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If you aren’t aware, Victoria has recently introduced a law banning “practices that seek to change or suppress someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity”.
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has updated its website to describe what is allowed and what is illegal. It is rather scary stuff. But more than that, at times it is just plain confusing.
This is not a good thing. If we are to properly assess this legislation and decide how best to respond as Christians, we need at the very least to understand it.
So I thought I would email the Human Rights Commission to get some clarity.
The following is what I wrote.
To whom it may concern,
I am finding it difficult to navigate what is or isn’t considered a “change or suppression” practice based on the information on the humanrights.vic.gov.au website.
I was wondering if you could please provide clarity on a couple of issues.
The Definition of “Suppression”
I have not been able to find a clear definition of what it means to “suppress” one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The closest I was able to find was in the factsheet where this question was proposed: “Can I run a support group designed to help people not act on their same-sex attraction?”The implication is that to “suppress” one’s sexual orientation, is to “not act on” one’s sexual attraction.This understanding seems to be backed up by other places on the website where talk of being celibate or not engaging in a same-sex relationship is also deemed a “suppression”.I really want to make sure I am understanding this correctly, so I thought I would ask a few clarifying questions:
- Is “to not act on one’s sexual attraction” a good definition of “suppression” of one’s sexual attraction?
- Consequently, is it a “suppression practice” to instruct an individual directly that they should or must not act on their same-sex attraction?
- Or to put it another way, is it a “Suppression Practice” to instruct an individual that to act on their same-sex attraction would be a sin (an act condemned by God or needing repentance from)?
- Or to put it a third way, is it a “Suppression Practice” to instruct an individual that the ONLY context in which they can act on any form of sexuality is within heterosexual marriage and the only alternative is celibacy?
- If a religious leader is actually supportive of same-sex marriage, but instructs an individual that they must not act on their same-sex attraction until they get married, is this a “suppression practice”? Especially if it means they are required to remain celibate for the rest of their life if they do not find a partner to marry.
The issue of Heterosexual Suppression
- If it is a “suppression practice” to instruct an individual that they must not act on their sexuality outside of marriage, is it also deemed a suppression practice to instruct someone to not act on their opposite-sex attraction within the same parameters? As with my last question, especially if it means they are required to remain celibate for the rest of their life if they do not find a partner to marry.
- Are there any ways that a heterosexual orientation can be deemed being “suppressed” under this legislation? Are there any protections for heterosexuals from harmful suppression practices?
Personal agency over personal identity
I have also found it difficult to understand some of the statements around “gender identity”.The website defines it this way: “Gender identity is someone’s personal sense of being female, male, a blend of both or neither.” and the legislation itself similarly defines it this way: “Gender identity means a person’s gender-related identity, which may or may not correspond with their designated sex at birth, and includes the personal sense of the body (whether this involves medical intervention or not) and other expressions of gender, including dress, speech, mannerisms, names and personal references.”These definitions describe gender identity as one’s “personal sense” of one’s gender or body.
My question is, if this is the definition of gender identity, how can the Human Rights website claim that such a sense CAN NOT change, even if one wants it to?If it is one’s personal sense of self, doesn’t that automatically mean that it is a personal matter? It’s one’s own identity, not anyone else’s. Doesn’t it mean they should be allowed to have agency over their sense of self if they wish to change it? In fact, the very fact that one may wish to change it (which is acknowledged on the website) suggests that one’s own “personal sense” is fluid and on a spectrum that can indeed change.
If people do have personal agency over their personal sense of self, on what basis it is illegal for adults to be prevented from seeking to grow or transition or change into what they believe is their “true self”. Who is to tell them what is or isn’t their true self?
The website states: “The way someone describes their sexual orientation and gender is completely up to them. Everyone deserves to be surrounded by people who understand and support them.” and yet it also states that you specifically cannot support someone who wants to change their gender identity. How is that not a contradiction? Either it is “completely up to them” to describe their “personal sense” of gender and their body or it is not. Either “everyone deserves to be surrounded by people who understand and support them” or they don’t.
