I was recently talking with an elderly gentleman about heaven and asked what he felt it would take to get there. He made a joke of it all, saying he didn’t need to go there, that the only thing preachers were after was your money, that Christians were all a bunch of hypocrites, that he would be happier in hell with all his friends, and so on. (Satan’s usual answers!) I finally asked him to think about this one thing; Going to church has nothing to do with going to heaven! You see, the Devil has so saturated the world with his universal “Church is the answer” doctrine that many people don’t even consider what the Bible has to say about the subject of Eternal Life.
Most people have the idea that somehow attending church is the key to preparing their soul to enter heaven when they die. They feel that if they attend church, give a little (or a lot) of their time and money, be a good neighbor, etc. they will be okay when it’s “Quittin’ Time.”
Some groups follow religious church sacraments, believing those “works” will build up a reservoir of grace that will someday give them a ticket to enter the Pearly Gates.
When faced with the example of the thief on the cross, who was saved in a moment, many would simply say, “Well, that was a one-time thing. The rest of us are different.” The truth is, each one of us is right now a “Thief on a cross,” a sinner just minutes away from passing into an eternal heaven with Jesus or into an eternal hell.
Jesus told the story of a man who, when suffering the torments of hell’s fire, called out, begging that a drop of water be placed on his tongue! Yet when living on earth he cared only for his wealth and possessions and nothing for the things of God. Had he cried out for God’s free gift of eternal life while on earth he would not have needed to beg for a drop of water in hell! (Luke 16:22-24. ESV.)
The Lord Jesus is not waiting for us to somehow free ourselves from the nails that hold us on our cross, crawl down, and find a church somewhere to attend until we felt we had earned enough “grace points” for Him to allow us to enter heaven. No, like the thief on the cross, Christ meets us right now, as we are, where we are and offers immediate forgiveness and eternal life as a free gift.
Truth is, we all are as guilty as the thief on the cross who hung beside Jesus so many years ago; perhaps even more guilty, more deserving of hell.
But that thief confessed that he was a sinner when he said, “We are receiving the due rewards of our deeds!” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
In answer to that humble penitent man, Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:41-43. ESV.)
Jesus is waiting for each of us to humble ourselves and ask Him to forgive our sins. Though our sins be many, we need not spend hours trying to remember them all. Christ knows us better than we know ourselves. What He is really looking for is a repentant attitude. Christ is waiting for us to come to Him now, in this life, confessing that we are sinners; asking Him to forgive us and save us from the penalty of our sins. His desire is that we eagerly accept His free gift of eternal life and ask Him to become our Lord and Savior. Remember the thief on the cross. He said little but his heart was in the right place.
This is a bargain that can only be made in this life. Once we pass into eternity there is no second chance! Will you settle this entire matter by asking the Lord Jesus Christ to come into your life today?
Remember, Jesus loves you and we love you also.
Lord bless until next time,
Carl and Susan Peters