How to get to a place called “heaven”
-a fellow-traveler offers encouragement and help for the journey
Maybe you’ve wondered if there’s even such a place as heaven. Some people say they’ll just have to wait and see. But, that’s kind of like being on a trip without a map and a credit card that expires in a few days. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you…that where I am you may be also.” He also said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction.” (Underlining added for emphasis; John 14: 2-3; Matthew 7: 14)
Let me encourage you to consider a journey. This is not the kind for the timid or the pleasure-seeker; but it offers immeasurable rewards for those in search of their destiny and life’s deepest fulfillment. Don’t worry about your present shape or qualifications. All it takes is a willingness to begin and an honest admission that you may not be where you think you are. “There is a way that seems right…but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)
When I first moved to a small subtropical coastal island, I had no desire to ever live anywhere else. This was my paradise. Heaven was the last place on my agenda and I didn’t know or care much about getting there. But something totally unexpected happened. Now, after having lived several years in the former U.S.S.R., I can say that the most important thing in life has little or nothing to do with our geographical location and comforts.
God has blessings beyond any worldly paradise which can be tasted in this life by those who are willing to turn loose of their own worldly desires. It is a strange paradox that “he who loses his life...will find it.” (Matthew 10:39) It is equally strange to me that things that once attracted me have lost their force; yet, there is a new and very satisfying sense of fulfillment which I never before was able to experience. I have tried a lot of things and been to many places over the years; but there was always an inner restlessness for something greater in life. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29: 11)
I once doubted, as you may, that God as a personal and loving Creator really existed. Now, I see that it was foolish thinking that ignored all the evidence of God’s power and presence, from the single cell to the unfathomable heavens. Even the atheistic Charles Darwin once admitted, “To suppose that the eye…(with all its complexity), could have formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree.” (Origin of Species, Chp.6) “For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1: 20)
I once searched for God by studying and dabbling in some of the different religions of the world, including a few “kind of spooky” practices, which ended in confusion and frustration. Now I believe I know why. These are all man’s attempts to reach God, but most of them ignore what God has done to reach man. When a baby falls to the ground, doesn’t a loving mother stoop down to pick up her child? Why wouldn’t a loving Heavenly Father do the same? The wonderful fact is that He has. According to His miraculous Word, The Bible, He came down and became flesh and blood, like us, to not only show us what He is like but to provide the way back to His presence and blessings. “Jesus said...I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me…He who has seen Me has seen the Father...” (John 14: 6-9). God’s love became real to me through Jesus Christ; but the problem of the existence of evil and a place called “hell” required more searching. It didn’t take long to discover that hell was not prepared for man, but for the devil and his angels who followed him in rebellion (Matthew 25: 41). Why then will people go to such a place?
After considerable study I can only offer a partial answer. Can you imagine a good and perfectly just father who condones lying, stealing and other evil behavior within his family? Neither can I imagine the Holy Father of Creation allowing evil to continue as it has without terrible consequences. God has made Himself known to man, even through creation, but most specifically in His written Word. And the Way of escape is also made clear for anyone seeking to know. It is not easy to talk of a place of eternal suffering and torment (Luke 16: 19-31), especially containing people we have known; but if God’s Word is what it claims to be, we do not have the liberty to believe only the portions with which we agree. When we do this, we become our own shifting authority, doing what seems right one day, and something different the next, changing the standard when it feels good. If there is no absolute truth by which to live, let’s be consistent with a warped philosophy and accept the actions of Hitler as good. But, God pronounces, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil…who are wise in their own eyes…” (Isaiah 5: 20-21)…and tells us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9: 10). He also makes it clear that “unless you repent (agree with God’s righteousness, which is found in Jesus Christ, and turn from sin) you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). As God is deadly serious, we had better take the consequences of our actions very seriously. As free agents in this world, we should see our own moral choices as instruments of good or evil.
The truth is that all of us have broken God’s holy standards for righteous living. “There is none righteous...not one…all have sinned and fall short...”(Romans 3: 10,23). We would all stand condemned before Holy God, were it not for the sacrifice Jesus provided in our place. It was not the blood of animals that God desired to take away our sins, but One Who would do the Father’s will through the offering of His own body. “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10: 8-10). “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)…”He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life…God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3: 16-17). It is really not God’s will for any people to perish (2 Peter 3:9), but He has given us the freedom to receive forgiveness, life and peace through His Son or to pay for our own sins. “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life…” (Deuteronomy 30: 19). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…” (Acts 16: 31).
Such peace and freedom from guilt, I had never known before, until I became open with Him; for He has promised that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). I also discovered a key to victorious living was to keep the door of my heart open and in communion with the Spirit of Christ. “Behold, I (Jesus) stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door (your heart), I will come in...” (Rev. 3: 20; Luke 11: 13). This is God’s promise to all who come to Him. If you desire to be on God’s pathway to heaven and are willing to give your life to Him as your Lord and Savior, God is willing to take you just as you are and transform your life supernaturally. “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10: 8-9). The evidences for His bodily resurrection with over 500 witnesses (1 Corinthians 15: 1-8), are well documented and testify that everything Jesus said is trustworthy. If you have doubts as to the authenticity, uniqueness, accuracy or miraculous transmission and preservation of both the Old and New Testament manuscripts, you need to read Evidence That Demands A Verdict, by Josh McDowell.
I encourage you to take the greatest step you can ever take and I would urge you to do it today. We have a spiritual enemy whose tactic is often to smooth things over and to remove the sense of urgency so that such action will be delayed until it is too late. Don’t underestimate the enemy’s powers to deceive and to turn you against the only One with the power and love to help you (2 Corinthians 4: 4; John 10: 10). Perhaps there are some philosophies that you need to critically examine as to their truth which may be keeping you from fully accepting the validity of God’s word, such as “evolution” or “reincarnation”. His word cautions us to avoid “contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 6: 20). There is no real supporting evidence for either of these theories; but there is a day coming for certain which we all must face. “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9: 27). In that hour, there will only be One who can help us; but, unless we have come to know Him in this life, we will have no friend to save us then. Jesus forewarned, “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not…’And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me....”(Matthew 7: 22-23). “He who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree”…(1 Peter 2: 24), is stretching out His arms to you, today…in this hour. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4: 8).
This is a prayer, based upon the Word of God, that you may pray, to make Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior:
Lord Jesus Christ, I turn to you as the Son of God and Savior of man who shed your blood on the cross. I believe that you died for my sins and rose from the dead, according to the Scriptures. I ask you to forgive me and cleanse me from my sins…(Take time, as the Holy Spirit may lead, to confess and renounce specific things). Create within me a clean heart and fill me with your Holy Spirit. Let this new life lived through me be pleasing and glorifying to you. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for a new life and new beginning flowing with your love, joy, peace and the righteousness of your life in me. Amen.
If you have prayed this prayer and asked Jesus to be Lord in your life, congratulations! You have just begun the most challenging and rewarding journey of your life. Let me encourage you to take a few faith-steps in beginning your new walk. And if you need assurance that you have been saved, prayerfully read through the letter of 1 John in the Bible.
1. Share your decision with those around you (Luke 9: 26). God wants to work through you to reach others (Daniel 12:3).
2. Begin to regularly read and meditate on God’s Word, the Bible. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead and give you understanding (2 Timothy 3: 16-17).
3. Find and become active in a local assembly of believers (church) where love, faith, prayer and obedience to God’s Word are evident (Acts 2: 38-39; Hebrews 10: 25).
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5: 13)