My second question on this issue is, with the definition of gender identity being as stated, how can it be claimed that “There is no evidence that…gender identity can be changed.” ?
There are many testimonies of people whose “personal sense of being female, male, a blend of both or neither” has changed over their life. Many trans people acknowledge a certain point in their life in which they came to understand that how they had previously thought of themselves was not their true self. They may have thought of themselves as a boy and over time changed in their personal sense of self. We know that our identity is fluid and develops grows and changes. There are even those who identify as gender fluid and would say that on one day their personal sense of self is one day and on another their personal sense of self is different. Lastly, there are those who de-transition or change their personal sense of gender later in life. With all of these examples, I don’t know how the claim that “There is no evidence that…gender identity can be changed.” can be maintained.
Thank you for considering these questions, and I do appreciate you taking the time to respond. I very much want to understand this legislation and for it not to be misunderstood or mischaracterized.
Please contact me if anything I’ve written does not make sense.
I will keep you informed if they respond to this email.
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If you don’t know this about me, one of the artforms I have loved to explore over the last 20 years is something called “Biblical Storytelling”. Basically, it is committing to memory large sections of Scripture (usually narrative texts) and performing them with the dramatic passion that they deserve!
This Easter I am preparing a performance of John 17-20. Four epic chapters covering Jesus’ arrest, trial death and resurrection from John’s gospel.
I am offering this performance to churches in Victoria, Australia and so if you know of any churches that might be interested in booking a performance, please pass it on.
It probably will go for around 45 minutes and could be done either as part of a larger service or as a stand-alone performance (maybe with accompanying songs or gospel talk).
My fee would be $400.
At present, I am looking for bookings on Good Friday, Easter Saturday & Easter Sunday (morning and evening).
If this is something your church might be interested in, please get someone to contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or fill in the form below:
What does Biblical Storytelling look like?
If you have never seen me perform biblical storytelling or you can’t imagine how one person just reciting the bible could keep people’s attention, then check out these videos below:
If you have booked Simon you can download these graphic elements to help you advertise your event:
Watch Below – Sat 12 Jan @ 7pm (AEDT)
Poetry Party Program
INTRO: Simon Camilleri
REFLECTIONS ON STUFF
“Without a Thumb” read by Matthew Salter
“Braaains” read by Renee Mackenzie
“Know Thyself” read by Dee Kaylock
“The End of The World” read by Daniel Farrugia
“Selling Sea Shells” read by Derek Bendall
“The Apostles Epistles” read by Marcy Paynter
“A Better Betty Botter” read by Renee Mackenzie
“Love Hate Relationship” read by Daniel Farrugia
“#LetThemStay” read by Kable Dale
“Easter Saturday” read by Eugene Wong
“Death” read by Roslyn Hicks
~ INTERMISSION ~
“When Santa SHARED the Gospel” read by Bernadette Camilleri
“McGloon’s Balloons” read by Cameron Semmens
“Mary Had an Evil Lamb” read by Matthew Salter
(a surprise from Simon)
MAN & GOD
“The Man in the Moon” read by Roslyn Hicks
“Sonshine” read by Andrew May
“Wow God, Thank You, Sorry, Please” read by John Englezos
CLOSE: Simon Camilleri
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Simon Says Publishing
Have you heard from some people on social media that there are hundreds of deaths from the covid vaccines in Australia?
To set the facts out right from the start… It’s not true. There have been only nine.
But, here is where this misinformation comes from.
Misreading the TGA
Often, people point to the DAEN (Database of Adverse Event Notifications) report released weekly by Australia’s TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration). In the report, it states how many number of cases there were “where death was a reported outcome”. For the latest report that number is 556.
Understandably, people read that and at first presume that means that there were 556 deaths from the covid vaccine.
This then gets passed on and circulated without question and eventually it even ends up on official politcal party websites (such as THIS from Clive Palmer and the United Australia Party), further giving seeming credibility to the idea.
If you have been mislead by this claim going around, I understand. We trust claims when they sound official and espcially when they are supposedly backed up by the country’s offical reporting agency.
But this is not what the report is saying.
