Assuming that you believe in the after-life, if someone were to ask you the question, “How do you get to heaven?” what would you say? I would like to invite you to take a moment to answer that question. (The game show Jeopardy’s 30-second timer background music just started playing in my head.)
Because God has “set eternity in the heart of man” (Ecclesiastes
3:11), this is arguably one of the most profound questions of all time! The answer that Christianity provides just might surprise you. Before providing that answer, I’d like to explore how other religions answer that question.
The Buddhists have their eightfold path, the Hindus have their doctrine of karma, the Jews have their covenant, and the Muslims have their code of law. All of these offer their way to earn approval from God.
“In the Sun Dance ritual, Lakota warriors fasten eagle claws to their nipples, and straining against a rope attached to a sacred pole, fling themselves outward until the claws rip through their flesh” (Philip Yancy, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?,” pg. 34). Why would this ancient ritual be recently revived? For the same reason that one would perform an act of penance in Catholicism. For the same reason that one would refuse to smoke or drink or dance in some Christian denominations. To earn approval from God.
All of human history teaches us that we are hell-bent on earning approval through religious practices, rituals, and concepts. Some of these concepts have developed into religions that have made a significant impact. Why is this?
Deep down in our souls we rightly perceive God as holy and just. The response to this realization is “a fearful expectation of judgment” (Hebrews 10:27) and doing whatever is necessary to quell that fear.
The very essence of Christianity opposes this. True Christianity is all about God’s grace (undeserved favor) being poured out on a person. Perhaps it was in the form of watching a Billy Graham evangelistic crusade on TV. Maybe someone was invited to a church service and an invitation to “accept Christ” was given. A Bible was given as a gift and the words “came to life.” A friend offered to pray over a situation and shared God’s offer of salvation through faith in Jesus.
That whole faith in Jesus thing… That can only come about as a response to God’s grace being poured out on a person. Without God’s grace, religion reigns. It’s just human nature to be religious.
“It’s by God’s grace that we are saved and get to go to heaven, through faith in Jesus Christ! Salvation is a gift that can’t be earned through practices, rituals, or trying to be a good person.” (Ephesians 2:8-19, paraphrased)
~ Paul and Danica Bartelme have been married for 22 years and have three children age 12 years and under. Jacob (12), Lily (11), and Luke (9). They’ve been residents of Escondido for 11 years and love Harley motorcycles and good music. They pastor Escondido’s very own Sanctuary Church.