The Only Door To Heaven
Are you a person who considers himself to be broad-minded, open to various points of view? If so, consider several examples of decision-making.
Suppose your doctor said: "You have a heart disease that requires bypass surgery." Would you say: "Well, any doctor will do. Give me a pediatrician, maybe a general practitioner. Any physician is acceptable"? Of course not. You are very narrow-minded when it comes to your health. You want the finest cardiologist available.
How about marriage? Would you say: "Any woman will do," or "Any man will do"? No. You go to great lengths to choose the appropriate mate. You get very narrow-minded when it involves your life's partner.
What about purchasing a new suit of clothes? Would you walk into a men's store and say: "Well, just give me a suit. Any size or color will suffice"? Naturally, you find a salesman who takes you through the rack with an assortment of colors and styles. You try on different sizes until you find the one suit that makes you look your best.
The truth is, none of us are as broad- minded as we think we are. We are broad-minded about some things, but we are very narrow-minded about some other things. The greater the importance or the more serious the consequences of our decisions, the more narrow-minded we become.
Jesus Christ was extremely precise when He discussed the issue of the salvation of man. He made a statement that some may consider close-minded, but He made no apology for it whatsoever:
"Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).
One Door To Heaven
Jesus said there is only one door into heaven. There are no side doors. There are no back doors. There is no trap door on the bottom, and there is none on the top. There is only one door into heaven - just one. The question is, have you ever entered that door?
You may say: "That's very narrow-minded." However, being broad-minded can be very foolish if what you are broad-minded about is not true. Truth is very narrow. Two-times-two always equals four, in the 15th century or the 20th century, in the western hemisphere or the eastern hemisphere. The issue is the truth - not what we feel, not what we think, but what God teaches in His Word, His revealed truth to mankind.
The third chapter of the gospel of John is the narrow beam of truth regarding entering heaven's door. Even if you are a person who believes that there are many ways to God, you should be intellectually honest enough to read the truth of God's Word concerning His well-defined road of salvation.
"Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Him by night, and said to Him, 'Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.'
"Jesus answered and said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.' Nicodemus said to Him, 'How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?'
"Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again"'" (John 3:1-7).
You must be "born again," said Jesus. If you intend to get to heaven being a good man, doing good works (which characterized Nicodemus, a Pharisee), you are going to miss heaven.
Good Works Are Not Enough
There are many people who have done commendable things to prepare themselves for heaven. These people sit in church pews week after week and make decisions to join a church or be baptised. But despite their good intentions and good deeds, they will die and be eternally separated from God because they never enter the only door into heaven - Jesus Christ.
Jesus didn't say it was a good idea to be born again. It wasn't a suggestion. He didn't say it was one of life's alternatives for entering heaven. He said that if you intend to live in heaven after you die you must be born again. There is no exception.
What did Jesus mean when He said: "Except a man be born again . . ."?
Good works may make you feel good. But if they are not based upon a new relationship with Jesus Christ, ultimately they are but a noble extension of human pride.
He is not talking about baptism. Some have been taught that baptism is the door to heaven. Remember, Jesus was talking to a Jew who did everything in his power to keep the law through rites of purification and cleansing. Baptism alone is not enough.
Why Must We Be Born Again?
So why did Jesus say, "You must be born again"? Because mankind is sinful at heart. By nature, those who have not been born again are dead in their spirits to God, blind in their minds to the things of God, have no love for God, cannot communicate with God, are separated from God, and are aliens and enemies of God. Good works or religious observances cannot change this spiritual condition. The only thing that changes that condition is a new life which the Holy Spirit gives to those who are willing to receive Him.
The new birth is a spiritual experience. Man and woman are forgiven of their sins, cleansed by Christ's blood, and given new life in Christ. The new birth experience is an instantaneous experience when you:
Recognize your sinfulness
Acknowledge that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sin and paid your sin debt in full
Confess and repent of your sin, acknowledge your need for Christ
Realize your dependence on Him for the forgiveness of your sin
Receive Jesus Christ by faith as your personal Savior for the forgiveness of your sins and commit yourself to the person of Jesus Christ, God's Son.
That is called the new birth experience. You must be spiritually born again because it is the only way you can be made acceptable in the eyes of holy God. Everything else is human effort. Jesus said, "I am the door. I am it."
You say, "Well, that is narrow-minded." If that is narrow-mindedness, would you not agree that an omniscient God must have a very specific, clear, divine reason for making man's redemption possible through only one person, Jesus Christ?
God is single-minded about the way to heaven because there is only one way. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me" (John 14:6).
What Does It Mean To Believe?
People talk about believing in Jesus. But what does it mean to believe in Jesus? Does it mean simply to give intellectual assent to the fact that He was born in Bethlehem, grew up to become a great teacher, performed miracles, and became the Savior of the world, along with all the things your grandparents and parents taught you? Is that what belief is all about?
