How do I get to Heaven?

“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:34b-36, ESV)

I am a

slave to sin

and

The slave does not remain in the house forever

I am in the position to be kicked out and spend my eternity in Hell.

But Jesus is no slave.  Jesus

remains forever

1. I am a slave to sin, ready to be kicked out of God’s house.

2. Jesus is the Son of God, always to stay in God’s house.

So can I figure out the last part of the verse from these first two truths?

Not at all!  It sails far beyond the limitations of my logic and lands in the grasses of God’s mercy:

So if the Son sets you free

Jesus wants to set us free!  The first two facts could not in our wildest imagination draw us to the third: Jesus is willing to set us free.

And what does He say about this freedom?

you will be free indeed.

Not that I will be free when I’ve served my sentence.  Not that I will be free when I’ve served “half” my sentence (if such a thing is possible).  Not that I will be free when I realize the full plague I have exposed myself to by my sin.  Not that I will be free when I learn how to carry the immeasurably heavy burden of my sin.

Only that, if Jesus shares His freedom with me, I–me–

will be free indeed.

Christ Jesus goes on my behalf to His Father and asks for full forgiveness for my sins.

This is because, if Jesus accepts me, He intercedes (makes payment for my sin and purifies me) eternally.

Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.  Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:24b-25, NIV)

If my eternity as a child of God rather than as a damned slave of sin depends on Christ Jesus’ acceptance of me, then I should spend the rest of my life searching for the way to earn that acceptance, right?

That kind of quest would make sense except for two truths.  First, I am not able to find truth when I am a sinner.  That would be something like a tree trying to figure out how to do algebra.  The Bible describes sinners as dead to the ways of God (see Ephesian 2:4-5).  We can’t be smart enough or good enough to figure out how to earn Jesus’ approval.

Second, I don’t need to go on any quest anyway, because Christ Himself plainly tells the only way we can receive acceptance from Him:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and loaded down with burdens, and I will give you rest. Place my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest for your souls, because my yoke is pleasant, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, ISV)

All I have to do is come to Jesus and He will give me employment in His Kingdom as an heir of God, pulling me out of my life as a slave to sin.  And Jesus gives me the only kind of employment that gives rest!  (I don’t think any of us would say that about the jobs we do for earthly employers . . .because if we did, we would feel more refreshed after work rather than less!)

Even though I work for Jesus, it isn’t in my working that I find His acceptance of me.  It’s in my coming.

Jesus promises that if I will come to Him, He will make me fit for the kingdom of God by His blood spilled for me (see Mark 14:24 and Luke 22:20).

And Jesus promises that if I come to Him, He will make me skilled for the kingdom of God by His teaching freely given to me (see Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the entire Word of God, see John 1:1-14).

And as long as there is day left (as long as we are alive on earth), Jesus will accept us and give us employment in His kingdom–even if we feel our life is mostly or almost entirely all spent up and wasted (see Matthew 20:1-16).

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink! The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have rivers of living water flowing from his heart.” (John 7:37b-38, ISV)

“I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. (John 6:35b, NASB)

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”  (John 6:37-40, NASB)

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See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

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The difficulty of persuading someone a loving God does exist and accepts us freely through His Son

Suppose I decide to interview 100 people on how they got to work today.

Most people tell me they drove to work.  A few people told me they took the bus.  One person even tells me he biked!  “Fine, fine,” I say.

But then this rather serene-looking woman walks up.  I ask the regular question, “How did you get to work today?”

She says, “I took a jet.”

I look at her a little funny and say, “No you didn’t.”

She says, “Wait a minute, how do you know I didn’t?”

I say, “Well, I don’t see a jet anywhere.”

She says, “It’s parked just behind the building.  I’ll show it to you if you want.”

I say, “You’ll show me the jet?  That’s real funny.  Really, how did you get here?”

“Really,” she says, “I took a jet.”

I’m getting irritated now.  “Really,” I say, “how did you get here?”

She looks a little surprised.  “I took a jet.  It’s the best way to travel.”

I stick out my lower jaw and I am really getting annoyed.  “It is not the best way to travel,” I say.

“How do you know?” she asks.

“Because I don’t travel that way!” I shout.  “And besides, you do not have a jet!  There’s no way.  Your clothes came from a thrift shop and you didn’t even get a decent haircut!  YOU DON’T HAVE A JET!”

She crinkles her forehead.  “. . . What do my clothes and haircut have to do with me taking a jet?  Oh!  You mean I’m not rich enough?”  She laughs.  “You’re right about that.  I don’t have any money to pay for a jet.  No, no.  The jet is free.”

I narrow my eyes.  “The jet is free.  Yeah, right.  Next thing you’re going to tell me you take a rocket ship back home.”

“No,” she says confidently.  “Just the jet.”

I sigh and set my jaw.  “I’m going to ask you this question again.  How did you get to work—AND DON’T SAY A JET!

She blinks a few times.  “Well, I can’t really say anything then.”

“Fine!” I say.  “You’re disqualified! You don’t get to be in the statistics I’m writing!  SO THERE!

She blinks a few more times.

“. . . Ok,” she says.  “But it still doesn’t change the fact that I got here in a jet.”

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The idea of a loving God who freely gives us salvation through the sacrifice of His only Son on a cross . . . seems more impossible to believe than that an ordinary woman could arrive to work on a free jet.  And yet . . . the free gift of Jesus’ payment for our sin because of His vast love is the foundation of the Bible and the heartbeat of Christianity.

Paul explains our God well:

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.'” (Acts 17:24-28a, NIV)

And how we can have a miraculous, unthinkable, unbelievable friendship with Him because of His unimaginable determination to open the only Way possible back to Him:

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:1-10, NLT)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.  (Romans 8:1-4, NIV)

Find out more from God Himself . . .

Listen to the Bible

Read the Bible (this link starts at John 1)

Find out more from Christ-followers . . .

Find out more, and talk to a person (if you want)

Explore your thinking

Watch clips of Christian answers to lots of questions

How to become a Christian

Read answers to questions about Jesus

Short videos investigating Christianity

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis

I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist by Geisler & Turek

Testing Christianity’s Truth Claims: Approaches to Christian Apologetics by Gordon Lewi

Can We Trust the Gospels? by Mark D. Roberts

The Case for Faith, The Case for Christ, and The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel

Hard Questions, Real Answers by William Lane Craig