The fact is, whenever someone died within a timeframe that is close to their vaccination, their death gets reported to the TGA. Hundreds of these reports come in, but each one gets carefully assessed to see if the vaccine contributed in any way to the death. After they make their assessment, they publish both sets of data. The number or initial reports and the number of actual cases where the death was caused by the vaccine.
A Birthday Cake Illustration
Think of it like this. If you were asked to find every single death that occured in the week following after the deceased person had eaten birthday cake, you might find hundreds of such cases. Let’s say you found 556.
Then, they investigate each case and discover that out of the 556, 2 were poisoned by the cake, 3 had an allergic reaction to one of the cakes ingredience and a further 4 choked on it. The other 556 were just people who died, because humans are mortal, with no connection to the birthday cake. So 556 reports of death and 9 confirmed deaths by birthday cake.
Now imagine you released both those numbers to the public and people took the chart that reported the 535 cases of death that occured after eating birthday cake and made the claim that the official “Birthday Cake Death Toll” was 556! This would be reporting the death number in your report correctly, but interpreting what it means completely wrong.
It would be especially incorrect if people didn’t even mention how you had also published the actual confirmed death toll from birthday cake as 9.
This is exactly what is happening with the TGA’s report on covid vaccine deaths.
This is how the TGA themselves explain it
If you think I am misinterpreting the data, this is it from the TGA themselves:
“Large scale vaccination means that coincidentally some people will experience a new illness or die within a few days or weeks of vaccination. The TGA reviews all deaths reported in people who have been vaccinated. As the number of vaccinated people has increased, so has reporting of fatal events with a coincidental association with vaccination. This does not indicate a link between vaccination and the fatalities reported. Review of individual reports and patterns of reporting does not suggest the vaccines played a role in these deaths.
Since the beginning of the vaccine rollout to 19 September 2021, approximately 24.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given. So far, the TGA has found that 9 reports of deaths were linked to immunisation from 556 reports received and reviewed.
The overwhelming majority of deaths reported to the TGA following vaccination occurred in people aged 65 years and older. The deaths linked to immunisation occurred after the first dose of Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) – 8 were TTS cases and one was a case of immune thrombocytopenia (ITP).”
Catch that? 556 reports. 9 deaths from the vaccine.
The misinformation that there have been hundreds of deaths caused by the vaccine is all the more persuasive to people because it uses a misreading of a true and official TGA report. But it is so important that we understand what these reports are actually showing and how to read them.
The TGA is also very aware that people have misinterpret and misued the data they provide:
“We are aware of false claims that have been circulating based on misinterpretation of information published in the DAEN. Reports are entered into the database without being assessed to determine if they are caused by the vaccine. We encourage people to report suspected side effects, even if there is only a small chance that the vaccine caused them. For this reason, publication of a report in the DAEN does not mean that the vaccine caused the adverse event, but simply reflects the observations of the person who reported the event.
In some states and territories, the reporting of specific events, such as death, that occur closely following a vaccination is mandatory for health professionals. For this reason, the number of adverse events and deaths reported in the DAEN is not an indication of the safety of the vaccines. Expert review and investigation are needed to determine which events were caused by the vaccine. The outcomes of our analysis of adverse event reports are communicated in this report each week.”
And just in case you think I took the TGA out of context, you can read the above quotes HERE.
The big message we can actually interpret from the TGA report is just how ridiculously safe the vaccines actually are. Think of it. 9 deaths in around 26,130,313 doses of vaccine so far in Australia! That’s a 1 in 3 miliion, or 0.00003% chance of dying from the vaccine based on Australian statistics. Don’t believe anyone who tries to exaggerate the risk or tell you the lie that “more people die from the vaccines than from covid”.
You’ve literally got about twice as much chance of being struck by lightning in Australia.
The other thing this report shows is how much our health system is actually committed to transparency. Despite all the claims of cover-ups and conspiracy and data being swept under the carpet, if that were the case, then they are doing a terrible job at hiding the information. On the TGA website, they list every single reported side effect and death of every medicine in Australia. It’s crazy transparency.