No. To believe in Jesus Christ is not mere intellectual assent to His identity or work; belief is acknowledging in our spirit that He is God's Son, confessing and repenting of our sins against Him, and choosing to follow Him as our Savior and our Lord.
The sign of this new birth and faith in Christ for forgiveness of sin is the indwelling of the Spirit of God. If the Spirit of God lives within you, you are born again and have God's Spirit and God's life.
If you can sin against God and not feel convicted, more than likely, you are not indwelt by the Holy Spirit. You have not been born again. You are going to hell, not heaven. Without the presence of the Spirit of God, which is God's guarantee of the new birth, you will not enter God's presence.
There is only one door into heaven and Jesus said, "I am the door." And the way you enter is by expressing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus Christ is not simply a mental assent; it is a whole-hearted commitment. Faith in Jesus Christ is a commitment to the One whose life becomes your life and transforms you. It does not mean you will not sin, but that you will never sin again happily, undisturbed, or without conviction. That is the great gift of God's grace - the Holy Spirit regenerating us and convicting us of our sins.
How You May Receive Christ As Savior
Week after week men and women ask me this question: "Dr. Stanley, how can I know for sure that I am going to heaven? How could I know for sure that I have this eternal life that I hear you speak about almost every week on In Touch?" Behind that question is really another question: "Dr. Stanley, what is my part in the equation? I know there is something God does, but what do I do and what do I have to do to make sure that I am going to heaven?"
That is a fair question because we live in a very performance-oriented world. All of us grow up thinking that there are no free lunches, and if we are going to get something then we have got to do something. But salvation is different. It is not a contract where we have a part and God has a part. It is not like a deal where there are certain criteria we have to live up to or some standard we have to measure up to. The Bible says that salvation is a free gift.
You see, if I were to offer you a gift, you wouldn't expect to have to do anything except receive it. That is exactly the picture of salvation in the Bible. It is a gift, and our part is simply to receive that gift.
"Well, then," the question is, "how do I do that? I know how to receive a physical gift, but how do I receive a spiritual gift?"
The Bible says we receive that gift by faith or by trust. Let me explain it this way.
Salvation comes when we put one hundred percent of our trust in the historical fact that Christ died on the cross and the theological truth that His death paid for our sin. God wants us to simply put all our trust in Christ's death on the cross as the payment for our sin.
In other words, salvation comes when we realize that we do not have to put our trust in anything other than Christ's death. We don't put our trust in our church membership. We don't put our trust in our baptism. We don't put our trust in our service, in our giving - none of these things. Salvation comes when we put one hundred percent of our trust in Christ's death on the cross as the payment for our sin.
You see, that is good news to people on both sides of this issue. There are a lot of you out there who have done a lot of good things, and your tendency is to trust in your good works. There are others who may be able to identify more closely with the thief on the cross - the man who really had not done anything good; whose whole life had been a waste; who, if he had to trust in good works, knew there was no hope for him. But in salvation, because it is a gift, our deeds and our efforts don't enter into the equation at all. And just as good works don't get us into heaven, bad works don't keep us out because they are not the issue. The issue is who and what are we trusting in.
I want you to think about two important things. What are you trusting in? And what is keeping you from placing all of your trust in the fact that Christ died on the cross for your sins and rose again to extend to you the offer of eternal life? I challenge you as you think carefully about these two issues to pray this prayer, a prayer similar to the one I prayed many years ago when someone first explained salvation to me:
"God, I realize I need a Savior. I realize that my sin is enough to keep me out of heaven. And God, I realize there is not one single thing I can do to earn my way into Your heaven. And heavenly Father, right now I am placing all, one hundred percent of my trust, in Christ's death on the cross as payment for my sin because I believe it is not what I do that matters. It is what You did two thousand years ago for me."
If you prayed this prayer, record today's date and rest in the assurance of spending an eternity with God.
Man cannot enter heaven by good works because he is spiritually dead, and good deeds do not impart eternal life. Man is separated from God by sin - violation of God's law and standard. He falls far short of perfection which is what God's law demands. Sin's penalty is death - eternal separation from God's presence. And no amount of noble works can remove that penalty.
Jesus came to earth to reconcile sinful man to God and to die for man's sins. His death on the cross satisfied God's justice, paid sin's penalty, and provided a door into heaven. You enter that door by faith in Christ, recognizing your sinfulness, and receiving Christ's forgiveness. When you receive Christ, you receive the gift of eternal life.
Receiving Christ means that you simply believe that He is God's Son who died in your place on the cross for your sin and rose again from the dead to extend the offer of salvation. You can be assured that if you ask Christ into your life, He will come to indwell you.
"And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life" (1 John 5:11-12).
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