Working your way to Heaven?
|By Grace Alone|
For it is by grace you have been saved. Through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8)
Are you working your way to heaven? If so what all does it entail? How do you know that you have been good enough?
Recently as I and a coworker were closing up after an extremely busy day at work, the statement was made to me in all seriousness; this is good. You’re working your way to heaven. In other words, the good that I had done for people that day, and the hard work and stress that I had endured would help me earn my way into heaven when I die. I was surprised and a little shocked to hear this statement. I have always known that some people believe this and that some churches teach this, but it had never been spoken to me so bluntly by someone I knew personally.
I will give you (the reader) a little background on the kind of work that I do so you are better able to understand where this statement came from. I work at a woman and family help center. We help families and single parents out with supplies and clothing for their babies and children. They can come to our center once each month for help with diapers, formula, baby food, gently used clothing and baby furniture items. We also offer free pregnancy testing and counseling to women who are in a crisis pregnancy situation. The particular day I am referring to here was very busy and when we closed and locked the door for the day we breathed a sigh of relief.
In our work we see and meet people from all walks of life. We sometimes meet people who are not mentally normal. We meet people who are desperately poor and sometimes homeless. We meet people who smell bad because they have not been taught or don’t have the means to keep their bodies and clothing clean. There are days when it is very difficult to remember that each person we meet is a soul loved by God – that He loves them just as much as he loves those of us who have been more abundantly blessed. Each morning before I start my day, I ask God to help me remember this fact, but some days because of my sinful nature, I fail miserably.
I was raised as a WELS Lutheran and remain a member of that denomination to this day. I attended Lutheran schools from first grade through my first and only year of college. As a result I have been truly blessed. I have had the opportunity to study scripture, and through it the Holy Spirit has blessed me with a deep understanding of His Word. I was taught from childhood that all people are born sinful. King David reinforces that teaching in Psalm 51:5 when he states; Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. We are all sinners.
|Through Faith Alone|
I was also taught that the only way to heaven is through faith in Jesus, God’s one and only Son, which is reflected in the opening verse above from Ephesians 2:8. The good deeds I do on this earth will never be good enough to cover the sins I commit each day of my life. God expects holiness. He tells us in Leviticus 19:2; Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. In order to stand before a holy God and live in His heaven, we must be holy. There is no way that I, in my sinful flesh and by my own means can be good enough to live with God in His holy abode. I sin by thought, word and deed daily. All people do.
God also tells us in His word through the apostle Paul that; The wages of sin is death…(Romans 6:23) He is clearly stating here that sin leads to death. God created us holy and in His image. He created us to live forever, but when Adam and Eve sinned it changed things for them and for all people after them. Sin is like a virus. We inherit it from our parents and it is passed down from generation to generation. As a result all people are sinners and must die someday. Because God loved the people He had created deeply, He rescued us through the sacrifice of His only Son on the cross.
If you are a parent and especially if you are a mother, you know the deep love and bond which forms between parent and child. I, as a mother would have died for my children without a second thought. I loved them so deeply I couldn’t imagine life without them. They were and are a part of me. If they hurt, I hurt along with them. I held them and cuddled them when they were babies. I protected them and cared for them. I nurtured them by teaching them to love God and others.
The love we have for our children comes from God and His deep love for us. God loves each of us just as much and more than we love our own children. We are a part of Him. His spirit lives in all believers. When we hurt, he hurts along with us. He protects us and cares for us even more than our own parents did or do, and more than we will ever know. He comforts us when we are sad. He rejoices with us when we are happy. He gives us courage to face the challenges in life. He loves us so much that He died in our place so that we will never have to face eternal separation from Him.
Jesus paid the wages for our sin. He suffered death and Hell (separation from God His Father) in our place. Through His blood we are made right with God. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. (Romans 6:22) The second part of the above verse from Romans 6:23 reads; but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Heaven is GIFT offered to all people, but only those who believe and have faith in Jesus Christ will receive it. We can’t earn it and we certainly don’t deserve it. It is attained by grace alone through faith alone – not faith in one’s self or in other humans or human ideas, but faith in Jesus. He came to earth as a man. He lived a holy life without sin. He suffered and died taking the punishment we deserve for our sins upon Himself, and He conquered death by rising from the dead after three days. Because He lives eternally, we will live eternally also through faith in Him. He [Jesus]is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead…For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him…by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross…He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. (Colossians 1:18-22)
|The Truth is in the Word|
There are more than a few church denominations which teach salvation through works. Sadly, one denomination I know of actually discourages its members from personal study of God’s Word. Friends – It is in the Word that the truth lies! If you belong to a denomination which teaches that you must be “good” to get to heaven, I encourage you to read and study your Bible. Don’t accept the words of your pastor or priest over and above the words of Scripture.
If you think and believe that the way to heaven is by being good and working hard, you are disregarding the sacrifice that Jesus made for you. You are saying it was of no consequence. You are saying you don’t need Jesus and that you are good enough to do it alone. You are putting your faith in your own abilities.
Put your faith in Jesus. In Jesus you will find rest for your soul and freedom from sin and death. He tells us in Matthew 11: 28-30; Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. By believing and having faith in Jesus, you can be sure of where you are going when you die. You won’t have to wonder if you have been good enough. Out of your love for God will flow love for your fellowman. The good things you do in life will be a result of your love for God and thankfulness for all He has done for you. They will be the “fruits” or the results of your faith, rather than your way to heaven.
|Gentle and Humble|
The work I do every day at the help center for women and families is truly a blessing and a gift. I have the opportunity to show my love for Jesus each day by helping others. I am able to look at the lives of those less fortunate than I and realize how truly blessed I am. Yes, I am blessed physically and financially, but the true blessing lies in the fact that I know my Savior. Without Him I am nothing. Without Jesus, what is there to live for? If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. (1 Corinthians 15:19)
This life is not all there is. It is only a short period in time. The older I get, the more I realize how short life is. It will end and we will leave this earth with none of the possessions we worked so hard for and thought we had to have. In heaven God will provide all that we need to be completely happy.
I tried to explain to my friend that the only way for any of us to attain heaven is through faith in Jesus and by God’s grace (His undeserved love), but I’m not sure she was ready to hear the truth. Through Jesus we are holy in God’s eyes. When He looks at His believers He doesn’t see sinners, but the holiness of His Son, and only by being holy are we able to enter heaven. I hope and pray that God will present me with another opportunity to speak with her and help her realize that it is so much easier than her church portrays it to be. In the meantime; The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:15)
I am trusting you for cleansing In the crimson flood; Trusting you who made me holy By your blood.(vs.3)
I am trusting you for power; You can never fail. Words which you yourself shall give me Must prevail. (vs.5)