Friday, October 16, 2009

It's Not by Works

A few weeks ago, at N.O.W. (our Sunday School Class), we found a startling discovery; something that PROVES good deeds don’t get you into heaven: When Jesus was hanging on the cross, he was flanked on either side by two men who deserved their deaths. They were thieves, liars, cheats, and who knows what else.

One of them said to Jesus that He should get them all down and save them if He really was the Son of God. The man was mocking Jesus, even in the face of certain death, he mocked Him-who-came-to-save.

But the other one, the one that our class made the discovery about, had a different attitude. He spoke out to the other thief and rebuked him for what he’d said to Jesus. He asked the other one what Jesus had ever done wrong. He defended Jesus, saying that He was being punished unjustly.
Then the man said to Jesus that he understood that he’d done wrong things in his life and that he would never be worthy of heaven because of them. The man said he knew he deserved death on the cross. Then he admitted that Jesus was the Son of God by simply asking Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom. Right there, hanging on the cross, Jesus promised the man that they would be together in paradise.
So can someone now explain to me how good deeds are supposed to get you into heaven? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. NO ONE comes to the Father but through ME!”

That man hanging on the cross next to Jesus didn’t get off his cross to go do some great deed before he died that redeemed him in the eyes of the Lord. No. Instead, he died, having known Christ as Savior and that was enough. Period.

Try to argue this one with me and I’ll come back, guns a firin’, because this is as solid evidence as it gets! Jesus TOLD the man, to his face, that they’d be together in paradise! So if that’s not true, then that would make Jesus a liar, even as He died for our sins!

I’ve asked people before if they know where they’re going when they die.

“I’m sure I’m going to go to heaven,” they’ll reply.

“Why do you say that? What makes you so sure?” I ask.

“Well, I go to church, read my Bible, basically I’ve never gotten into a lot of trouble and I’ve done good things; I’m a good person,” is sometimes what the answer sounds like. 

If this were a laughing matter, I’d say, “It’s been nice knowing ya!” and walk away. But it’s not a laughing matter. It breaks my heart to hear people say those things, when it is so simple to have absolute assurance, a guarantee, if you will, that you’ll go to heaven when you die.

In Romans 3:23, the Bible explains that every single person who has ever lived sins. See, God is made of pure holiness, pure light. Sin is the opposite of that, it is pure dark. God cannot permit sin in His presence. Further on in Romans (chapter 6, verse 23) it says that those who sin will die, but that God offers a gift (meaning free) through His son.

This part is really exciting for me, and should be for everyone. God is offering this ticket to heaven FREE! Here’s how you get this gift:

Romans 10:9 (my favorite verse, by-the-way!) says, “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.”

Okay, I’m sorry if I frustrate anyone by saying that this is easy when they don’t get it. But at the same time, this one plus one equation is so frustrating for me when everyone does not automatically know the answer is two.

The book of Ephesians says (chapter 2, verses 8-9) “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (…Another bit of ammunition to my earlier point of the man on the cross…)

Jesus emphasized on the fact that we must repent of our sins. In Luke 13:3 He said, “I tell you, No! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” He repeated those exact words just a few verses later, to drive the point home.

Like I said earlier, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

So now we’ve got a map that leads us down the narrow road – we’ve got to accept that Jesus is our savior and take him as Lord of our lives…. – but the question you might ask now is where does the road lead?

John 14:3, Jesus told his disciples, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

That is a great promise. That is a great guarantee.

C.S. Lewis gave a depiction of heaven that I really like. He said to imagine the best tasting food that you’ve ever had. Then, he said to imagine that tasted like medicine compared to the food that they found in the New Narnia (heaven). That’s what I think it will be like. All the great things of earth will be icky medicine compared to what’s waiting for us.

If anyone ever questions whether they’re going to heaven when they die, please, PLEASE, do not wait. Ask me more if you need to know more or if you don’t fully understand something. It is promised of the place prepared for us also if we don’t go to heaven and that is a place of eternal fire and darkness.

Oh, and incase you're wondering, N.O.W. means No Other Way (but through Christ)!

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