Many people believe they can find their own way to heaven. They think they can figure it out on their own. That’s sort of like trying to lift yourself up by your own bootstraps. I’ve often offered a one-hundred-dollar bill to anyone who can do that. I still have that hundred-dollar bill.
Some people think they’ll get to heaven by being a good enough person. Some may even fool others into thinking they’ve accomplished it. But in our heart-of-hearts, we all know who we are and where we’re lacking in this department.
Some think they’ll have the “Christ” experience and transcend from the normal to the paranormal. I once attended a church that started preaching this as doctrine. Instead of rising into the heavenlies they descended into blatant sin and error calling that which was bad good and good bad.
Some think that belonging to the “Right” church, following the “Right” rules and the “Right” regulations will do the trick. Others follow philosophy, psychology, or sociology, biology or some other “ology.” Still others think that education will enlighten them to the point of revelation or evolution will grow them into the presence of God. We can’t think our way to God. He’s bigger than our mind can conceive or our intelligence can comprehend.
Then again, some don’t even believe in God. Some think they can accept or reject Christ, ignore God and still end up with God when they die. An old saying goes, “You don’t prepare for heaven by raising hell here on earth.” Some think someone else is going to pray them into heaven. And then there are those who think there are many paths to heaven. Another old saying goes, “I know there is no Heaven and I pray there is no Hell.”
Some treat Jesus as just one of many avatars along with Buddha and Muhammed. But when they do this, they call Jesus a liar and how could a liar be a reliable spiritual guide. Because Jesus doesn’t mince words, He claims to be the only way to heaven, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”
To understand this and to appropriate its power into our lives we need to take a leap of faith. We need to confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead. For as the passage continues, “For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Those who reject the claims of Jesus say, “Show it to me and I’ll believe.” However, the way it works is: believe and you will see.
These scoffers might want to check the company they keep. When Christ hung on the cross paying the penalty for sin the Chief Priests, the Scribes, and the Pharisees laughed at him saying, “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”
Before we can stand on solid enough ground to take such a great leap of faith we need to arrive at certain realizations.
First, we must realize that God is a person. By this I mean He is a personal God not just a “Force.” Some believe that the mere idea of personhood when applied to God implies some sort of limitation and therefore should never be applied to what is supposed to be an omnipotent and omnipresent reality.
I think this belief arises because these people unknowingly agree with a statement by the ancient Greek philosopher Protagoras, “Man is the measure of all things.” This is usually interpreted to mean that the individual human being, rather than a god or an unchanging moral law, is the ultimate source of value. This belief is taught and ingrained throughout our modern Godless education system to the point that when most people graduate from secondary school this forms part of their subconscious foundation of so-called “Common Sense.”
Based on this erroneous belief people assume since our personalities are limited therefore, personality in and of itself is limited. This, however, is wrong. We are a flawed example. God is the only perfect personality, and though He is endless in all ways we are but a pale reflection.
This realization of God’s personhood is vitally important. Without this knowledge it’s impossible to be convinced of His utter supremacy. If God is not a person how can we sin against Him? And if instead of sinning against a person we are merely violating the rules of some system, that sounds like something we should be able to appeal. If there’s no sin and we’re either working with the “Force” or against the” Force” we might ask, “Is there only one Force or are there multiple “Forces” out there?” And if there are multiple “Forces” can we chose to be ruled by one that supports our lifestyle choices, so we don’t work against it?
This type of thinking easily becomes circular and leads to philosophical tail chasing.
When we acknowledge that God is a person we’re almost assuredly convicted of our sins. We instinctively realize that there’s no way for us to measure up to the holiness of God. We understand intuitively that there is a barrier created by our abject unworthiness and God’s all Holy presence. Anyone who recognizes the vastness of the gulf between our sinfulness and God’s sinlessness sees that we need to be forgiven if we stand any chance of ever entering His divine presence.
Conversely, if we deny God’s personhood it’s easy to fall prey to the spirit-of-the-age and its apparently easy going, “I’m Okay You’re Okay” attitude. Everything is beautiful. Who needs forgiveness if there is no personal God and there is no sin?
The true message of Christian evangelism is to the sinner: the one who is conscious of God. If there is no acknowledgement of God as a person as an individual separate reality the word of God will fall like seeds on the street that birds quickly snatch up and take away.
As a former atheist I can personally attest to the fact that unless and until we come to an acknowledgement of God as a personal reality there’s no way that we can be open to the Gospel. To the sinner who faces his total inability to approach a Holy God the first and foremost message of the cross is, “You’re forgiven through His sacrifice and grace.”
And that’s how we get to Heaven.