By Dr. Mark Creech
When Fred arrived at the Pearly Gates, he was met by an official looking angelic being who began to process his entry data. Fred was asked for some purely unselfish, kindly deed he had done on earth. Well, Fred thought about it for a minute and then said, “Oh, yes. I think I have something you might be interested in. One day I was walking along and came upon a little old lady who was being mercilessly beaten up by a huge motorcycle-gang member. He was smacking her back and forth. Well, I just stepped right up and first I pushed over his motorcycle just to distract his attention. And, then I kicked him real hard in the shins and told the old lady to run for help. Next, I hauled off and gave the guy a great shot right to the gut with my fist.”
The angel looked at Fred with a great deal of surprise and interest, saying, “Wow, that’s an incredible story. I’m really impressed.” Then taking his clip board in hand he said, “Could you tell me just exactly when this happened?”
Fred looked at his watch and said, “Oh, about two or three minutes ago.”
That funny, erroneous little story, betrays what most people think is the way to get into heaven. People think it’s because of their good deeds that they receive everlasting life. But if only good people went to heaven, there wouldn’t be anyone there. The Scriptures say “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Rom. 3:1). If each of us were allowed into heaven on the basis our own merits, none of us would make it.
The Bible teaches that eternal life is not something that is earned or deserved. No person in heaven will ever proudly say, “I’m here because I was good enough.” Instead, all of heaven’s residents will claim, “I’m here in spite of myself.”
God doesn’t grade on a curve. We either pass the test of life flawlessly or we are disqualified for heaven. The apostle James put it this way: “If we offend in one point we are guilty of all” (James 2:10). If we commit just one sin we step outside the realm of God’s law and become a spiritual outlaw. It was only one sin that cast Satan out of heaven. It was only one sin that resulted in Adam and Eve being cast out of the Garden of Eden.
This is the whole point of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, the God-man, interjecting himself into human history. His purpose was to do for us what we are unable to do for ourselves. Redemption from sin is something he accomplished by his life, death and resurrection. He perfectly lived the life God requires of each of us. Still, though he was innocent of any sin, he paid the penalty for our sin by dying upon the Cross. When Jesus rose again from the grave on the third day, this was proof that God fully accepted his work and sacrifice on our behalf.
Therefore, eternal life is something that is received as a free gift. It was purchased by Christ and he gives it to anyone who trusts and believes in Him. This is the promise of Ephesians 2:8-10: “For by grace (grace is God’s unmerited and undeserved favor) are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
In other words, some people have the cart before the ox. Salvation is not the result of what we do. Instead, salvation comes through faith in Christ and what he has done for us. A true Christian is not someone trying to gain eternal life by his efforts to be upright; rather, he lives a godly life out of gratitude for what Christ has already done in saving him.
Eternal life is not something that a person simply receives at the end of this present life. It’s a new life that God offers to give the soul today. It describes not only duration of life, but also a certain quality of life that habitually perseveres in loving obedience to God. In hell, that realm of the damned where there is “weeping and wailing” (Matthew 13:42), all lost souls are forever left in a state of miserable rebellion and separation from God because they rejected his offer of eternal life in Christ. Heaven, however, is that blissful place where all the souls redeemed by Christ, imparted with eternal life, shall love and finally serve the Lord perfectly without end.
If you are willing to get out of the saving business and trust Jesus Christ alone to be your Savior, he will give to you the gift of eternal life. The Bible admonishes, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13).
If you are willing to call upon Christ in prayer and ask him to save you, then you can know the grace of God and the gift of eternal life. To trust him as your Savior is to be changed in your heart forever. When you genuinely trust Christ, you will not only start wanting to obey God, you will also find that God gives you the strength to do his will. Moreover, you can be confident that at death that you will go to heaven.
Perhaps you would be willing to pray a prayer like this:
Lord Jesus Christ, I want you to come into my heart and take over in my life. I realize that I have broken your commandments and sinned. I have been hoping that when I die that I might get into heaven because I had been good enough. I see now that it’s not about what I do, but about what you have done for me. So I place my trust in you only and all that you did by your life, death, and resurrection to save me. I accept you as my own personal Savior. I accept the free gift of eternal life. I am not worthy of it, but I thank you for it. Help me to show my love and appreciation for your salvation by learning how to follow you more and more each day. Amen.