Summary: Depend on Jesus' forgiveness, not your goodness, to be sure of Heaven--as shown by the story of the sinful woman who showed her faith in Christ's forgiveness by wiping his feet with her hair, and kissing his feet vs. the Pharisee who did so much less.
How to Know . . .
How to Know You’re Going to Heaven
This morning we’re doing the first of our “How to Know” Series and the subject is
How to Know You’re Going to Heaven.
The most recent research I could find on the issue of how Americans feel about Heaven is from the Pew Research Center. According to their December, 2015 survey, 72% of Americans still believe in heaven, and 58% still believe there’s a hell.
Americans define heaven as “a place where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded.” And hell is “a place where people who have led bad lives are eternally punished.”
So the consensus among Americans is what it has probably always been: Good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell.
However, this morning, we have just read a story about Jesus that would call these assumptions into question. We have two people who had the unique privilege of sharing Jesus’ attention during his earthly ministry at the same time. Exhibit A is a well-respected, highly religious and at least outwardly moral person. Exhibit B is a rather notorious, immoral and sinful woman. At the conclusion of their time together, Jesus gives assurance to only one of these people that they’re going to heaven, and it isn’t the one the general consensus of Americans would assume. It is rather the notoriously immoral and sinful woman who receives Jesus’ assurance of heaven rather than the well-respected, highly religious and moral man.
So that leaves us with some questions. What is it that results in the assurance of heaven? What qualities did this sinful woman display on that day that the religious man didn’t that resulted in her receiving this promise of heaven from the Lord Jesus Christ?
What this story reveals is this: Depend on Jesus' forgiveness, not your goodness, to be sure of Heaven. Depend on Jesus forgiveness, not your goodness, to be sure of Heaven!
As we’ve seen the story begins in verse 36 of Luke 7. There were told that a man of the Pharisees, whom we’ll find is named Simon, has been invited Jesus over for a meal, and Jesus agrees to come.
Now to fully understand what’s going on in this story, it’s helpful to understand exactly what a Pharisee was. The Pharisees were a sect consisting of about 6,000 men in Israel who were concerned about exacting righteousness according to the Law of Moses, and something else called the tradition of the elders—an exacting righteousness that permitted no contact or association with pagan, Gentile or sinful people. The movement had begun several centuries earlier among Jews who were concerned about the concerted efforts of the Greek people who at the time were in control of their land to secularize, paganize or Hellenize their culture. They recognized that God had warned against those things in the Old Testament because it would pollute and corrupt the pure worship of the one true living God that was prescribed by the Word of God.
The problem was that by this time the movement had become extreme. The Pharisees were no longer simply concerned about obeying the 613 commands of the Old Testament. They were now even more concerned about obeying their own traditions, called the traditions of the elders, or rabbinic laws. The tradition of the elders was a man-made attempt to define exactly how the Pharisees were to remain clean and separated from sin. The regulations became pedantic, trivial, ritualistic and ridiculous. For instance, in order to keep from working on the Sabbath, Pharisees defined precisely how many steps could be taken on the Sabbath before it could be defined as work, whether you could gargle or not on the Sabbath and more than that, whether you could eat an egg laid by a hen on the Sabbath. You could only eat an egg which was laid on the Sabbath provided that you killed the hen that laid it!
The other thing that resulted from this excessive attention to the keeping of trivial man-made laws was a sense of self-righteousness and pride. They thought they were earning their way to heaven, and that they were therefore better than other people who didn’t participate in their traditions. Jesus didn’t live by their traditions, because they were man-made teachings, rather than the Word of God, nor did he share their opinion about how men were made right with God. So, it wasn’t long before the Pharisees became hostile toward Jesus and were eventually one of the parties who sought His crucifixion. However, it’s still early in Jesus’ ministry at this point,
and this Pharisee, Simon, was not likely hostile yet, but was just interested in checking out the rumors that he had heard the Jesus was a great prophet, the sensational news that had become a popular opinion in the land at that time according to Luke 7:16.