In Luxembourg, someone told a little story that supposedly happened many years ago (probably not). It concerned a parish priest, lost in the countryside, looking for a certain village. He ran across a grumpy old lady walking along the road and enquired of her how to get to the village he was looking for. 'What!” she exclaimed. 'You try to tell us how to find our way to heaven and you can't even find the next village?”Fortunately, today we have GPS (sharp-tongued old ladies still abound anyway). Actually, it is a pretty important question. How do you get to heaven? Most people tell you to just be good. That should do the trick, huh?
Once I visited a young man in Texas. The visit stood out for two reasons”"one was the mean-looking dog that he had the hospitality to shut into another room while I was there. That was good because I don't like huge dogs salivating and looking at me as if I were a Big Mac with lots of onions. The visit also stood out because of his response to a question I posed to him. 'If you were to die tonight and stand before God, and God were to ask you, ”˜Why should I let you into my heaven?', what would you say?” He hesitated then replied, 'I've done some good things and some bad things ...” His voice trailed off. Evidently, he was hoping that the good things would weigh more than the disobedient ones. The problem is those bad things.
Excuse me for repeating myself, but I've thought a lot about that illustration of the inner turmoil of Mother Teresa we talked about a few weeks ago. Probably few humans could boast of as many good works as her. She healed a lot of hurt and lived her life sacrificially. But her heart wasn't settled. I'm not judging her in anyway because it's God's job to judge each of us. All the same, we've got to realize that's it's not what we do that saves us. It's what God did in Jesus Christ on the Cross and what He does in us when we simply put our faith in him that causes the Father to write our name in the book of eternal life. If the number of good things we do on earth determines our entrance into heaven then Jesus died on the Cross for nothing! In that case, we earn our ticket to heaven. But God says we have to repent of our sins and turn towards Him, putting our faith in His grace and mercy.
'For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21 NIV)
Eugene Peterson expresses it like this: 'Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ's sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought. Even though it has only lately”"at the end of the ages”"become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you. It's because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.” (The Message) When we do good things, it's just the overflow of a thankful, obedient heart. We're so glad of what Jesus did for us and in us that we give Him our whole life. He gave His all for us, we do the same for Him. There is a way to eternal life in heaven, and His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Commenting on those who affirm their 'freedom” in Christ to justify certain actions Erwin McManus asks, 'Why does your freedom in Christ look so much like my bondage before Christ?”