Which Way is Up?

   March 09, 2017 by Dale
  3 comments

I’m directionally challenged! That is the politically correct way of saying, “I get lost.” I picked my son up at the airport one evening, took the wrong turn because of highway construction and then tried to get back to familiar territory for over one hour and a half. When I see a “detour sign,” my blood press begins to climb, and panic begins its quiet, subtle overthrow of my once calmed emotions because I know I’m about to get lost yet again.

When I get lost, I experience complete disorientation. I forget to ask myself questions like, “where is the sun and what time of day is it?” Yet, with all my disorientation, I feel so confident that the next turn I make will bring me out of this mess. Yet that too is a problem since it leads me to keep going in the wrong direction hoping that it will somehow, eventually lead me back to the right road if I just keep going. Think of me as an example of the nation of Israel in its wilderness wanderings, except on wheels.

Many people are directionally challenged when it comes to finding the correct road to heaven. And this can also create a lot of disorientation and panic.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that there is a cacophony of voices shouting out different directions, all at the same time.

One voice says that no one can be saved (by the term saved traditional Christian theology refers to going to heaven when one dies) if he doesn’t believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus. That leaves one to wonder about those individuals around the world who have never heard about Jesus at all. But since he feels inadequate to interact with those of different beliefs, he keeps silent and develops a repulsion for such truth-seeking dialogues.

Another voice says that no one can be saved (still supposing that the term refers to going to heaven when one dies) if he denies the virgin birth.  This person may simply have doubts about Jesus’ virgin birth because he can’t figure out how such a thing actually took place. Since he hasn’t studied the issue enough to engage in a positive discussion of it, he keeps quiet and stands at awe of the person who speaks so confidently about the means that God used to impregnate a human woman by the Holy Spirit.

Still another voice explains that if someone has no assurance of his salvation (still assuming that to be saved is to be heaven bound after one dies), then he can’t really be saved because assurance of salvation is, this voice would declare, an inherent part of faith in Jesus. If you believe in Jesus as Savior, then you must, by natural necessity, believe that you are saved (i.e., going to heaven when you die). That makes sense, right? But it obviously doesn’t make sense to the person who has certainly believed in Jesus but still struggles, nonetheless, with his assurance (as it is defined in traditional, Christian theologies). Not having the opportunity, or not taking it when it presents itself, he is afraid to enter into a friendly debate on the issue. Can a lack of assurance be the result of poor teaching rather than inadequate faith? It would certainly seem so.

Another voice warns that if a person believes that he must perform good works to go to heaven, then he can’t be saved. This voice simply points out that if you have to do anything to get to heaven, then you can’t believe that Jesus did everything to get you to heaven. And if you don’t believe that Jesus did everything ~ because on the cross He did say, “it is finished” or paid in full ~ then you aren’t believing what He has designated for one to believe in order to be saved.

But as long as we continue to assume that salvation or being saved refers to going to heaven, our dialogues will prove to be unpersuasive to the person of the opposite conviction.

One wonders why the wisest person who ever lived (aside from Jesus Christ, of course) would have penned the proverb: “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But victory belongs to the Lord” (Prov. 21:31). And Paul’s statement about spiritual warfare is just as disconcerting: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. . . . Therefore take up the full armor of God that you may be able to resist in the evil day and having done everything to stand firm” (Eph. 6:10-11, 13).

And if we relate this truth about walking with God to initially trusting in Jesus, then it seems quite obvious that, since man has something to do on the back end of his relationship with God, he probably has something to do on the front end of his faith in Jesus (Col. 2:6). While you know good works are important, even required by God, you aren’t sure how they relate to going to heaven so you hold your tongue and listen to the other side being presented while feeling sure that all the issues aren’t being addressed.  Since you are unable to articulate the problems effectively yourself, you continue to listen to the dialogue as you stifle your own concerns.

Another voice teaches that unless a person speaks in Tongues, he can’t be saved (i.e., go to heaven after he dies). Since the Holy Spirit indwells and seals the person who believes in Jesus, and since speaking in Tongues is supposed to be the sign that such indwelling and sealing has taken place, the conclusion is reached that no one can be saved who has not spoken in Tongues.

On this topic, you readily admit that you don’t know enough to express your thoughts. You just know that you are saved (even if that does not include an assurance of going to heaven) and that you haven’t spoken in Tongues.

