But... Do I have
to be good?
You don't have to be good any more than you have to be a Christian or have to eat lima beans for dinner. It's your choice. But be aware that if you aren't good, you're eventually going to permanently regret it.
You don't want to have permanent regrets? That's great, but there's one problem: It's impossible for you to be good. What? We're telling you that you'll regret it forever if you aren't good, yet you can't possibly be good? Okay, we're playing with you a little, but only in order to hammer home a critically important point.
No, you don't have to be good if you don't want to be, but if you want to be, you won't have to do it by yourself, because you can't do that. The only way a human being can be truly good is to have God. Once you are His, you will learn how Christ's goodness, or righteousness, can be lived out in you. Again, this is the only way in the world you can be truly good. And without Christ's righteousness, you won't enter Heaven.
In the secular world, many people sincerely try to live good lives. They strive to be honest, kind, self-sacrificing, hard-working, etc. And some seem to truly succeed in achieving this goal of human goodness. The problem is, in the final analysis, being good in our own strength just won't cut it. Entrance into Heaven isn't predicated on having done more good than bad in our lives. Christ is the only door.
Turning to the religious world, sadly we find much confusion on this issue. Ironically enough, the biggest problem here isn't with people trying to be good in their own strength. To the contrary, there are many who, knowing that they can't be good in themselves, interpret that to mean that God doesn't really expect them to be good. They believe that Christ somehow draws a blanket over them and covers their badness with His goodness, making everything all right.
Don't believe it. This is a lie. An exceedingly dangerous lie. If someone tells you that as a Christian you will, "sin every day in thought, word, and deed," or anything close to this, they have been deceived. The Bible teaches us that the, "person who sins will die," and that the "wages of sin is death," yet from the beginning Satan has been whispering in response, "You surely will not die!" (Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 6:23; Genesis 3:4). Don't listen to him, or to any who teach such things.
God tells us, "You shall be holy, for I am holy," and "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (1 Peter 1:16; Matthew 5:48). We're commanded to be as perfect and holy as God! Tall order? Again, impossible in ourselves, but possible with Christ within.
So as a Christian you will never do anything wrong, and never sin? No, believers do fall short from time to time for various reasons. But so long as they remain sensitive to the Spirit of God, and immediately deal with failure when it happens by coming to God for forgiveness, they will find that such occurrences become fewer and fewer as they mature spiritually.
The Word promises, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matthew 5:6). So be sure to cultivate a deep hunger for righteousness, and you will find God will open His hand to you and grant it. Never be satisfied with anything less. Again, don't try to do it in your own ability, but at the same time don't give up in frustration and decide you can never live a holy life. You can through Him. Never, ever let go of this truth... this bright hope... this promise from God.
Your eternal destiny depends on it.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB