There’s an old joke about two hunters in the woods being chased by a bear. One hunter yells out to the other as he runs past, “I don’t have to be faster than the bear, I just have to beat you!” Unfortunately most people think the same is true about gaining entrance to heaven. Just do better than the others, be good and it will all work out fine. The problem this presents is:
Who says how much goodness is required?
Who is keeping score?
And at any given moment, how can I know where I stand?
Does that mean as long as we are better than Adolf Hitler or Attila the Hun we’ve got a shot? But what if we have to be as good as a Mother Theresa or Billy Graham? Okay, maybe our chances aren’t as good.
The Bible goes to the real issue with God and sets it straight for us. None of us deserves to go to Heaven, we are all sinners. His word tells us in Romans 3:23, “Everyone has sinned. No one measures up to God’s glory.” There is no way, through our own “goodness” that we can ever stand in front of a Holy God. We tend to rank sins, but God says sin is sin.
Sometimes that doesn’t sound fair. Don’t all the “good” people deserve to go to Heaven? Well then again who defines fair and what makes one deserving? Hmm, okay, this is getting a little tougher.
Think about this…the designer and creator of the universe (God) also made the rules and the way for salvation. He knew we would sin, and no matter how hard we try we would never reach perfection. Yes, we can be pretty good, but our being good doesn’t result in purity and holiness. With God it’s not just how bad we are, it’s how good we’re not. Again the Bible says, “all have sinned.”
So how do you know you can get into Heaven? You must have faith (absolute trust) in God and His way to heaven. And He didn’t make it difficult–not for us anyway.
Jesus, His only Son (God in the flesh), willingly sacrificed His life through dying on the cross to make the way clear for us to get to our heavenly home. Jesus was/is the sacrifice for our sins. Three days after His death, He rose again. And because He triumphed over death, hell, and the grave, He held the keys to eternal life. He said Himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Peter, one of His closest followers said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Only through Jesus’ death for us can the door be opened–the invitation extended for every man, woman, and child. He did something for us that we could not do for ourselves. He bridged the gap between us and a Holy Father…Jesus became God’s way.
From the cross, Jesus finished the work His Father sent Him to do, by dying for the liar, the gossip, the profane, murderer, thief, abuser, drunkard, and adulterer–every sinner. He died for you and for me. And when He died, He said, “It is finished.”
We cannot measure up, but we can give up, and when we do, the cross bridges the gap, the door is opened, and we can stand clothed in the Holy righteousness of Jesus Christ. “I am the door, and the person who enters through me will be saved…” (John 10:9 NCV). Are you ready to give up on your preconceived ideas about the way to heaven? If “yes” then let’s stop thinking about the “goodness trap,” it’s not an issue….so what is the next step?
Jesus said, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). The door is open and your goodness isn’t the issue. Once you repent of your sins and ask Him to be your Lord and Savior, He works in you to help and free you from the bondages of sin.
Sin promises fun but only results in bondage. Christ offers freedom. He is the “get out of hell for free card.” Why is it so easy? Because God is good, God is love, and God wants nothing more than for you to come home to the Heaven He created for His beautiful but marred creation.
Good works, church membership, denominations, religiosity, good family history, etc. won‘t get you into Heaven. Even saying you believe in God isn’t enough. The Bible says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19). Even the demons believe God exists.
Receiving salvation means desiring a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. So what do you do? The apostle Paul put it pretty plainly…“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:9-10).
Will you pray this simple prayer acknowledging His death for your salvation?
“Lord Jesus, I’m the sinner you came to save and I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Please take control of my life and make me the kind of person You want me to be.” In Jesus’ Name, Amen!
Now there, you’ve done it…it wasn’t difficult was it? There weren’t a long list of things you had to do before you can be forgiven. It was all done for you. That’s what we call grace–God giving us something we need but don’t deserve. And now that you belong to Him, He wants to live His life though you. The God who made you, loves you more than anyone ever could or will, wants the world to see His Son living in you. Sounds like a great deal to me!
Okay, so if you have done this, does that mean your whole life will change? You betcha! And here’s what you should expect. Your new life is being changed from the inside out. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is a spark that cannot be extinguished, a safe harbor in the storms of life, hope and peace that never ends, joy midst sorrow, and life everlasting.
What’s next? Find a good Bible-teaching church and when you feel it’s time, talk to your pastor about being baptized. Begin to share with others what has taken place in your life. And never start and end the day without taking time to pray (talking with God). He does exist and He wants to begin to work on your behalf.
So now you’re fit for Heaven and believe me, it won’t be a place where we sit around with little angel wings bored to tears playing harps. It is a vibrant, exciting, peaceful, ecstatic place of fellowship, love, and never ending joy.
“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:4-9