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Will the Road You are on Lead You to Heaven?
Imagine you are going down a road on a dark, rainy night and you see a hand-painted sign that says, "Danger - bridge out ahead." Since it isn't an official highway department sign, would you just ignore it? Probably not. Why? Because there might be a chance that it is right, and you'd rather be safe than sorry.
It's interesting that we live in the information age and are on a relentless pursuit of knowledge, but when it comes to our eternal future, we rely on our own opinions or feelings or the creative imaginations of others -- instead of the only real source we have of knowledge of God, which is the Bible.
Let's consider the Bible. You can argue whether or not it is actually the word of God, but the truth is, it just might be right. That Bible says that you are headed down a road and the bridge is out ahead. In other words, there is not a bridge to get you where you want to go when you die. You are going to jump off into the darkness.
Aren't we all going to heaven?
What about Heaven? . . . . . Though the Bible has a lot to say about Heaven, most of us don't seem to know much about it -- but everyone wants to go there! In fact, almost everyone EXPECTS to go there! One poll says that 80% of Americans believe they are going to Heaven when they die.
Of course no one wants to talk about or hear about or think about that other place -- Hell. Maybe it doesn't really exist anyway. But if it doesn't exist, then does it matter how we live right now?
The English philosopher John Locke (1632-1704), who heavily influenced the leaders of the American Revolution, wrote that men will guide their actions according to whether "they are likely to procure them happiness or misery from the hands of the Almighty," and therefore, he concludes, ethics cannot work without a heaven and a hell.
We know, of course, that rewards and punishments work, because we use them in raising our children, we use them in our school systems, we use them in business, and we use them in our own system of laws. Do we think that God has not figured this out? If He is all-knowing then it stands to reason that He also would know that people need some incentives to be good and to obey Him.
So, if Heaven and Hell are God's incentive package, just what exactly what does it take to get to go to heaven?
Let's say that you died today, and as you stand before God, He asks you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” What would your answer be?
The answers most people would give would be "I've been pretty good," or "I've done my best," or "I'm not a bad as some people," or "I've done more good than bad," as if there is a cosmic scale that balances our good and bad.
Are there any requirements for going to heaven? Yes, there are! The Bible talks a lot about Heaven and how to get there. In fact, the Bible is not really a good book of good sayings. It actually is God reaching out to us in love to show us the way back to Him.
Let's consider for a minute the very misleading and even dangerous half-truth going around that says -- "God loves everyone -- and everyone (who is not a mass murderer) is going to heaven." Please understand that although the Bible does say that God loves every person, there is nothing in the Bible that supports the second part--that we go to heaven by default if we haven't been really bad!
The Bible does say that God is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
But also it says, "to all who received Him [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12).
There are couple of important points here.
* First, there are conditions: that we repent, receive and believe.
* Second, not everyone is a child of God. The Bible says that everyone is created by God, but only if we fulfill the conditions do we become a child of God.
Now let's look at how we can fulfill the conditions.
You see, God has a plan -- a plan for us to reconnect to Him, to be re-united with Him, to find our way into a real relationship with Him. He has a definite plan, and it is the only plan, the only way. There is no other way -- even if you are sincere. God's know the way, the road that leads to Him, and we must follow the path He points out.
So let's see what the Bible says about His plan:
First of all, the Bible says that God is perfect -
The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works. (Psalm 145:17)
Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?And in order for us to go to heaven, we have to be perfect -- without sin -- having never done anything wrong -- our hearts must be "pure" or clean and white.
Who may stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart.
Our culture has managed to change God from a holy, fearfully awesome, powerful, perfect diety to a kind old grandfatherly type (like Santa Claus) who overlooks all our wrong-doings. But actually, God who is holy and perfect cannot just overlook anything, nor can He or will He let anyone or anything taint His perfect Heaven.
You see, our problem is that our heart is not clean and pure and our actions are not perfect.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
So, if God cannot overlook our wrong-doings, how can we ever get to go to Heaven if we are not perfect? Here is the good part -- God's plan! God knows that we cannot be perfect and so He provided a Way, a way that also satisfies His sense of justice and His purity.
This is really exciting, because, unlike other world religions, God's way does not involve us striving to be good, or doing penance, or sacrificing things for Him, or trying to straighten ourselves out. No, God's way involves simply trusting Him. Keep reading and I know you will get excited about this, too!
This can be explained as simply as A - B - C.
FIRST of all, we need to ADMIT that we have done wrong.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
We need to understand that before God, the payment for the things we have done wrong (sins) is death.
For the wages of sin is death.
Throughout history, man has tried everything imaginable to reach God. Numerous religions have been invented to try to bridge the gap. But none of them have been able to do that because they all try to reach God without going about it His prescribed Way.
