I'm "borrowing" (with permission) these words from the author of another blog I've been reading recently. Rick Lawrenson is the pastor of Nags Head Church in North Carolina.
Following a recent memorial service the following observation was made (not to me directly, but it was relayed to me):
"One thing about you guys - you really seem confident in what you believe and that you can know for sure about heaven. I belong to the ________________ Church, and you don't get that kind of confidence there."
He's right. I had no problem telling the crowd assembled that day that the one we were saying goodbye to was in heaven.
Here's what I said, "And it would be real easy for someone to think that [she] is in heaven today because she was such an incredibly good wife, mother, friend. But we can’t do that, either, because although she was all that and more, that’s not why she’s in heaven today. She was a saint, but not because she was so good. She was a saint because was given the goodness of Christ."
There's the catch. Most religious people and frankly, many, if not most churches teach that heaven is a place where good people go. If that were true, no one would be there but Jesus. It's not goodness that God's looking for, it's perfection. And Jesus was the only one qualified.
The Good News is that He provided a means for us - and none of us are that good - to receive eternal life. But it's not by being religious or even obeying the Big Ten or keeping some list of "holy" acts. We can be religious, but we can't perfectly keep those ten, can we? And the means God provided was His Son Jesus, who lived a perfect life, then was put to death by people who didn't understand who He was or what He came to do. Then 3 days later He rose from the dead to prove He was qualified.
The simplicity of it is its beauty. All that is required of us to get in on His gift of eternal life is for us to believe that Jesus was who He said He was and that His sacrifice did everything necessary for us to acquire His life.
Amazingly simple. That's why it is so roundly rejected. We want to think that there must be something we can do. But we can't. Think about it, why do you think "Fat Tuesday" precedes "Ash Wednesday"? It's the idea that today I can live like hell, but over the next 40 days I can somehow fix it. It doesn't work that way.
However, if we believe - that means to trust completely - in Jesus and Him alone, we can be confident in our eternal status. It's not self-confidence. It's confidence in a promise God made.
Here's what the Bible says - These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life... (1 Jn. 5:13) That word "know" is huge, isn't it.
God doesn't want us guessing; wondering; worried that maybe we are and maybe we aren't. He wants us to know.
"By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life." Proverbs 22:4