Psalm 15 opens by asking the question everybody wants answered: “O Lord, who may abide in Your tent; who may dwell on Your holy hill?” In other words, how can we get to heaven, to be where God is — the ultimate goal of mankind? But the answer is more than daunting!
Verse 2 starts by giving the “minimum requirements”: “He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart.” It goes on further, but we may as well stop there — because no one is able to live up to those things! One might as well say, “All you have to do to graduate from college is to make a perfect score on every paper, and never make a mistake.” It cannot be done!
This is the same standard that Jesus laid down for us at the end of Matthew 5 in the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” (5:48) Perfect, God-like holiness is an impossible standard for a sin-tainted mankind. Psalm 14:1 had just finished proclaiming “There is none who does good.” And now we find that integrity, righteousness and truth — in the HEART no less — are the standard for heaven and fellowship with God. None of us can live up to that.
It should cause despair in the heart of anyone who seriously seeks heaven. But that despair — call it “poverty in spirit” — is the key to knowing God and attaining heaven. Jesus opened that same Sermon on the Mount by proclaiming, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” When we admit that we are NOT people of integrity, NOT righteous, and NOT truthful, and that we need help to be saved, then God shows us that He has indeed provided a Savior for us, His Son Jesus Christ. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (II Corinthians 5:21)
When we realize that we can’t earn our way to heaven through that impossibly perfect standard, then we can see that “all we have to do” to get there is to admit that we don’t deserve it — and put our faith in Jesus instead of in our own inadequate righteousness. Earning heaven is impossible. Receiving it as a free gift is very possible, for anyone who will call on Him!