadly mistaken about what qualified her, but it was a typical answer for someone who spent her life in a main line protestant church.

Though she was very hard of hearing, I tried explaining to her that salvation isn’t behavior driven, it’s decision driven. You can’t earn your way to Heaven, you can only decide to let the One Who can, do it for you.

In the Psalm above King David explained the requirements, in case you’re trying to make it on your own. First the overview: Your walk must be blameless and your actions righteous. Then he added a few examples, but the list is by no means exhaustive.

Later the Lord Jesus filled in some more of the blanks. If the worst you ever do you is disobey only one of God’s laws, and only do that in your mind, you’ve failed. And in his epistle the Lord’s brother James added, “If you’re guilty of one, you’re guilty of all.” (James 2:10)

So what’s the solution? How do we achieve the righteousness God requires as entrance to His Holy Hill? Romans 4:3-4 says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. 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.”

Made righteous, justified, by our faith. The Greek word for justified literally means, “to be regarded as innocent.” Not that we are innocent, mind you. We’re just looked upon that way.

But isn’t there some work that He requires of us? When they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:28-29) It turns out that having faith is the only thing you can do that isn’t considered work.

I honestly can’t tell you for sure that my mom got it. A lifetime of thinking is hard to change with one conversation, and shortly after that her mind lost its connection with reality, so that’s the last intelligent conversation we ever had. But for the rest of her life I prayed that she did. I’ll find out for sure when I get to Heaven. In the mean time, I’m trusting another of God’s promises.

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)