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An Extremely Important Matter

God's glorious creation
Christmas Day 2005, Raleigh, North Carolina

Please do me the favor of reading and considering the following questions: 

If you're interested in finding out more, please scroll down this page. 
Either way, thank you for your time! 

Popular culture's erroneous views on heaven

Don't trust popular culture to portray an accurate picture of heaven, or what it takes to get there!  Remember that Hollywood makes money by entertaining, not necessarily by being accurate.  Here are a few popular myths about heaven that the Bible clearly shoots down: 

Myth:  Nearly everyone but mass murderers and child molesters will be allowed in. 
Myth:  You'll go to heaven if your good outweighs your bad. 
It's amazing how many people believe these lies.  You simply can't earn your way in.  The Bible says:  No one is good – except God alone.1  For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.2  Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.3  Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.4  In other words, even one little sin is enough to disqualify you from heaven.  But even if you are guilty of the most terrible sins, it isn't hopeless, as we shall see below. 
Myth:  You'll be able to talk your way past St. Peter to gain entrance to heaven. 
Myth:  You just have to correctly answer a trick question or pass a test to get in. 
As if Peter were some kind of fool, or a troll living under a bridge!  Besides, Peter has nothing to do with it.  Each of us will give an account of himself to God.5  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him whom we must give account.6 
Myth:  If you don't make it in the first time, you'll be sent back to Earth and will be given another chance. 
Nope.  You get one shot.  Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgement.7 
Myth:  There are many different paths to heaven. 
This is mere wishful thinking.  Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me."8  So it's not St. Peter you have to get past, it's Jesus himself! 

And while we're at it... 

Myth:  When people die and go to heaven they become angels. 
Myth:  In heaven, the main activity is to sit on a cloud and play the harp. 
Myth:  Heaven will be really, really boring. 
These are unimportant issues and so I won't get into them now, but trust me, none of these are true either! 

1Mark 10:18 and Luke 18:19  2Romans 3:23  3John 8:34  4Romans 8:8  5Romans 14:12  6Hebrews 4:13  7Hebrews 9:27  8John 14:6 

The very unpleasant alternative to heaven

So, if sinners don't get into heaven, does that mean they are destined for hell?  I'm afraid so.  The Bible says, The Son of Man [that is, Jesus] will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.  They [the angels] will throw them [sinners] into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.9  But, as I said, it isn't hopeless – there is a way to avoid this terrible outcome. 

Hell is definitely a place you want to avoid at all costs!  The Bible tells the story of a man who died and ended up in hell: 

In hell, when he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away [in heaven], with Lazarus by his side.  So he called to him, "Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire."  But Abraham replied, "...between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us."10 

9Matthew 13:41-42  10Luke 16:23-26 

The dilemma between God's perfect love and his perfect justice

Many people quite reasonably ask, "If God is such a loving god, why would he send anyone to hell?" 

The truth is, God loves each of us more than we can even imagine, and he most certainly does not want any of us to go to hell.  For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.11  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish.12 

But as much as he loves us, God is also a god of justice, and therefore he will not let sin go unpunished.  Because of your stubborness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgement will be revealed.13 

If God wanted to ensure that no one would go to hell, he would have had to make us incapable of committing sin.  But then we would have been like mindless robots.  Instead, in his infinite wisdom, he gave each of us a free will to do as we please, and of course, most unfortunately, we have all chosen to sin.  Even Adam and Eve could not keep themselves from sinning, and God gave them only one simple rule, and he even told them the consequences if they disobeyed!  You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.14 

In theory, it would be possible to stay out of hell simply by living a completely sinless life.  Of course, as we have seen, in practice this is impossible.  Another way we could possibly avoid hell would be to find someone to take our place.  However, that person would have to be sinless himself, or else he would already be destined for hell because of his own sins.  Only a sinless person could pay the price on behalf of someone else.  But again, there is no one who can fit this bill, so we're back to square one again. 

But of course, God has provided us a most wonderful solution to this seemingly impossible dilemma! 

11Psalm 100:5  122 Peter 3:9  13Romans 5:5  14Genesis 2:17 

God's solution to this dilemma

God the Father sent his own son to Earth to do what no mortal man could do:  live a completely sinless human life.  The Bible says of Jesus:  He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.15 

Jesus, then, being sinless, is uniquely qualified to take the punishment for our sin on our behalf.  And out of his incredible love for each of us, he has already willingly done so!  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.16  For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God."17 

If you've seen Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of the Christ", you have some inkling of what Jesus went through physically.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.18 

But when Jesus bore our sins, it didn't wipe the slate clean for the entire human race.  He did so on behalf of those individuals who, before they die, have a relationship with him and love him, and have asked him to take away their sins.  When Judgement Day comes, everyone will want to be Jesus' best buds.  But Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord" will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!"19  So, if you reject Jesus now, he will reject you when it matters most. 

