“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, N.K.J.V.)
Dr. Thomas John Barnardo was revered in London for his work with orphans. One day a dirty, destitute little boy came to him and asked for admission to the London orphanage. Somewhat surprised, Barnardo said, “But, my boy, I don’t know you. Who are you? What do you have to recommend you?” The little boy held up his tattered coat and said, “If you please, sir, I thought these here rags would be all I needed to recommend me.” Barnardo swept the child up into his arms and said, “You are right, little fellow! Welcome to our orphanage!”
Just as that little boy’s ragged attire was all he needed to receive help from Dr. Barnardo, our sins are all we need to receive help from Jesus. But, like that boy, we must see our need for help. It is only when we stop attempting to either justify our sinful behavior or cleanse our own sins that Christ can step in and provide the forgiveness we need.
One writer has described it this way:
God has no message and no blessing for men who are trying to justify themselves. As long as you try to make a good name for yourself, God can only condemn you; but when you come into His presence and confess yourself a lost, guilty sinner, God has a message and a blessing for you. “God so loved the world” – a wicked, corrupt and ungodly world, and you and I belong to it.
Going back to the illustration of the little boy and the orphanage, yes, his rags got him inside the doors. However, his admittance was also dependent upon the love, grace, and authority of Dr. Barnardo. So now let’s take all this and apply it to heaven. If heaven is the orphanage and God the Father is playing the role of Dr. Barnardo, how does the lost sinner get in? He gets in by way of his sins (rags). But those sins must stand as forgiven, and God the Father only forgives the sins of those who place saving belief in God the Son (Jesus).
You ask, “But didn’t Christ’s death on the cross pay the sin debt for the whole world?” Yes, it did, but that doesn’t mean that the whole world is saved. Only those who stop trying to work out their own salvation and, instead, simply believe in Christ for the forgiveness of sins are saved. While it’s true that Christ’s death on the cross is sufficient for God to forgive all sins, that death is only efficient for those who believe in Christ as Savior. So, when everything is said and done, the question that each of us must ask is, “Am I in?”