But with that exhaustive amount of data, it is understandble that the interpretation can easily be lost in translation by those who are afraid of the vaccines and will gravitate to anything that might confirm their fears (not to mention others who are deliberately trying to undermine vaccines).
PLEASE, if you have been fooled by this misinformation, do not receive any judgment from this article. Just treat it as a learning experience and look twice next time. Always check the source of the information you are being given and have a healthy level of skepticism in our institutions, but not an unhealthy level.
If you know people who might find this article helpful, please share this information and if you see people suggesting there have been hundreds of deaths from the vaccines in Australia, please lovingly and patiently help them see what the TGA report actually says.
Living in light of the New Testament, it is sometimes difficult to understand what God was doing in the Old Testament. How was He preparing the world for the coming of the gospel? Should we be able to “see” Jesus in every page from Genesis to Malachi? Is the New Testament just a big 180 from God’s plan, or does the Old Testament naturally lead to the New?
As I have reflected on this, I have observed that there are four 4 key ways the Old Testament points to the gospel of the New Testament:
1. By SHOWING it.
God does not change and so, although the good news about Jesus has not yet been revealed, the principles of the gospel are there in the Old Testament. People are still saved only by grace through faith, not by works. So the Old Testament can show us God and His character, and his gospel message of mercy in the face of judgement.
2. By FORESHADOWING it.
The Old Testament is filled with characters, rituals and events that are revealed to being “types” or “shadows” of the reality that is to come in Christ. Think of the kingship of David, the sacrificial system and the redemption of the Israelites from slavery through the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. This foreshadowing can be more cryptic, but the New Testament illuminates for us where to see them.
3. By PROMISING it.
God promises, through the prophets, the coming of the Messiah and the good news. This is much less cryptic or subtle. In fact, at times God directly tells us exactly what He plans to do. He tells us He will give us a New Covenant. He tells us He will send the Messiah. He tells us He will establish the Kingdom of God that will last forever. The exact shape of what the coming of the Messiah would look like was only fully understood when Jesus arrived, but he arrived to a Jewish community that had expectations based on what God had promised. Scattered through the Old Testament the prophesies promising the gospel are there and they are many.
4. By NEEDING it.
The Old Testament also expresses the dilemma or the “bad news” that the good news would come to solve. It displays the problem of sin, the reality of judgement, the brokenness of life, the hardness of our hearts, the inability of humans to fulfil the law, the distance of God and the need for reconciliation. The Old Testament at times simply leaves us with a vacuum that creates the longing and the thirst for something better, even if it doesn’t always tell us what that better will be. The Old Testament shows us our need and the New Testament reveals Christ as the satisfaction of that need.
Are you hunting for some creative, gospel-focused, tried and tested, free ideas and resources that your church can use this Christmas?
Well, here are three that I have developed and used myself, and that you can use for free as well!
“When Santa Learned the Gospel” Carols Pack
I published my first children’s book called “When Santa Learned the Gospel” back in 2017. It’s a quirky Christmas book that shares the gospel in a unique and very engaging way, by looking at it through the eyes of Santa and his “naughty and nice” philosophy. Literally tens of thousands of people across the globe have used this little book as a way to start gospel conversations at Christmas, and churches especially have used it as a gift for visitors to their carols services.
Now the book isn’t free, but I also spend a year and thousands of dollars to develop a whole series of free resources that compliment the message of the book. These are all part of the “Carols Pack” and they include things like an original song, a theatrical script, a high-quality animated version of the story of the book, and a whole bunch more.
Watch the videos below or click on the button to find out more about the “Carols Pack”.
“A Zoom Christmas Story” Online Play in 4 Acts
Last year (2020), like many in the world, my church couldn’t hold an in-person carols event, and so I directed an online event which featured all the elements of an entertaining and evangelistic carols night. You can watch the entire event HERE.
One of the features of this event was a play that I wrote and directed, called “A Zoom Christmas Story”. It basically tells the first few chapters of Luke’s gospel as if it was a Zoom meeting. As you can imagine there is lots of opportunity for humour, but there is also a really strong gospel message. The benefit of a “Zoom” production is you can actually have your performers reading off the script during the performance, which means it is much easier to put together with non-professional actors. It still requires some rehearsal (especially for knowing when to click on and click off) and it requires some editing after it has been recorded on Zoom, but if you are in lockdown, then this may be a great option for you.
