Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20
I was invited to speak at a school in Russia in a place where I’d never been before and I was immediately confronted with two questions: Where is this place? And how do I get there?
Strange as it may seem, most people plan on going to heaven when they die, but, according to pollsters, they haven’t the faintest notion about how to get there. Question: If you stood at the door of God’s heaven today and knocked, and Peter met you at the door and asked, “Why should I let you in?” what would you say? Tough question, right? You know, it could happen. You are planning on going there eventually, but what opens the door?
Some believe that their essential goodness is the key. They believe that being a good person, basically a good family person, a good neighbor, honest (at least most of the time)—you know, the treat-your-neighbor-like-you-want-him-to-treat-you-stuff is what it takes to get you inside. God, they reason, couldn’t say no to anybody who is better than most people.
Strangely enough, there are those who make no claim to being a Christian who are really much nicer, much more generous, and much friendlier than those who are supposed to be born again. If you choose someone to share a deserted island with, it wouldn’t be your sourpuss neighbor who is a Christian; it would be the beer-drinking guy who tells off-color stories who really is a nice guy. How would you explain that?
C.S. Lewis, the Cambridge University professor, faced the same issue. He said the answer is not how nice one person is and how sour the other is. The real issue is how much worse the Christian would have been apart from the touch of God on his life. That makes sense.
Others believe that their good deeds—their generosity, their voting the right ticket (whatever that means), their being a good neighbor—is all that it takes. It’s kind of an extension of Argument One. There’s nothing wrong with any of this, but the Bible says that all of our goodness—however nice that may be—falls short of breaching the distance between us and God. Isaiah 59:2 says, “Your sins have separated you and God.” Suppose you have to cross a chasm, a deep dark one in the mountains, and it is 25 feet across. Now suppose that you are the athletic type and can jump 24 feet, 9 inches. Is that good enough? No!—in any language of the world.
Paul said pointedly, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). No exceptions. The word ALL leaves no loopholes. Again Paul wrote, “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5).
Did you catch that word, rebirth? It was the same analogy that Jesus used when He had a conversation with a man who was really a good man—generous, kind, and moral. His name was Nicodemus. The man was religious, too. But Jesus told him that unless he was born again, he could not see the kingdom of God.
How do you get there from where you are? Three simple steps: 1) Acknowledge your need of this relationship, which means you accept what Jesus did as God’s free gift. 2) Believe with all your heart that God will receive you on the basis of what Jesus Christ did long ago, not what you do. And 3) Confess Christ as your Lord and Savior.
Joining a church, being religious, being moral and good is admirable, but it isn’t the key which opens the door.
Resource reading: John 15:18-26.