God loves us in spite of our condition, and He has provided a WAY -- one way--- for us to be forgiven and to come into a relationship with Him.
That WAY is JESUS
Jesus is the only answer to the sin that separates us from God. There is no other way. Jesus made that very clear when He was here on earth.
You see, you cannot make Jesus into just a nice, gentle man. He was a revolutionary! And He said things that upset the prevailing trends of the day -- and they are still upsetting today. Like when He said,
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
"And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."
There isn't much PC or tolerance in that statement, is there?! He meant tha t no other belief or religion or action would do you any good.
Have you ever tried to work your way through a maze puzzle? Some roads you try end in a deadend, don’t they? Only one way will get you to the other side.
That’s the difference in Jesus and all other religions. Only Jesus can get you to Heaven.
Jesus explained it this way when He said,
"I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved." (John 10:9)
The SECOND thing we need to do is to BELIEVE that Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty for our sins. This also means that we must do a military “about face.” The Bible calls this “repenting,” but it means that we turn around from going our own way, and follow Jesus.
Remember, God cannot just overlook our sins. Because of the things we have done wrong, we are separated from God, but [here is the good part] Jesus’ death on the cross satisfied our debt to God.
For instance, let’s say that through negligence, you had destroyed someone’s very expensive property. In court, the judge says that because you are unable to pay for it, you will have to go to jail. Then, at the last minute, a stranger comes in and says that he is willing to pay for the damage so that you can go free.
This is exactly what Jesus has done for us.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son,
that whoever believes in Him should not perish,
but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
Jesus death on the cross paid for our sins and bridged the gap between us and God.
"For he (God) hath made him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5:21)
"For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust,
that He might bring us to God." (1 Peter 3:18)
Now, because of Jesus, our relationship to God can be restored.
Does this mean that everyone in the world will be able to know God now?
Well, yes and no. YES, because they are now potentially ABLE to know God. But NO, because there is something else we must do.
We must also accept the gift that Jesus offers to us.
If someone offers a gift to you, it is not yours until you take it. No matter what they tell you about that gift, you have the option of receiving it or refusing it.
But to all who have received him – those who believe in his name –
he has given the right to become God’s children. (John 1:12)
Here is the gift Jesus offers to you:
• He died to pay the penalty and debt for your sins.
• Because of that, He can offer you forgiveness for anything you have ever done.
• He brings you into right relationship with God. (He said "I am the door.")
• He will prepare a place for you to be with Him in Heaven.
And here is what we have to do:
A. We must Admit that we have sinned and need Jesus.
B. We must Believe and receive (or accept) His gift of salvation, and we must repent of our own way and turn and follow Him.
C. We must Confess that Jesus in now our Lord and Master.
If you have not been living an obedient life for Jesus, don’t count on some past experience of being baptized, going to or joining a church, or even praying a prayer. Becoming a Christian is making a decision to believe in Jesus, to follow and obey Him, and to live the way He wants you to live.
If you are ready to make that commitment to Him, pray this prayer:
Remember . . .
Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me.
I realize that I have sinned and that my sins separate me from You.
Thank You for dying to pay for my sins, so that I can know You.
Please forgive me for my sins and for going my own way.
I know that someone or something will be my master
and so I choose to make You my Master.
I want You to be in control of my life.
Come into my heart and teach me how You want me to live.
Teach me how to know You and how to follow You.
C. We must also Confess that Jesus in now our Lord and Master.
That 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. (Romans 10:9)
How do we confess?
• By telling someone (a friend or family member)
• By going to a church or a small group of believers and telling them about your decision.
• By being baptized. Being baptized is the first thing the Bible tells us to do after we decide to follow Christ. It is our public proclamation of what has happened inside of us.
When you invite Christ into your life, the Bible says you become a new creation.
So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;
what is old has passed away – what is new has come!
(2 Corinthians 5:17)
It isn’t that you have just decided to be a better person, it’s that God has now changed you, and He has put His Holy Spirit inside you.
The Holy Spirit is your personal Guide and your Teacher. Through Him, God wants to add to your life character qualities, such as, patience, honesty, gentleness, dependability, faith, humbleness, and moral purity. He wants to take away anger, deceitfulness, stinginess, lust, greed, etc.
Our goal is to become an obedient DISCIPLE of Jesus Christ.
You cannot simply believe in Jesus and trust Him for salvation, and not obey Him!
We have a very distorted idea in America about Jesus. Many Americans believe that they love Jesus and they understand that He loves them. They just do not want to obey Him and to live the way He wants them to live. But He said,
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15)We like to say we love Jesus, but we're really more interested in what we will get out of it than wanting to obey Him or live in a loving relationship with Him.