Watch the show on the video below, or click the button to download the script.
“Nazareth” a Hamilton Parody
I wrote a parody of the opening number from Hamilton which tells the Christmas story and message. I had lots of fun writing, filming and editing it and the video went a little bit “viral” which was fun and weird to witness. So, you can use the video to share or play at your church, but if you have a group of good singers/rappers, you might even want to perform your own version of it. I’d love to see that!
Watch the video below, or click the button to download the lyrics.
Giving a Christmas Gospel Talk – a conversation with Andy May
For years I have worked alongside pastor Andy May to put on the Christmas Carols Event at Bundoora Presbyterian Church. We have tried lots of different ideas over the years. But everything has been to serve the aim of communicating the gospel.
Watch the video below as I sit down with Andy and ask him how he thinks about giving a gospel talk at these events.
I hope something in this collection of free resources is useful to you, and if you do use any of it, I would love to hear about it, even I would even more love to see it if it gets recorded or livestreamed. Please put a comment or contact me privately below:
This is a segment from my new Discussion Guide, “Sitting With Job”.
To learn more, go to: www.Job.TheBackyardBard.com
Elihu’s place in the book
In The Book of Job, Elihu is a mysterious character in many ways. Young, passionate and with a name that means “My God is He”, Elihu speaks up for the first time in Job chapter 32, though he tells us that he has been a silent observer to the debate for a while (Job 32:4, 11).
He seems to come out of nowhere and once he is finished his epic speech, he disappears into thin air. Also, he is not mentioned at the end of the book at all. When God gives His assessment of both Job and his three friends, He doesn’t even acknowledge Elihu’s existence (Job 42:7-9). Consequently, we don’t find out if God thinks Elihu has “spoken the truth” or “folly” (Job 42:8). Is Elihu aligned with God, with Job’s friends, with Satan, or with some other position? Frustratingly, the text never really tells us.
Elihu’s purpose in the book
This mysterious nature to Elihu suggests that he has a special role in this point in the story. The epic and lengthy nature of Elihu’s speech presents itself as the great conclusion to the story – the answer to Job’s request to speak with God. Or at least, the only answer Job will get.
Elihu rejects the notion that God Himself would turn up to address Job personally (Job 32:12-14, 34:21-23, 35:9-15, 37:19-24). Elihu’s picture of God is mighty, righteous, just and holy, but He is also completely inaccessible. Like how the clouds are so high above us (Job 35:5) and how you can’t look directly at the sun (Job 37:21), Elihu is confident that Job’s request for a one on one audience with God is arrogant and in vain.
Job’s final defence in Chapter 31 was like his affidavit of innocence. Within this courtroom-like scene, Elihu presents himself, in the absence of God, as the impartial judge to answer Job’s claims (Job 32:17-22). Elihu states he will teach them wisdom (Job 33:31-33) and speak on God’s behalf (Job 36:2). And judge he does! He judges Job’s friends for not being able to prove Job wrong (Job 32:12) and he judges Job for not speaking rightly about himself or God (Job 33:12).
The question remains, is Elihu right? Is Elihu’s role to just be another incorrect voice of folly in this great debate, or does he actually speak words of truth on God’s behalf? As we listen to Elihu’s speech, we will find both are actually the case. Elihu says many true things about God, but he wrongly dismisses Job’s claims of blamelessness and wrongly assesses God’s purpose behind Job’s suffering (Job 33:19-30, 34:34:11, 36:6-12).
Ultimately it seems Elihu’s role in The Book of Job, with both his correct and false words of judgement, is to prepare Job (and us) for the coming words of the true Judge. By the end of Elihu’s six chapter speech, Job is left with absolutely no hope of meeting with God face to face. As Elihu states in his conclusion, “The Almighty is beyond our reach” (Job 37:23). It is at that point in the story, with all hope gone, that God turns up.
