Christianity is often distinguished from all other religions because it is the only religion (except maybe universalism, which says everyone goes to Heaven no matter what) that is not works-based.
While the other world religions require men to be good – to do good – to earn their way into blissful eternal life, Christianity freely admits men can’t ever be good enough or do enough good things to be worthy of Heaven. Our good works can’t nullify our sins, and there is nothing we can do about it.
That breaks God’s heart.
He loves us and wants us to be with Him in Heaven, so He devised a plan to get us out of our predicament. As He sat in Heaven, He looked at His sinless Son – perfect in every way – and told Him to go down to Earth to rescue the rest of His children.
And so the story goes that Jesus became a human being and lived a completely sinless life on Earth. Then he was murdered. And because He was sin-free, God considered the sacrifice of Jesus as an acceptable solution to mankind’s sin problem. The deficit mankind had accrued by sinning day in and day out since that fateful day in the Garden was absolved once and for all by the perfect life of one Man.
(Does this logic baffle you? Good. It should. The whole point is that God’s love – God’s grace – is so huge and so pervasive that it won’t ever be calculable. And once you become okay with that, you become open to the Gospel.)
But the story doesn’t end with Jesus providing reparation for the world’s bad choices. If it did, the universalists would be right – everyone, no matter how bad or good – would go to Heaven when they died. That’s a nice thought – one I would LOVE to believe in – but it isn’t biblical.
As it turns out, there is something people have to do to get to Heaven. And, unfortunately, some people refuse to do it. As a result, they choose to opt out of Heaven.
So what is the one “work” Christianity does require for salvation?
John tells us each individual must “receive” Jesus, believing in His name and believing that Jesus takes away his sins (John 1:12; 29).
That one little word – receive – means everything. It makes all the difference between believing in the Gospel and living out the Gospel.
A lot of people think they are going to Heaven because they go to church. Or they went to church. Or they were raised by parents who taught them the Bible stories. Or because their whole family is religious. Or because they are pretty good people. Or even because they believe that Jesus was God.
But none of those things are receiving Jesus’ sacrifice in a personal way. John clearly communicates that without that receiving of Jesus, men are condemned and will perish (John 3:16;18).
To be sure, there are as many different salvation stories as there are saved people. I am not saying you must say a certain prayer or walk the aisle at a church in order to receive Jesus.
I am saying that there must be a realization of one’s personal need for Jesus’ sacrifice to overcome one’s personal sin problem. The Lord can get as creative as He wants in how He gets us to realize, admit, and receive that truth. But the acceptance of that truth is NON-NEGOTIABLE, per the Bible, in determining one’s eternal fate.
Have you personalized Jesus’ sacrifice? Have you received it, or are you hoping some other condition will convince the Lord to let you into Heaven?
Everybody isn’t going to Heaven. If you’re unsure about the path you’re on, let’s talk.