Have you come to the place in your spiritual life that you can confidently say that you know for certain that you will eventually go to heaven? Suppose that you were to die tonight and find yourself standing before God, and He asked you why you think He should let you into Heaven?
You might say that you don’t believe in God and that it is simply man’s fantasy. However it is an arrogant and very unwise assumption to make. If there was no God the heavens and earth would cease to exist. "The fool says in his heart there is no God" (Psalm 14:1)
You might answer saying that you have lived a good life, attended church or synagog faithfully, gave to the poor and supported righteous causes, was a good parent, faithfully supported your spouse and children, obeyed the laws and tried to be a model citizen.
All of those things are commendable however the scriptures indicate that there is a problem. God loves us but hates our shortcomings (sin), and is sworn to punish it.
“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)
“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” (James 2:10)
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.” (Proverbs 16:2)
“There are those who are pure in their own eyes but are not cleansed of their filth.” (Proverbs 30:12)
The scriptures point out that God is righteous and will punish sin which He will not tolerate. Sin is a word that simply refers to a shortfall from absolute perfection.
(Habakkuk 1:13) Says of the Lord, “You who art of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look on wrong.”
“Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)
Here it becomes evident that no matter how good we try to be that there is nothing we can do to offset even the slightest of life’s failures and that all of our good works are counted as nothing in the face of our sinful nature. It may appear that God may have a confusing dilemma, on one hand He is a loving God and yet He is sworn to punish us for our sins. However God knew from the beginning how helpless His human creation really is and He spoke of His plan of redemption through the prophet Isaiah.
Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows,and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.But he was wounded for our transgressions he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief; when he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:1-12)
Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.
We are told to repent, this requires some personal introspection and recognition of the fact that we are not perfect and have faults, and to come to God with a contrite heart and a desire to have a right relationship with Him.
“But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.”
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13)
God has shown us what His criteria is for salvation, it has nothing to do with how nice a person we might be, or the fact that we might be religious and attend church or synagog regularly, it is a matter only of God’s grace richly bestowed on those who believe and have faith in His Son the Messiah, that what He did on the cross is sufficient covering for our sins.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
What is the meaning of faith?
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old received divine approval. By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear. (Hebrews 11: 1-3)
An excellent example of faith was played out in July of 1859 when Charles Blondin famously walked a 1300 foot tightrope across Niagara Falls while 25,000 people looked on. He asked if they thought he could accomplish such a daring feat, and they cried out “We believe you can do it Blondin!” Following that amazing feat he cried out, “Do you think I can do it with a man on my back?” They said “Yes we believe you can do it too!” He then said, “Who will get on my back then?” Finally his manager Harry Colcord volunteered and with Harry clinging to his back Blondin gave his manager the following instructions: “Look up, Harry you are no longer Colcord, you are Blondin. Until I clear this place be a part of me, mind, body, and soul. If I sway, sway with me. Do not attempt to do any balancing yourself. If you do we will both go to our death.” Faith then is more than just a mental acceptance, it is an absolute trust that requires a response followed by action.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)