Summary: Making sure we are ready to enter heaven is probably as important as anything in life
A man was stranded in the desert. As he crawled across the burning sand, dying of thirst, he encountered a necktie salesman. "Can I interest you in a nice new tie?" the salesman asked. "Are you crazy?" the man gasped. "I'm dying of thirst and you want to sell me a necktie?" The salesman shrugged his shoulders and moved on, and the dying man resumed his crawling. Finally, he came upon an unbelievable sight. There, in the middle of the desert, was a huge restaurant with neon lights and a parking lot filled with cars. The desperate man crawled to the front door. He whispered to the doorman, "Please help me in. I have to have something to drink." The doorman replied, "I'm sorry, sir. Gentlemen are not admitted without a tie." Friends, we can hardly fault a man for being shortsighted in thinking he had no use for a tie in the desert. But there is an event for which everyone ought to prepare. One day each of us is going to die. When that happens, will we be ready to enter heaven? Will God let us in? Now, I realize there are some folks who question whether or not there really is a heaven, or they even wonder if God exists. Most folks, however, don't. Surveys show that almost 95% of the American people say they believe in God, and over 85% claim to believe in heaven. So even though we may not think about it a lot, most of us have to admit that making sure we are ready to enter heaven is probably as important as anything in life. As we consider this question today, let's pause and pray that God would help us understand the truth He reveals in His Word and by His Spirit.
So, who gets into heaven? Many folks adopt what I call a common sense religion. They say, "Good people get into heaven. If you are a good person, you get to go there; if you aren't, then you may be in trouble." This view is typified in that old 50s song, Where, oh where, can my baby be? She's gone to heaven so I have got to be good so I can see my baby when I leave this world. A problem, though, for those who take this view is that they never know if they are being good enough. How good does one have to be? These days people often say that because God is a God of love, He will accept almost everyone into heaven. Only the worst sinners, the Hitlers and Stalins of the world, will be excluded. Those who think about this more seriously, however, realize human evil is very widespread and that, as Chuck Colson says, "We are a lot more like Adolf Hitler than we are like Jesus Christ." Those who think seriously very seldom say, "I know I am good enough to make it to heaven." Common sense religion offers little comfort.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ provides a marvelous alternative. It is indeed good news. Understanding the message that we are saved by simply trusting in Jesus brings great relief to our souls. We no longer need to worry about whether or not we are good enough, because how good we are is no longer the question. It is the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, His goodness counting as our own, which makes us ready to enter heaven. This great evangelical doctrine -- that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone -- is about the most beautiful teaching I can ever imagine. Here at First Baptist Church we joyfully embrace this truth, and I delight to proclaim this great news. I can assure you, with confidence, that I have no intention of modifying or compromising this teaching in the slightest. Yet, I have to admit that there are a couple of things that sometimes trouble me and make me question whether it is sufficient to just tell people, as the Apostle Paul did, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." I wonder, is believing in Jesus Christ enough?
The first problem is this: Some people claim to be Christians, but don't act like it, at all. I know people who say they are believers in Christ, but whose lives show no evidence of being born again, of receiving spiritual life from the Holy Spirit. These people say they are Christians, but on the outside they don't look like Christians. Maybe you have had a conversation similar to this: "Hey, Joe, there is a question I have been wanting to ask you." "What is that, Dan?" "I was just wondering if you have ever received Jesus Christ as your Savior?" "Oh, yeah, I did that." "Great! How long have you been a believer?" "All my life, I guess." "Oh. Well, do you go to church at all, Joe?" "To weddings and funerals. I quit going to church after the 5th grade." "Do you read the Bible much, Joe?" "No, I always thought it was pretty boring." "Do you pray?" "Oh, yeah, whenever I am in big trouble, I do." "Joe, would you be interested in reading this book I have about being a follower of Jesus?" "Hey, I don't want to be a religious fanatic or something. I believe, but I'm not going to be a Jesus freak or anything like that. I'll just keep living my life here the way I want to, and when I die, I figure the good Lord will take care of me then." Do you know folks like Joe? To be honest, although I believe we are saved by faith alone, I can't help wondering whether or not the type of faith Joe has is enough to get him into heaven.