How Do You Get Into Heaven?
I John 5: 13
Steve Sjogren was the pastor of a megachurch called Vinyard in Cincinnati Ohio with an average attendance over 6,000 each weekend. In his book: The Day I Died he tells the story of when he checked into the hospital for a routine gall bladder surgery that turned out to be anything but routine. As the physician prepared to make a 1 inch incision in his abdomen either through mechanical or human error, the machine ripped a four inch gash through his stomach and intestines slicing his aorta and nicking his spine. Almost immediately his blood pressure dropped to 50/30 and his heart stopped for 7 minutes. Over the next few days, he would linger between life and death until finally recovering completely.
As the medical personnel frantically tried to save his life, Steve found himself leaving his body and staring down at himself. He always considered people who said that had heard God speak to be kooks but he heard God say that day say: “Don’t be afraid – it’s going to be OK.”
A peace enveloped him. Steve said: We didn’t communicate with just words but with memories and images. I had a perfect sense of acceptance and love.
About a week later still vacillating between life and death; Steve had another out of body experience. He saw four people standing at the foot of his bed holding hands and praying for him. He had never met any of them but somehow he knew them. He knew their age, how they had died and the day that each had died in the same hospital. After his recovery he confirmed this information with the nurses and was correct on each individual.
For a brief moment in time, God had opened the windows of heaven to give Steve a glimpse of the future. His visions confirmed many of the things the scriptures tell us. Peace, joy we know people people praying for us
As I have painted some word pictures for you the past three weeks about this future environment called heaven, hopefully you have been inspired to say; that’s where I want to go. I want to see Jesus; have my relationships restored, my body and mind enhanced and my joy overflowing. That is where I want to spend eternity. Your details may be different than mine but our desire is the same – to be in this place called heaven in the presence of the Lord.
We need to stop acting as if heaven is a myth; a relentless dull meeting; or a bodyless existence in a far off land. Heaven isn’t a fairy tale. Heaven is a place where we will live in resurrected bodies with a resurrected mind and resurrected friendships with a resurrected Jesus.
Luke 6:23 says: “rejoice in that day and leap for joy because great is your reward in heaven.”
So how do I get there? What do I have to do? Bad news is that first you have to die and since none of us are anxious for that to happen; how should we prepare for death even if we want to postpone it as long as possible.
Can we even know for certain that we will go to heaven when we die?
Read I John 5: 13 “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
In something as important as this, we don’t want to guess; we don’t want to hope, think, we want to know.
I. Recognize mankind’s position
We have all sinned and are in need of forgiveness.
Whenever we start talking about this, people immediately get very defensive. I’m OK – you’re OK is the political correct answer. But is it true? It usually leads to a comparison between ourselves and the dregs of society. I’m not so bad; at least I haven’t killed anyone or robbed a bank. I’m kind to my neighbors – at least those I like – don’t hurt anybody – blah blah blah those are good things but none of that has anything to do with getting into heaven.
Here’s what the Bible says: Eph. 2:3 “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were all by nature objects of wrath.”
Rom. 6:23 says: “the wages of sin is death” we all deserve death because we have all sinned. Sin is an uncomfortable topic to discuss but there is a reason it is mentioned so often in the Bible. Our position is not that we are all good people who just need a little brushing up by Jesus so we can be better. Our position is we have all sinned against God and are deserving of death. None of us are good enough to get into heaven on our own merits.
This is not meant to put you down, but to help you recognize that all of us are in need of forgiveness.
Jesus didn’t become a man, be rejected by society, suffer insults and indignities and die a horrible painful death on the cross to make us feel better about ourselves; he did so to forgive us of our sins and reverse the curse.
For us to understand our need for Jesus, we have to understand the meaning of the fall.