I'm afraid that the church in America has led people into a false belief -- that they can have Jesus and His bridge to heaven without obeying Him, submitting to Him, and following His commandments. Let me say this clearly, the Bible does NOT teach that there is nothing required of you. In fact, God requires that we give Him our whole life and turn over control of our life to Him. He insists on making our decisions for us -- not Hollywood, not Washington, D.C., not our family, nor our own desires. The church has so much wanted people to accept Christianity that they have watered down the requirements! Church has become another entertainment venue and has not told people they that must obey God and learn how to follow Him.
We have been told again and again that God's grace and love are free. That is true in respect to the fact that there is absolutely nothing we can ever do to earn His gift to us. However, Jesus' gift to us is not cheap! It will cost us everything.
"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.
When a man found it, he hid it again,
and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field."
What is a disciple?
• A disciple hears and obeys the voice of God. Jesus said in 1John 5:3
“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.”
• A disciple enjoys spending time with God, by praying and reading the Bible.
As the deer pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after thee, O God (Psalm 42:1).
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee (Psalm 119:1).
• A disciple goes to a church or meets with a small group of believers. Hebrews 10:25 instructs us:
“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,
as the manner of some is;
but exhorting [encouraging, challenging] one another...”
Did you know that God established the church for your benefit! Church often has a bad rap nowadays, and sometimes deservedly so. Church in the New Testament was not a big building with wonderful music and programs for people. No, it was small groups of people meeting in homes to love and encourage each other, to be friends and help each other live the way Jesus wants us to live. I guarantee that you cannot keep living the way God wants you to if you don't find for yourself a small group of believers to be involved with.
“Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples –
if you have love for one another."
Getting to Know God
One of the greatest privileges of your new life is the opportunity to get to know God. In fact, God is pleased when you want to spend close, intimate time with Him. Take time each day to develop this relationship. It will bring you endless joy and a pleasure that no physical “high” can match. Have you ever seen a bumper sticker that says, “High on Jesus” or “Hooked on Jesus”? These people have discovered the thrill of an intimate relationship with God. It is worth the effort!!
Here are some steps to living in intimacy with God:
1. Get rid of the debris in your life. If there is a sin that the Holy Spirit convicts you of, take it to Jesus immediately, repent of it and ask Him for forgiveness and cleansing. The sooner you do this the quicker you will grow in your relationship to Him.
2. Settle the issue of who is boss. You are not going to have a close relationship with God if you want to run things yourself. You are called to be His disciple — let Him lead you!
3. Take time every day to pray and to read the Bible. This is the way God speaks to you and it is absolutely vital that you hear from Him. When we read the Word of God He is expressing His thoughts to us.
4. Find a small group of belivers to meet with, or find a "good" church that actively teaches this message of salvation. Then be baptized and get involved in the Lord's ministry!
Finally, remember this . . .
God does love you absolutely, but He also has some demands of His own for you. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that whatever you do or however you live is OK with God. That is a lie that Americans have swallowed whole. God loves you, but like a good parent, He also will discipline you if you don't obey Him.
"Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best;
but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness"
The Bible says, "For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God" (Deuteronomy 4:24). This jealousy is not a bad thing, but a good thing. God wants what is best for you and He is not satisfied until He becomes most important in your life.
You see, the goal of Christianity is not to get what we want, or to be happy, or even to be good -- it is the satisfaction of the soul through our relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not just a moral code we live by. This makes Christianity radically different from ANY other religion. If your heart doesn't long to know God, then reading your Bible, praying, and going to church will not really get you to that goal.
"As the deer pants after the water brooks, so my soul longs for You, O God"
I would love to hear from you if this has been helpful to you, or if you need help finding a group of believers to meet with.
Live for Jesus!!
Mary Jo Freeman
 A History of Christianity by Paul Johnson, p 339.
 The Flannery O'Connor Repository -- American novelist Flannery O'Connor said, "If there were no hell we would be like the animals. No hell, no dignity."
What does it mean to be a "Christian" today?
Here are 4 things it means:
1. Having your sins forgiven and getting to go to heaven
This is a great decision to make, but it is only one part.
2. Having a relationship with Jesus.
This is the greatest privilege, to be in right relationship with God and be able to talk with Him and know He hears you.
3. Obeying Christ and patterning your life after Him.
This is a vitally important part of the process. This person will begin to try to live like a Christian. He will learn how to develop his relationship with Jesus.
4. Receiving inner emotional healing.
This is one of the most exciting benefits to inviting Christ into your inner life. He wants to heal hurting, broken people, and this part is often overlooked!
Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted, bind up the wounded, and set the captives free! (Luke 4:18)