It was the end of World War II and Hitler had just committed suicide. His soul flew off to the afterlife and Hitler found himself waiting in a queue to stand before the Judge with three other soldiers in the line in front of him.
The first soldier stepped forward and the Judge asked, â€œWhat was your greatest sacrificial act?â€
The soldier replied: â€œWell, I was flying over Germany and Iâ€™d run out of bombs, bullets and was low on petrol. I was about to land in a field when I saw a convoy of Nazi tanks and so I decided to sacrifice my life and fly my plane into the convoy, killing several Nazis including one commanding officer.â€
â€œWell done!â€ the Judge said, and with an angelic sound the gates of Heaven opened and the soldier walked in.
The second soldier was a German SS Officer and the Judge asked, â€œWhat was your greatest sacrificial act?â€
The SS Officer replied, â€œWell, once, I torched a whole village to the ground because the mayor refused to say â€˜Hail Hitlerâ€™.â€
The Judge shook his head and pulled a level, opening up a trap door underneath the Officer. He screamed and fell down to hellfire.
Then the third soldier stepped forward and the Judge asked, â€œWhat was your greatest sacrificial act?â€
The soldier replied: â€œI helped smuggle seven Jewish families out of the country and when I was discovered, I was shot in the town square.â€
â€œWell done!â€ the Judge said, and once again the gates of Heaven opened and the soldier walked in.
Hitler was next and he was terrified, not knowing what he was going to say to save him from Hell. Then he got an idea.
He stepped forward and the Judge asked, â€œWhat was your greatest sacrificial act?â€
He replied proudly, â€œI killed Hitler!â€
This is a silly joke, but it does express a few things about how many people perceive the final judgment. Or at least, it’s how some people think Christians perceive it.
I once had a non-Christian work colleague say to me, “Yeah, but you HAVE to do that because you think that will make God love you.” I was baffled as to how she got that perception of how I, or indeed any Christian, thinks about their realtionship with God.
The perception that Christianity teaches that “good people go the Heaven and bad people go to Hell” is one that is still out there, both in our secular society and indeed, I expect, amongst those who might think of themselves as Christians.
But that is not the gospel.
The Bad News part of the Good News
The first part of the gospel message of Jesus Christ teaches that no one is “good enough” to go heaven. Jesus himself said the words “No one is good, but God alone” (Luke 18:19) and other passages, like this one, make it even clearer:
…Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: â€œThere is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.â€Romans 3:9-12
No one can stand before the Judge of the Universe and claim innocence. We are all guilty, no matter what selfless act of sacrifice we can claim to have done. The standard that God expects from us is not that we have one really impressive thing on our resume, or even that we have done more good things than bad things.
Jesus explains the standard to a Teacher of the Law in Mark 12:28-30, when he explained the two greatest commands of God: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.â€™Â The second is this: â€˜Love your neighbor as yourself.”
This is what it means to be a “good” person.
And so, the line “good people go to Heaven” is sort of true. The problem is that, no one fulfills this “goodness” other than Jesus and so no one deserves to go to Heaven but Jesus.
Now, the word “gospel” means “good news”, but the reality is that everyone stands guilty before God is not really good news. But it is the problem that Jesus came to solve. It is when we accept this bad news, that we see our need for a Saviour and hear the good news that he came to declare.
The Good News
The Good News is that God does not leave us to face the Judge and the Judgement without hope of forgiveness.
Jesus came to not only show us how to truly be “good”, but also to take the punishment of behalf of the “bad”.
Jesus came to call people to turn from their sin and to put their trust in him.
Jesus came to offer forgivess and freedom and eternal life and reconciliation.
And all those who would see their need and respond to his call, can stand before the Judge when they die and not pretend that they are good enough for Heaven. They can be honest about their deservedness for judgement because they know that that judgement had already been taken for them in Jesus’ death on the cross.
That is why the gospel is not “good people go to Heaven and bad people go to Hell”.
The gospel is “There are none good enough to go to Heaven. In fact, those who think their good enough end up in Hell. And bad people like you and I are offered Heaven as a free gift in Christ.”
Or to simplify it: “Good people go to Hell and bad people get to go to Heaven”.