My Spiritual Debit Card
People have imagined a great cosmic "scales," where God, on the Judgment Day, weighs a person’s good actions against the bad. As long as the good outweighs the bad, the person goes to heaven. To modernize this illustration, imagine a spiritual debit card. You add certain "funds" (good works) to your account, and as long as you don’t take out more than you put in, by various sins and bad behavior, God allows you into heaven.
This way of thinking leads to such proud statements as, "Well, I haven’t killed anyone…." and "I don’t allow any drinking in my house!" People have an intuitive sense of right and wrong; they know they’ve never done anything drastically immoral, and they can list several good deeds that they’ve done. Their spiritual debit card must certainly still have funds in it!
Several scriptures, however, show that there is no spiritual debit card. First, in Ezekiel 18, we have two examples of people who "repent." One man turns from his wicked ways, and one turns from his righteousness. Neither man’s past was remembered before God (verses 22, 24). Repentance does not outweigh previous action, it cancels it! Remember God’s promise accompanying the New Covenant? "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more" (Hebrews 8:12). That’s a good thing, because some people could never work their way out of debt! Think of the Jews who shouted, "Crucify, crucify!" No amount of good deeds or penance could have ever outweighed that evil, but by God’s grace they were allowed to repent and be forgiven (Acts 2:22-38). In fact, every sin requires Christ’s blood to substitute for our own, and none of us could ever pay for our sins by our own good works.
Need other examples? Paul thought he had a lot of "credit" with the Lord, but he learned to cherish "the righteousness which is from God by faith," rather than his "own righteousness, which is from the law" (Philippians 3:4-11). And if anyone ever truly had a big balance on a spiritual debit card, it was Nadab and Abihu. Two chapters, Leviticus 8 and 9, tell repeatedly that they acted "as the Lord had commanded Moses" and "according to the prescribed manner." And Nadab and Abihu had even ascended Mount Sinai with Moses and Aaron and 70 elders of Israel, where "they saw the God of Israel." Yes, they "saw God and ate and drank" in His very presence (Exodus 24:9-11). But their spiritual "credit" did not spare them when they committed what, in human eyes, was a small transgression (Leviticus 10:1-3).
God looks at our lives moment by moment. We must continually repent of evil and live by faith. Thank God that He does not remember our past sins against us. At the same time, let us not become complacent because we think we have a lot of "credit" in God’s sight.