I was sitting in a classroom of people today during the Sunday meeting, as we often do during the first service, when I suddenly heard something that, I must admit, caught me slightly off guard. The Pastor had been speaking about prayer, and posed the question to the class, "If you could pray for one thing right now, what would it be?" A few replied that they would pray for their unsaved friends. Others, for help with stress, and others for Spritual health and growth. But here is the part that caught my attention: one of the men responded, that he would ask the Lord that he may "go to heaven." Now, please don't take me the wrong way, I am not by anyway judging this man. But, I looked at him, and I knew: He was unsure of his destination.
The reason I bring this up is not only to bring to the attention of Churches that the truth needs to be taught, but, perhaps, rather to point out to you, that it is only through God and the gift of His Son that we can have certainty of our destination.
Let me explain this further...
Sadly, it is a common misconception in 2009, (and has been for many years) that good deeds will get you to heaven. That if your 'good' outweighs your 'bad' surely you will not be denied entry into heaven, right? Actually, wrong. Am I saying you're a bad person - absolutely not! What I am saying, however, is at the end of the day, you could have done hours of community service, helped out at the soup kitchen every week, and gone to church every Sunday, but still not know the Lord. It is important to understand that no where in the Bible does it say that this is the way to attain Salvation. I once read a quote, "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian, anymore than standing in a garage makes you a car." This is so true. The Bible says, "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." - Isaiah 64:6 None of us are deserving of heaven, none of us live blameless lives.
How is salvation attained then? Must we be perfect? No. But how, then- as the young boy had questioned - does one have a certainty of knowing where they're going to go after they die?
The answer is in the Bible. Almost certainly one of the most read verses in the Bible explains it quite simply:
"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" - John 3:16
God sent His son to die on the cross so that your sins can be forgiven - but you need to accept it. God loves you. You've heard it a thousand times, I know, but I think (and perhaps I'm wrong), but I believe, that it is one of the most forgotten, yet most important ideas to understand. God loves you so much that He wants a relationship with you. Christianity, you see, is much more than going to church. Much more than never swearing, or helping that little old lady across the street. To be a Christian is to come to the Lord God, and accept Christ as your savior. God sent Christ - His own son - to die on the cross, because He loves you - He wants a relationship with you. When Christ died on the cross, the Bible says that the curtain in the temple that had seperated the people from the Lord, split in two. Matthew 27:50-51 reads, "And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom" If you ask for forgiveness of your sins, and ask Christ to come into your life - He will.
Does this mean you can just quickly pray and go on living a sinful life? (But you've got heaven secured, right?) Absolutely not. But if you truly pray with all your heart, and truly acknowledge Christ as your Lord and Savior He will come to live in you. You will come to know him in ways you never knew before, and He will change you inside - He will change you to become like Him. In that way, it is through Christ that we have certainty of a life with Him in Heaven. We have something to look forward to after this life - this life is nothing compared to what we will experience in Heaven. The Bible tells us, "Better is one day in your courts than thousands elsewhere" - Psalms 84:10
It is through the gift of His son, and only through Him that we have certainy of Heaven. That we can have a relationship with the living God. That we can have, Pure Joy.