Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
February 19, 2012
Heaven has been on my mind a lot lately
In a recent newspaper obituary a man’s death was described this way: “Samuel Smith arrived in heaven last Saturday after the death of his earthly body.” Presumably the obituary was written by family members who were convinced that Sam had gone to heaven.
Frequently other obituaries imply that the deceased has gone to heaven. One included this statement: “Mary Smith departed this life Tuesday to be with her beloved Savior in heaven.” While it is a lovely thing to say about someone, it does raise the question: Can we be certain that anyone has actually gone to heaven?
Judgment is not in our hands. God handles the judging of a person’s life and he has not asked for our help in the matter. So it may be presumptuous for us announce that another person is in heaven. God decides. We do not.
So let’s put the question in a personal context. Can you be certain you are going to heaven? I think so. I believe I am going to heaven. Am I arrogant to believe that? I don’t think so. Before you condemn me for foolish pride, let me explain why I have this conviction.
For centuries the most famous verse in the Bible has been John 3:16. In our time Tim Tebow has by his bold witness made that verse even more popular.
You remember the words: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
That statement by Jesus is one of God’s “promises.” You can choose to believe it or not believe it. I believe it. I have embraced it. I have chosen to “believe in” Jesus and surrender my life to him. I did that years ago and I continue to do it every day.
By believing in Jesus I accept God’s offer to “have everlasting life” rather than perish. My critics might say sarcastically, “So you think you are good enough to go to heaven?” Going to heaven is not a matter of being “good.” I know I am not good, pure or perfect. I know that I am not worthy of heaven. But going to heaven is not a matter of worthiness. The gates of heaven swing open not because you are good but because you “believe in” the Son, Jesus.
Anyone may choose to be “whoever.” To “believe in” means to trust. To trust Jesus is to accept the claims he made for himself – to believe that he was telling the truth. He said, among other things, that he was the Door, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the True Vine, the Good Shepherd, the Water of Life, the Resurrection, the Light of the World, and the Bread of Life.
Those are extraordinary claims. Imagine you are in a restaurant and a stranger comes to your table. He introduces himself by saying, “Hello; I am the Light of the World.” How would you react?
Right! You would think the man an escapee from the funny farm! You might even excuse yourself or move to another table. And you could not wait to tell your friends, “Guess what? I had lunch today with “the Light of the World.”
You see my point: Jesus was either crazy or he was not. If he was insane, then nonbelievers have nothing to worry about. However, if he was indeed the Door, then we had better find a way to walk through that Door. If Jesus spoke the truth about himself, then nothing matters more than that we believe in him.
The alternative to believing in Jesus is to “perish.” That means to die, to give up the ghost or to pass away. Wait a minute! Is Jesus pulling my leg? Everyone is going to die. This sounds like doubletalk.
Look at his statement again. Those who believe in the Son will not perish because they will “have everlasting life.” If Jesus was speaking the truth, then those who believe will receive the gift of “eternal life. “ Those who refuse to believe will die and miss everlasting life. We will all experience the death of the body but only believers will live eternally in heaven.
Why does God offer this gift that the church calls “salvation”? Love explains it all – “God so loved the world.” He loved us all so much that he “gave” his Son. Gave him for what? He gave him to die upon the cross for our sins so that our sins might be forgiven. That is what the cross was all about – forgiveness. Allowing his son to die on the cross was God’s way of saying to the world: “You are forgiven.”
To trust Jesus, or believe in him, is to accept God’s offer of forgiveness. We can never deserve it. That is why it is called grace; it is undeserved. God’s only requirement is that we accept his love with a repentant heart. Without a repentant spirit we can never receive forgiveness. It is available only to those who feel they do not deserve it.
That is why I believe I am going to heaven. I know I am unworthy but I have chosen to believe in the Son and accept God’s unbelievable offer of everlasting life.
When I get to heaven I plan to spend the first thousand years gazing into the face of the Son. All the questions I have for him will be forgotten as I admire the face of the man who died for me. Then I want to get acquainted with Peter, Paul, and the other apostles. After that I will visit with my son, my Dad and Mom, my sister, and others whose memory is precious to me. I look forward to meeting my wife’s dad for the first time.
Then I will look up all the people who influenced me and encouraged me to believe in the Son. I especially want to thank the Sunday school teachers who first taught me that Jesus was my friend. In heaven I will know their names. Without their loving patience I might never have believed in the Son when I became a man.
Heaven is on my mind a lot lately. Perhaps that is because I am an old man. Perhaps it is because many of my longtime friends have died. The death of any person, young or old, is a wakeup call to make sure we are ready for our own passing. Thank God his offer of heaven is open to anyone who believes in his Son Jesus. + + +