Seven Realities of the Fall
1. alienation Adam where are you? Estrangement between God and man – we don’t need God, we can do this thing called life on our own
2. brokenness life isn’t fair cain kills abel at some point we have a broken relationship – disappointment – heartache emotional and physical pain this isn’t the way its suppose to be
3. guilt hid themselves knew they had done wrong
know I shouldn’t do it but I did it anyway after its over, we don’t feel good, we feel guilty
4. addiction often times we use alcohol as an example of addiction but there are many addictions in this world because sin catches us in the web and leads to more sin. Addiction is simply anything you do that is harmful and you want to stop but you find yourself entrapped by it. Drugs, alcohol are the whipping boys but what about gossip, approval addiction, pride, greed, selfishness – less obvious but according to the Bible they are ungodly attributes. The desire to sin is in our dna. Only the method is variable.
5. darkness blind ourselves to our condition – I just need to try a little harder I’m not so bad
6. hopelessness caught in the web of sin, feel guilty about it; feel the effects of injustice and alienation from God – we say there’s no hope for me
7. death having experienced spiritual death, we eventually have a physical death which we fear
not just Adam but all individuals who have matured enough to understand their world around them begin to be trapped in this death spiral as a result of the fall.
We need a miracle to overcome all of this. Paul says: “what a wretched man I am; who will rescue me from this body of death?” Romans 7:24
Can’t be saved until you realize your lost; you can’t be forgiven until you realize your guilty; you can’t find the answer until you realize you have a problem.
II. Recognize that not everyone gets into heaven
In a survey done by the Los Angeles Times, for every individual who thought they were going to hell; 120 thought they would go to heaven. 99+% of people think they are going to heaven.
Our default destination is not heaven. That is a popular theory because it makes everyone feel good. Everybody wins – let’s give a trophy to everyone. Just do the best you can. You can understand the popularity of that view in that it offends no one; requires no commitment, and it eases our guilt.
Is that Biblical?
Matt. 7: 21-23 not everyone who says to me Lord Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven.
Rev. 21: 8 he lists a group of people who will not be in heaven. Why would people think that? One author in a book dealing with universalism explains it this way:
I Tim. 2:4 says: “God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” It is God’s desire to offer his grace, mercy, and forgiveness to all people. And since God always gets what he wants, all people will be saved.
Does God always get what he wants? Does God want marriages to be healthy, wholesome, and honorable? Does it always happen? Does God want there to be child abuse, murder, thievery, and dishonesty in people? Does it happen? Because we have free will, God doesn’t always get what he wants but he goes out of his way to provide us with resources so that if we choose properly, He can help us navigate through this life and be prepared for the next one.
If all people are going to heaven regardless, why would God send his son to endure such a horrible sacrificial death? Why does he command us to repent? Why does he asks us to confess our sins so we can be forgiven?
So if heaven is not the default location of those who have died, how can we know for sure that we will be included in heaven when we die? for that answer, we must go to the scriptures which tell about God, who He is, and what he desires of us.
III. We must recognize Jesus as our personal Savior
Several times in different ways he gives us this message. This is what you need to do to enter heaven.
Rom. 10:9-10 says to us: “for it is with your heart that you believe and it is with your mouth you confess and are saved. Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”
Hebrews 11:6 puts the message in these words: “Without faith, it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
What does it mean to have faith in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior? If we recognize that we need forgiveness and that no amount of good works will ever qualify us to enter into heaven; then we ask God for forgiveness of our sins and accept his sacrifice on the cross as penalty for our sins.
To have faith is not just a decision, it is a commitment. Faith doesn’t exist without an object of that faith.
To have faith means I am depending on His work not mine to get me into heaven.
To have faith means that I not only recognize that he existed but I believe the story of his crucifixion, death and resurrection.
To have faith is to recognize that by believing in Him, he will reverse the curse.
Now I am no longer alienated from God but His presence is with me all the time. I am relieved of the penalty of death for my sins and given eternal life.God can begin to restore the brokenness of my life in relationships as The spirit of Christ comes to live within me to lead and guide me through life.