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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Heaven...The Way In

The good deeds theory says, help a little old lady across the street, add five points. Intentionally drive through a big puddle to splash kids on their bikes (not saying I know anyone who ever did this…in Kenora, Ontario…at the bottom of that big hill by the railroad tracks), subtract five points. Kill someone, subtract 1000 points. Save someone’s life, add 1000 points, and so on. So generally goodhearted people go up and generally bad hearted people go down.

Popular, not biblical. The Bible takes it more in this direction: a simple heartfelt prayer opens the door.



Five great questions of life: Life * Love * Learning * Labor * Leadership

Life: What's My Spiritual Center?

Heaven...The Way In


By Evan Nehring


The Good Deeds Theory...Not So Much
There are many misconceptions about how to get to heaven. The most popular might be the “good deeds” theory. This idea is that, if I believe in heaven, the way in is to have my life’s pile of good deeds outweigh my life’s pile of bad deeds. Help a little old lady across the street, add five points. Intentionally drive through a big puddle to splash kids on their bikes (not saying I know anyone who ever did this…in Kenora, Ontario…at the bottom of that big hill by the railroad tracks), subtract five points. Kill someone, subtract 1000 points. Save someone’s life, add 1000 points, and so on. So generally goodhearted people go up and generally bad hearted people go down.
Popular, not biblical. The Bible takes it more in this direction:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
So we can’t earn our way to heaven because God didn’t want to set it up with the “good deeds” point system. Apparently that would have led to much bragging, which is very selfish and unheavenly.
 
Instead, Forgiveness
God went with a different system where he freely gives forgiveness, then we love him for it and walk in a relationship with him that helps us be good.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
 
Uploaded by Erin Silversmith on Wikimedia Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Florence_Door.jpg. Used by permission.
Distraction
So why doesn’t everyone accept this forgiveness and receive this promise of forgiveness and heaven? It’s a loaded question. Some have no interest in living life God’s way. Some don’t believe that this Jesus character is really God’s Son who died for our salvation. Some are just too busy having fun, distracted by other things.
The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:9-13)

Transformation
So we have to receive this gift of salvation for ourselves, and then this miraculous spiritual transformation takes place in our spirits.
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)
This gift of eternal life requires us to believe. That will involve some digging into who Jesus was historically and what the Bible claims about him.

And when the belief settles into our hearts, we place ourselves willingly under the loving lordship of Jesus. We confess our sin and inadequacy to him. And in that moment, the Holy Spirit rushes in, whether we feel him or not, and wipes our slate clean before Father God.
 
My Way In
This is Sunday School stuff, and I’m so thankful to have learned it in my youth. I remember coming home from Sunday School in Thunder Bay, Ontario, standing at the bottom of the staircase by the front door, and telling my mom that I had prayed with my Sunday School teacher to accept Jesus into my heart. She cried and hugged me. I felt great.

There are millions of stories of how people came to faith. Most of them involve walking through a doorway of love. God is love. God is relational.

When I questioned and pushed back in my teens, my family prayed and loved, and God pursued. But whether or not people are praying for and loving on you, God’s heart is open and his forgiveness is offered freely.
 
The Prayer
If you search for God, he promises that you’ll find him. A simple, heartfelt prayer opens the door.
Jesus, I believe you are the perfect Son of God who died on the cross to save me. Please forgive me for all of the ways I've pushed away from you with my sin and mess-ups. I want you to lead my life. I want you to be my Lord. I choose to walk daily with you.

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