I’m not going to run at you with a hundred Bible verses, but everything I write in these posts – and the way I think at all – is totally influenced by my study of the Bible. If you read anything here that does not line up with that, please call me out in the comments!
I am human. I am still learning. The subject of heaven and hell is not something that I take lightly. Especially as a mother, I desire for my daughter to one day be able to confidently choose what she believes and have peace about her place in the universe.
As I said before in my post about the reality of hell, I would not be considered fit for heaven based on God’s standards. But thankfully there is a way to escape hell.
Wait a minute. You think I’m being hard on myself saying I deserve an eternity of hell? Well, just because I might seem less selfish than some, doesn’t mean I’m perfect. Without God really impacting my heart, I would be one proud, bitter, manipulative woman. And sometimes I’m still one big cry-baby. I still face the temptation to focus on my insecurities and dwell on my past. It is my human nature to try to be a good person so I can think of myself as “superior” to others. But thank God, He knows how to crack through my pride and show me my utter need for Him.
Yup, I grew up with some major pride. Not sure if it was from my upbringing among right-wing, conservative homeschoolers who never doubted that everything they did, said and wore was “right.” Or maybe it was my super-smart father who over-researched every detail before making any purchase or decision no matter how great or small. There was a lot of pride in that, knowing he was providing us with the best. And while some pride might be healthy, it’s not when you think that you are better than other people because you earned your privileges.
That is exactly the kind of pride God hates. That’s probably why He said it’s easier for someone to climb through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to make it to heaven.
What type of people does God welcome into heaven? The kind who know they are wrong. The ones who society has left out. They don’t have any special privileges. Maybe not even a social security number. Yes, maybe they are illegal immigrants. But Jesus says, “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”
Jesus ignored the leaders of religion. He invited himself to dinner with the most despised worker of the Jewish-Roman IRS. And when one of the religious leaders did invite him over, Jesus let a woman in who had a colorful reputation. It made all the proper men around the table uncomfortable. Did Jesus realize what type of woman she was? How could he just let her break such a ridiculously-expensive jar open and pour perfume all over him? This display was certainly out of place. It was embarrassing to them.
But Jesus had balls. He told them to shut up and let her do this. That bottle of perfume may have been bought by years of prostitution. But she was pouring it all out on the Teacher who saw beyond her body. The religious leaders saw her merely as some woman who should stay in the shadows. The town harlot. They saw her as inferior. But Jesus saw that she had left her past to cling to His teachings. And her demonstration of pure love was far superior to their “concern” for His reputation.
So many times I have been like those religious snobs. Seeing the ignorance in other people, but not realizing the blindness in myself. I have had almost every privilege imaginable handed to me! And if I think for a second that I deserve it, that I earned any of it, or that I am entitled to this life, then I am the worst of sinners.
Every single blessing in my life is a gift from God.
It is not fair that I have a wonderful husband.
It is not fair that I have a healthy daughter.
It is not fair that I do not have to worry about my next meal.
It is not fair that I was born in America.
It is not fair that I get to be a stay at home mom.
It is not fair that I can write this blog without having to worry about my safety.
All of these things were paid for by other people who sacrificed for me. Soldiers who died so this country could be free. A hard working husband who allows me to stay at home. And the sweat of our farmers who grow our daily nourishment. These are the sacrifices that I am surrounded by, not because I deserve it, but because I am loved.
When someone loves you it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are better than everybody else. It just means that they are a loving person. And when you sure as heck don’t deserve their love more than anybody else, than it goes to show they are a truly good person.
That’s how it is with God. He always chooses the least likely candidates to love. That doesn’t mean that popular people can’t make it to heaven. But it is harder. It is harder to accept God’s love if you are used to deserving things. Pretty people think they can stand on their own two feet in front of God and look pretty good. That’s what makes it hard for them.
To get to heaven you have to come to grips with your ugliness. And out of that ugliness RECEIVE God’s forgiveness. When you have pride like I do, this is almost impossible. It is not that I am unable to recognize my own filth, but that I am too proud to accept such a huge sacrifice that I did not deserve. It is easier to believe that I somehow deserve Christ’s death than to see how disgusting I really am and to accept His total forgiveness in the middle of my garbage heap.
The truth is that it is not fair that I get to go to heaven.
Let me finish telling you about that ex-prostitute. Jesus honored her in front of the men eating dinner with him. He said, “She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful.” and then he turned to the big shot who was criticizing her. “But,” He said, “someone who has been forgiven only a little loves only a little.”
Our relationship with God can only go as far as the understanding of our indebtedness to Him. If I think that I do not owe God a thing, then I am my own God. There is no need for God in my life, there is no want for Him. There is no desire for a relationship with Him because, “thanks, God, I can do fine without you.”
But heaven begins the moment my eyes are opened and I see that God loves me in my depravity. He loves me and He wants me to join myself to Him – like a stick that was lying on the ground and has been picked up and grafted on to a healthy, fruitful vine.
“Yes, I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in me and I in him shall produce a large crop of fruit. For apart from me you can’t do a thing.” (Jesus’ words in John 15:5, Living Bible)
I used to think this Bible verse was a bit of an exaggeration. I mean, “you can’t do a thing?” There are lots of good things I could do with or without God. But you know what? If I wasn’t in a relationship with Him, then it wouldn’t be of any value in God’s eyes. Maybe in the view of everybody else watching…yeah, they might think I’m so generous if I win the lottery and donate it all to start a research hospital. But when it comes down to how God sees me, all that matters is:
- Do I know God?
- Am I operating out of love?
That’s all that matters.
Sure, it’s still wonderful to do nice things and help other people. But what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Before you go off saving the world, save yourself.