There are many ways to do evangelism. One of the most popular methods during the 1970’s and 1980’s was called Evangelism Explosion. It started at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church with D. James Kennedy and spread across the country. Many churches and Christians still use this approach today.
‘EE’, as it was called, trained Christians to ask two diagnostic questions when beginning a conversation with someone about Jesus: “Have you come to a place in your spiritual life where you know for certain that if you were to die today, you would go to heaven?” And, “Suppose that you were to die tonight and stand before God and He were to say to you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ What would you say?”
Take a moment and think about how you would answer these questions. I am most curious how you would answer the second: “Why should God let you into heaven?” A pastor tells a story of the time a man asked his five-year-old son this question and the boy said, “Because I’m dead!” The boy believed in justification by death. He assumed that because he was dead, he therefore deserved to be in heaven. Many of us think this way too, when we assume that someone who never gave any evidence of loving Jesus on earth will be with Jesus in heaven.
So why should God let you into his heaven? Do you answer, “Because I’m a good person, I go to church, I serve people, I’m generous, I’m humble, or I’m not as bad as most people?” Many people, even in the church, think that God should let them into heaven because of their performance. They think that they will be saved because of their basic goodness or good deeds. Some of us might unconsciously believe in justification by death, or that we will be with God when we die because we deserve it.
There is only one right answer to the question of why God should let us into heaven. It’s a pass/fail test. You either get this question right or you get it wrong. What, then, is the right and biblical answer? Here it is: the only reason God should let any of us into heaven is Jesus Christ. Trusting in the person and work of Jesus is the only way to inherit the kingdom of God. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
We can only enter the kingdom empty-handed. We bring nothing. Our performance does nothing to save us. We must look to the performance of Another if we want to live in heaven. That other person is Jesus and looking to him is what the Bible calls faith. Turning from ourselves and our sins and trusting in Jesus’s death on the cross for our sins is the only reason God will let any of us into His glorious presence.
Our performance does nothing to save us. We must look to the performance of Another if we want to live in heaven
We will only go to heaven if God has graciously saved us through faith in Christ. This is the beauty and simplicity of the gospel message. But there is more to be said. Many of us believe in Jesus, but we still struggle with the first question from Evangelism Explosion: Do we know for certain that we will go to heaven? This question concerns our assurance of salvation. How can we be sure we belong to God and will live forever with Him?
The Bible goes to great lengths to answer this question. One of the repeated reasons or evidences that Scripture gives is that those who belong to God live new lives. The Bible says that we can be assured of our salvation when we look at our lives and see a new pattern of living. 1 John 2:5b-6, “By this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says He abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.” We can know that we belong to God if our lives look increasingly like Jesus’ life.
God makes us new through faith in Christ. If this has truly happened to us, our lives will begin to look new. The danger is thinking that living a new life means that we have been made new. Cleaning up our lives is not the same as being made new in Christ. If we get the order wrong, we may not be prepared to go to heaven because we may be trusting in our performance rather than Christ’s performance for us.
To summarise: Why should God allow you into heaven? Because of your faith in the finished work of Jesus. How can you know if your faith is real? Because your heart and life look more like Jesus. May God increase our faith so that we look more like his Son.
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