I’m going to step out and say something very unpopular in today’s culture: many people are going to miss out on going to heaven.
I know. That makes me intolerant, discriminatory, and close-minded, right? Nobody likes to think that people will be going to hell.
I’ve heard people say that no matter what religion people follow, they all point to the same God by different names, but I disagree.
Some religions say that we are divine and can become gods ourselves, but pursuing that route only has us following in Lucifer’s footsteps. In 1 John 3:10, it says, “So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.”
Too many religions don’t accept Jesus as the One and Only Son of God, but it is through his death and resurrection we are saved. In John 16:9, it says, “The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me.” And in John 14:6, it says, “Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’”
In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus is referred to as the narrow gate through which we must go to get to God’s Kingdom: ¹³“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. ¹⁴But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”
This is reiterated in Luke 13:23-27, where Jesus going through the towns and villages preaching, and it says, “²³Someone asked him, ‘Lord, will only a few be saved?’ He replied, ²⁴’Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail. ²⁵When the master of the house has locked the door, it will be too late. You will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Lord, open the door for us!’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ ²⁶Then you will say, ‘But we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ ²⁷And he will reply, ‘I tell you, I don’t know you or where you come from. Get away from me, all you who do evil.’”
What does it mean, “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom?” Does it mean we all need to become workaholics? Does it mean the only way to be saved is by keeping ourselves busy with good works? Does it mean that since the door is narrow, we have to work at being better than others so they don’t push us out as we all try to go through? It’s not any of those scenarios. “Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” (Ephesians 2:9)
The answer lies in verses 25 and 26 where it says the Lord says he doesn’t know the people trying to get into his kingdom. The people counter with, “But we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.” Again the Lord says, “I don’t know you.”
We can’t just go through the motions of being a Christian. True Christianity is not about going to church and listening to a sermon once a week or hanging out with other Christians, although both those things are important for spiritual growth and accountability.
Many people call themselves believers but only those whose lives are changed as a result of that belief will be going to heaven. From my own experience, I find it hard to understand how anyone can remain unchanged when they truly invite Jesus into their heart and surrender their will to His. Life takes on a whole new perspective: new meaning, new purpose, new significance, new value.
Rick Warren, pastor at Saddleback Church in California and author of The Purpose Driven Life, puts it this way: “Christianity is not a religion or a philosophy, but a relationship and a lifestyle.”
The Christian lifestyle is a journey of becoming more like Christ.
It’s not easy because there are so many worldly temptations vying for our attention and trying to lure us away, plus it requires commitment to put forth the effort it takes. It starts when we turn away from our old way of life and surrender our will to His on a day to day, hour by hour, minute by minute, basis.
True Christianity is about spending time with the Lord, much like we do when building and maintaining a close friendship or marriage relationship. As we spend time with Him, we get to know Him better and grow in our love for Him.
The more time we spend in His presence, reading and meditating on His Word and conversing with Him in prayer, the more transformed we will be by Him and our character will take on His qualities.
In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren tells us becoming more like Jesus is not done by imitation (acting like a Christian) but by inhabitation (our character being transformed from the inside by the work of the Holy Spirit). He says, “The truth transforms us. Spiritual growth is the process of replacing lies with truth. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God. To become like Jesus we must fill our lives with His Word.” John 8:32 says, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
We have to immerse ourselves in the Word of God, but not only that. We also have be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading and take the necessary action, based on what we’ve read, to grow in our relationship with the Lord.
It is in our obedience, as a result of a transformed life, that we and others are blessed and God is glorified.
Let the light of God’s Word illuminate the narrow road for you, because, even though it’s fraught with obstacles and challenges, it holds the greatest reward, eternal life in heaven, and it is as you are helped over each obstacle by the hand of Jesus that you have the best view of that reward.