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ELECTION 08: Huckabee pauses campaign to preach salvation at South Carolina church

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (BP)–Republican Mike Huckabee looked less like a presidential candidate and more like a pastor Jan. 13, telling the morning services at First Baptist Church North Spartanburg (S.C.) that faith in Christ, and not good works, is what is required to enter heaven.

[QUOTE@right@160=To watch Huckabee’s sermon, click here.]A former Southern Baptist pastor at two churches in Arkansas, Huckabee was introduced by longtime friend and First Baptist pastor Michael S. Hamlet, who told the congregation, to applause, “It is refreshing to have someone who doesn’t mind saying the name Jesus.”

Hamlet said the church doesn’t endorse candidates, although he did encourage them to vote by biblical principles and reminded them that the state’s Republican primary is Saturday and the Democratic primary a week later.

Huckabee preached from Luke 18:9-14 — the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector — on what he called the “sin of being good” — what he defined as relying on one’s own good works for salvation.

“We have this idea that the accumulation of good is what gets us in [heaven] and the accumulation of bad is what keeps us out, when the fact is no one has eternal life because of something they have done for God,” Huckabee said. “Eternal life is the result of something God has done for us, and if we ever think it’s any other way, we’re on the path to missing it altogether.”

A so-called “good person” cannot get into heaven based on their works, Huckabee said.

“People don’t go to heaven because they’re good, because good people aren’t qualified to go to heaven,” he said. ” … Heaven is not a place of good people. It is a place of perfect people…. I don’t fit the qualifications as a perfect person…. None of us can go unless something happens to us — unless something changes us, because the standard by which we get in [to heaven] is a standard that none of us can live up to.”

Huckabee told the story of his days as a 21-year-old working for evangelist James Robison, and one of Huckabee’s first tasks was to pick up Southern Baptist pastor Jerry Vines at the airport. Huckabee planned on taking the long route from the airport to the hotel so he could have more time to spend with the well-known pastor and ask him a few theological questions. Instead, Huckabee arrived at the airport and discovered he didn’t have the $2 needed to pay the attendant to get out. Embarrassed, he borrowed the money from Vines, took the quickest route to the hotel and hoped Vines wouldn’t remember who he was.

Drawing a parallel with that story, Huckabee said Jesus has paid the price for entry into heaven.

“There’s not one thing in my background or yours for that matter that would possibly qualify [me] to get in,” Huckabee said. “… The good news is I will not be there alone that day, because Somebody has agreed to be with me at my side…. On the 24th day of August 1965, on my 10th birthday at the Vacation Bible School at the little church where I attended as a kid, I accepted Christ that day, and He promised that the day when … I stood at that gate [of heaven] He would be with me.

“And when they ask me, ‘Why should I let you in?,’ I’ll say, ‘There’s no reason to let me in, but He said He’d cover me.’ He said He’d take care of it, and I’m trusting that He can get me in, because if He can’t [get me in,] I don’t make it.’ … That’s how I get in — not because I’ve done something for Him but because at the cross He did something for me.”

Believers, Huckabee said, “don’t have a lot to be real proud of” but instead “something to be grateful for.”

“And that’s the grace of God. [It] says no matter how good you are, you still need Him, and no matter how bad you’ve been, there’s nothing you can do to make Him quit loving you and being willing to be with you on that day when you need Him the most.”
Michael Foust is assistant editor of Baptist Press. Huckabee’s sermon can be viewed online here.

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