Today: Monday, December 09, 2019

Are you fit... for heaven?    (11/2/2008 )

Do you want the easy answer—or the difficult one?

The good news of Jesus is precisely that: good news. There's nothing you need to do to be fit for heaven: no good deeds can ever get you there; no attendance at church, no hours of kneeling by your bedside, and you don't have to have been baptised. And no wrongs or failures can keep you out, either. Remember—even the murderer crucified on the cross next to Jesus was promised acceptance.

“Great!” I hear you say. “That is an easy answer.”

Or is it the more complicated one?

You see, in some ways we'd prefer it if there were a few rules by which we could guarantee eternal life. We'd just watch out for them and not worry about anything else. The Pharisees (traditionalist Jewish leaders) went down the rule-following route, and even added substantially to the already detailed Jewish laws by creating more and more rules along the way. It felt easy enough to know they were following these rules—but, in fact, it took them further away from God. They lost touch with God's heart. In the Old Testament, the prophet Hosea wrote of God: “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice…' .

Relying on our own personal relationship with God, rather than on rules and religious habit, is a liberating experience. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” says Jesus in Matthew [NT]. It is a simple call; we just need to say ‘yes' to Jesus. But this is a ‘yes' to following him; 'yes' to trusting him; ‘yes' to him having total control over our lives.

It is costly, and hard to live this out, in every sphere of our lives, every moment of every day. Jesus also said in Matthew [NT]: “Wide is the road that leads to destruction… narrow the road that leads to life.” and “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus is making the point that it's a tough choice.

It's worth it, though—like a pearl of great price. It brings freedom and life beyond your imagining and Jesus' love is full of patience, gentleness and forgiveness. He is with us to help us day by day. He knows we won't get it right, but he looks at our hearts and sees the genuine efforts we make.

Sometimes the church has been a poor image of Jesus. It can seem to offer a narrow welcome (only if you're ‘good enough') and, once inside, lacking in integrity and clarity of teaching or morals.

Jesus was, and is, the opposite. His arms are wide open. He accepts us all. But once his, he will guide us to purity and to truth, and he will ultimately bring us to a perfectly restored relationship with God.

Pray: Lord God, help me to recognise and remember the simplicity of your good news, and not to get distracted from my relationship with you by religious practices of any kind. Thank you for what you have done for me, for your amazing love that I can only partly comprehend. Guide my heart and lead me to truly follow you in all things. Amen.

Think about: King David, the hero who conquered the ‘giant' Goliath, was also adulterer and murderer with a severely messed-up family. He was described by God as ‘a man after his own heart'. He made mistakes (serious ones!), but in his heart he sought to follow God and he responded each time with genuine repentance (turning back to God). Read some of David's psalms to see these responses (eg 51, 32 and 40). God can - and will - forgive anyone who is sorry!

Challenge: It's so easy to let other things crowd the centre space in our lives which should belong to God alone. But God won't share that space. What things are you allowing to get in the way – pleasures, worries, family, ambition for riches or status, trusting in your own control of relationships, or work? Be radical if you need to, but make your ‘yes' to God an absolute ‘yes'.

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