What does the gospel tell us about point totals, and “the good place?”
Recently, my wife and I started watching a new comedy television show called The Good Place. Without spoiling its twists and turns, the show begins with the main character, Eleanor, waking up in “the good place,” or what many would consider to be heaven. Entrance into the good place is based strictly on merit, a literal point system in which only the most notoriously noble men and women would get to enjoy their eternal paradise; house, soul-mate and frozen yogurt included.
The other day while I was watching the show, I couldn’t help but wonder if The Good Place viewers consider how they would fare with a merit based “good place.” Do they think their lives would be good enough to garner entrance into a “good place”? Or do they think they would go to “the bad place?” Who decides what a good life looks like? Who develops the point totals?
The Good Place should be a reality check. An entertaining reality check, but a reality check nonetheless. Apart from an objective, biblical lens by which we view our lives, all of life is a subjective, fearful attempt to tally-up enough points to enter paradise. The gospel of Jesus Christ however clears the fog off a cloudy lens of opinion and gives us the truth on the matter.
So what does the gospel tell us about point totals, and “the good place?”
Our Point Totals
We all have a point total. A negative one. Antithetical to the witty world of The Good Place, we’re all prime candidates for the bad place.
And when I say everyone, I mean literally everyone: You, me, Ghandi, Mother Teresa and the sweet old lady down the street. We’re all what the Bible calls sinners and sin earns us eternal death.
The apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23), and, “…the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23)
In other words, we all deserve “the bad place,” or what the bible calls, hell.
Notice the bolded word there. Deserve. Hell isn’t an unjust place created by a cruel God. It’s a fair place created by a holy God, originally intended for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), but fit for us who have followed in their ways rather than God’s, which again, is all of us.
But the gospel offers us good news, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
Jesus’s Point Totals
Jesus wasn’t merely a good man that killed it in the positive point total category. Jesus was the only perfect man to ever walk on the face of the earth. He is the only man that actually deserves “the good place.” In fact, Jesus the Son of God, stepped down from “the good place”, put on human flesh, and lived among sinners like you and me 2,000 years ago.
But he didn’t only live among sinners like you and me. He died for sinners like you and me.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
As we saw in the last section, the gospel is abundantly clear that you and I cannot earn our way to heaven through a point total. And this is one reason why God the Son became man: to live the perfect life that you and I could never live and to die in our place for our sin. On the cross, God poured out his wrath on Jesus Christ so that you and I wouldn’t have to know his wrath, but rather we would know his mercy.
But there is a condition to these gospel promises.
The apostle Paul writes, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’” (Romans 10:10-11)
Reader, you must trust in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of your life. In other words, you believe by faith that Jesus Christ has made you right with God through his death on the cross. As a result, true belief will cause you to love him, serve him, and follow him for the rest of your life.
Jesus’s Point Total Given To You
Alluding back to The Good Place, you’re probably asking yourself, “How does this affect my point total?”
This is how: Through faith in Jesus, you receive his perfect “point total.”
The apostle Paul tells the Corinthian church, “For our sake he made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Jesus took your sin on the cross, and he gives you his righteousness as a gift, through faith in him. It’s a gift from God beyond our wildest dreams and imaginations; that he would choose to save sinners, not through making us work and work and work in hollow attempts to earn our salvation, but rather, by giving us a gift, Jesus Christ.
Reader, there are many things in life that you give time and attention to that simply aren’t worth your thought. Where you’ll spend your eternity is not one of those things. In fact, considering where you’ll spend your eternity is the most important question you can ask yourself.
Jesus says himself that he is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him. (John 14:6)
He has made a way to “the good place.” Even more beautiful than that, Jesus has made a way for you to truly know and enjoy God forever. Reader, if you haven’t trusted Jesus by faith, I hope and pray that today will be the day of salvation for you.