151 Peter 2:22  16Romans 5:8  171 Peter 3:18  18Isaiah 53:5  19Matthew 7:21,23 

Some things you need to know about Jesus

20John 1:1  21John 1:14  22Hebrews 4:14-15  23Philippians 2:6-8  24Matthew 28:1-2, 5-7  25John 20:19 and Luke 24:36-39  26Acts 1:3 

How to receive the gift of eternal life

As I explained earlier, we are incapable of doing anything to earn our way to heaven.  Yet, God offers the free gift of salvation and eternal life in heaven to everyone.  But it's not automatic – there are still a few things that we must do to obtain this gift. 

Think of it this way:  If I were to offer to give you a hundred dollar bill for free, no strings attached, and I were to hold it out in front of you, you'd still have to do something to get it.  You'd have to take your hand out of your pocket and extend it, so that I could put the bill into your hand.  If you just walked away, you would not get the money.  If you stood there, but kept your hands in your pockets, you would still not have the hundred dollars.  The gift is free, but you still have to accept it in order to get it. 

Would you like to ask Jesus Christ to forgive your sins and come into your life?  You can do it right now in front of your computer, or whenever you're ready.  The exact words you use don't matter; Jesus is more interested in your honesty and sincerity than he is about how you express it.  But if you're unsure of what to say, you can use this sample prayer: 

Dear Jesus, I realize I am a sinner and I deserve to go to hell.  But I believe that you are the Son of God, and that you died for my sins, and then rose from the grave.  I ask you to take away my sins and forgive me, and I sincerely want to turn from my sinful ways and follow you instead.  Please come into my heart and guide me.  In Your name I pray, Amen. 

Did you pray this prayer (or one like it) and really mean it?  If so, then welcome to the family of God!  Your eternal life as a believer begins right now!  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!33 

27John 3:16  28Romans 3:22  291 Corinthians 15:2-6  301 John 1:9  31Acts 3:19  32Revelation 3:20  332 Corinthians 5:17 

Next Steps

If you've just become a believer, you undoubtedly are thinking something like, "Okay, so where do I go from here?"  First, if you know anyone who is an active Christian, contact that person and let them know the good news!  They will want to share in your joy!  And don't hesitate to tell other people, too.  Jesus said, "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven."34 

A priority for you should be to be baptized as a believer.  Throughout the New Testament of the Bible, new believers are told to be baptized, and they were baptized "immediately" or as soon as possible after they had accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Baptism is a ceremony where you are either briefly immersed in water or have water sprinkled on your head.  It symbolizes the washing away of your sins, and in the case of baptism by immersion also symbolizes the death of your sinful past and your rebirth as a follower of Christ.  Your receiving believer's baptism is an act of obedience and a demonstration of allegiance that will certainly get you started on the right foot as a follower of Christ. 

When the people heard this [the good news about Jesus], they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers what shall we do?"  Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins."  Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.35 

You will also want to develop relationships with Christians who are mature in their faith, who can help guide you in your new life.  The best way to do this, and to obtain believer's baptism, is to get involved with a local church.  In the Bible, Christians are instructed to meet in corporate (group) worship, and churches are the place where that occurs.  There are all different styles of worship and music and preaching, so find a church that you are reasonably comfortable with.  Just make sure that it uses the Bible and only the Bible as the basis for its beliefs, it preaches about Christ and the need for sinners to accept him as Lord and Savior, and it performs believer's baptisms.  To really get connected with people in the church, find out what small Bible study groups they might have, and join one of these as well. 

If you don't already have one, get a Bible.  A modern translation (such as the New International Version that I've quoted on this page) will be much easier to read and understand than a King James Bible, which was translated into English in the year 1607.  A very good place to start reading is the Gospel of John.  Take it slow, and try to let what you're reading really sink in.  When you finish John, read Paul's letter to the Romans. 

It's important to maintain your new relationship with Jesus.  Pray to him at least every day, preferably at a time and place where you can give him your undivided attention, and don't hold back telling him what's on your heart.  Ask him to give you wisdom to understand everything you're learning about him, and to give you the strength to do what is right and to resist the temptation to sin.  Confess and ask his forgiveness when you do sin. 

My prayer for you is that you will remain steadfast and committed, and will continue to grow and mature in your new faith!  With God's help, you can certainly do it!  Amen. 

34Matthew 10:32  35Acts 2:37-38,41 

If this web page has been a help to you, I would love to hear from you!  Also, if you have any questions about anything you've read on this page, please feel free to ask me.  Sincerely, Rick Kretschmer 

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Page credits

Photograph at top of page copyright © 2005 by Julia Kretschmer and used with permission. 
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION.  Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society.  Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. 

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