“I’m going to Heaven when I die.” About 3 out of 4 Americans believe that, with the largest percentage being, not surprisingly, among those over the age of 50. The way to get there is a lot more fuzzy in people’s minds, however. About half of those who believe in Heaven are certain they will go there. About a third of the rest of that group are just hoping they get there. I’m often asked about who makes it in as in – ‘Pastor, did Sam go to heaven?’ I cannot answer that question. Jesus is the Gatekeeper: I am not.
But, I do know how to be absolutely certain about an eternal home with our Father. We don’t have to wait for the Final Judgment. God has made an agreement (the Bible calls it a covenant) that is based on His gracious Gift, not on our human efforts. It is at the heart of our faith. In Ephesians 2 we read: “You were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. . . . It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! . . .
Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. Ephesians 2:1-10 (The Message)
To be sure, there is work to do when it comes to being Jesus’ follower. That is why Paul urges us to “work out your salvation.” Becoming a holy, beautiful child of God is a life-long journey- the Holy Spirit works in us to lead us to overcome sin, to love, to radiate the Light of Christ. But, getting ‘right with God,’ is not something you or I can choose to do. It is a grace gift, freely provided to us, so that we cannot boast, look down on others, or become like that proud religious man in Jesus’ parable who prayed this arrogant prayer: “I thank you, Lord, that I am not like other men.”
Tragically, too many who claim to be Christians believe that they will go to heaven because they can say – “I’m basically a good person.” There is a BIG problem with that statement. It ignores the fact of sin, that we are ‘dead in our sins’ to the Presence of God. “But, Jerry, I’m not a really bad guy.” You can be a model citizen, generous towards others, kind, and gentle and still be an ordinary sinner.
The inarguable declaration of the Word is this – “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.” Not one of us is flawless and God does not grade on a curve. Many hope for Heaven based on some ‘religious’ choices. They point out their record of church attendance, or their effort to keep the 10 Commandments, or their long record of community service, and hope it is enough. It isn’t.
So how can we know that we are ready to meet God?
We trust Jesus, fully and completely, in faith. “The one who is the true Light, who gives light to everyone, was going to come into the world.” (John 1:9, NLT) “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.” (John 3:16-17, NLT)
Are you prepared to meet God? It is not a silly question. It is more important than any other consideration because it is about eternity. I know that I am ‘going home’ because Jesus Christ has open door for me and for all those who will trust Him. Here is a fact – I am already enjoying Heaven! How can that be? When I worship Him, when I live in harmony with His will, when I love as He loves me – Heaven is in my heart. Yes, I know that one day, maybe tomorrow, maybe 20 years from now my Savior will meet me at the other end of the Valley of the Shadow of Death and say, “Hello, son. Welcome home, forever!”
Here is a word from the Word. Jesus told his friends this on the night before He went to the Cross for us. “Don’t be worried! Have faith in God and have faith in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house. I wouldn’t tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you. After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together. You know the way to where I am going.” (John 14:1-4, CEV)
(Selah sings – let this beautiful song lead you to worship today.)
How deep the Father’s love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory
Behold the Man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished
I will not boast in anything
No gifts no pow’r no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection
Why should I gain from His reward
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom
Stuart Townend © 1995 Thankyou Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
CCLI License # 810055