Heaven is the reason you keep the faith, stay the course, and walk obediently with Jesus each and every day. It is a marvelous thing to receive the gift of eternal life. You (and I) do not deserve it, yet God says we are worth saving from our sins; sins that saturate this world. What did God do to save all of us? He sent His one and only Son to walk among sinful people to show every generation how to separate themselves from the ways of darkness, and become citizens of heaven even before they get there!
Every person has the opportunity to choose life over death.
Jesus makes it clear throughout His Word what it looks like for someone to choose life that is eternal rather than life that ends when your heart stops beating. Take a look at Luke 18:9-14 to see what I mean. You read about two types of people. One is on the road to heaven while the other may look like he is on the road, but is actually on the wide road that leads to a deep darkness; see Matthew 7:13-14.
Many people gathered around Jesus. He had become rather popular for He healed many people from illnesses and spiritual demons. He taught with authority and truth. His words were powerful and He changed the lives of many, many people. Even after Jesus’ death over 2,000 years ago, His Words continue to change lives today.
Jesus wanted to help those “who had great confidence in their own righteousness.”9 He noticed that they scorned or looked down on others, so, Jesus shared a story to help them with their misguided thinking. He shared about two men, one is a Pharisee while the other is a despised tax collector. They both went to the Temple to pray.
Let’s stop here and think about what we know about them. One is a Pharisee. A Pharisee was respected in the religious community. People looked up to him for spiritual guidance. The tax collector was someone who people disliked. He had to collect taxes, and often times tax collectors asked for more money that would profit their own pockets, thus, people despised them. What they both had in common is that they would go to church to pray, so they were both spiritually minded. Does this mean they are both going to heaven?
You read the prayers of both men. What can you learn from the prayer of the Pharisee? “I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.”11-12 What a good guy he is. What is the posture of his heart though? Here are two adjectives to describe the Pharisee, uninterested and unwilling.
To be uninterested and unwilling to change for Christ keeps you living in the darkness with the devil.
Now look at the prayer of the tax collector. What difference do you see from his prayer versus the Pharisee’s prayer? “O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.”13 He said this prayer probably standing in the back of the Temple with his eyes looking low. “He beat his chest in sorrow.”13 The tax collector had a heart of humility and brokenness.
To get off the dark road with the devil, one must allow himself to see his own sins through humility and have a brokenness that leads to obedience to God’s voice.
Jesus tells everyone how to make it to heaven. “I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”14
Every person needs to be justified by God before they can enter heaven. You (and I) have Pharisee-style tendencies which keeps us from walking in faith, staying the course, and walking obediently with Jesus. If you read verses 15-17 in Luke 18, you will get a great visual of what God’s justification looks like. You must approach the cross of Christ like a small child. “For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” In what ways does a child have the correct posture of faith that God accepts?
Which man describes you? Don’t make the mistake that the Pharisee did. Both men were sinners. One recognized his condition and understood his need for a Savior and the other did not. One chose to live according to God’s ways while the other lived his own way. One changed his heart, his life, his values, while the other remained on the righteous road of self-confidence, trusting himself.
Choose wisely my friends.