Still another voice teaches that if a person commits suicide, then he either was never saved, to begin with, or he lost the salvation that he once had.[1] While this topic really interests you a lot, yet, since you haven’t been taught the opposing viewpoints, you don’t know enough to ask the questions that might clarify the issue for yourself or for others listening to the discussion.

Another voice directs the traveler to be baptized if he wants to be saved (that is if he wants to go to heaven when he dies). Other voices add the alternative paths of being sprinkled or of being thrice baptized or of being re-baptized (suggesting that the baptism from a different denomination is insufficient).

But everyone is agreed that a person must believe in Jesus to be saved (i.e., go to heaven). And with that assessment, I fully agree. Well, maybe. Well, sorta. Well, the more I think about these issues, the more I have to conclude that we’ve gotten ourselves into a mess.

You see the real problem about finding the right road to heaven is that the Bible nowhere equates being saved with going to heaven. Oh, my! Oh, my o my! No wonder everyone is struggling to find the right road. God never gave such a path for man in the first place. Our GPS is not broken; it is just inadequate for showing this desired route.

There is an “up.” And there is a “down.” But that should not be your concern.

Your concern should be on pursuing God with all your heart. If we become determined to enjoy the wonderful relationship to God now, our lives will be filled with divine blessings, purpose, and meaning. The more we experience His love today, the less concern we will have about life-after-death. He has provided everything each person needs to be fulfilled and overwhelmingly content. Peace, joy, wisdom, and confidence are all part of the river of blessings that flow from a daily experience of the fellowship God offers to each person.

On top of all that, the special spiritual life that Jesus offers for those who believe in Him as Messiah equips its possessor with supernatural capacities to deal with all the hardships and trials of life. And who doesn’t want or need all that now? We all do. And it is ours for the taking. If we will walk in faith, taking God at His word, following that word by the power His Spirit supplies.

But as far as heaven goes, Jesus has promised nothing that automatically takes you there or guarantees you a non-stop arrival into eternal bliss. Engage with God now by faith in His Son every moment of every day and experience a little slice of heaven on earth. Then after you die, you will be granted an extravagant experience of the same.

[1] See Lutzer’s article which affirms that committing suicide cannot cause the person who has trusted in Jesus Christ to go to hell (https://www.moodymedia.org/articles/suicide-and-salvation/). See MacArthur’s article which affirms that the person who commits suicide couldn’t possibly have been a true Christian at all (https://www.gty.org/resources/questions/QA143/can-one-who-commits-suicide-be-saved). See Piper’s article which affirms that it could go both ways (http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/suicide-and-salvation). Or see these two Catholic articles which contradict each other (http://www.catholicdigest.com/articles/faith/knowledge/2007/04-01/do-people-who-commit-suicide-go-to-hell and http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/the-sin-of-suicide.html).

 

Comments (3)


  • Becky

    March 10, 2017 at 05:00 pm

    Life becomes so rich when I just love Jesus and quit worrying about if I'll make it to heaven. He is a Good God! All the time!

    Reply


    • Dale

      March 11, 2017 at 02:30 pm

      Becky, you are far, far, far ahead of the pack. Focusing upon, and worrying about, getting to heaven has distracted us from enjoying Jesus. You have already experienced, I'm sure, the love of God in your daily life. So why would the God who is loving you now, suddenly turn on you and condemn you at your judgment. That is not the character of God I see set forth in the Scriptures. God is Good even in the trials of life so, yes, He is Good all the time!

      Reply

  • Susan Lumen

    March 31, 2017 at 04:32 pm

    I have found that my biggest problem has always been trust. Trusting God for my everything. My life here and now and my life eternally. Raised in the Roman tradition of course pointed me in the direction of works and shame if I didn't get the works right. Then I left that way at 15 and was born again at 25 and now at 63 am finding freedom through truth in the Word. Just reading with the desire to leave myself on the altar and let the Holy Spirit fill and direct me as Jesus promised He would. The first love and first works that Jesus spoke of in Revelation 2:4-5 recently became revealed to me as simply the surrender of my life to God that I did when I was first born again. Wow!! Could it be THAT simple?!? I felt like a bird that had been caged its entire life suddenly set free from the bars that held me captive as well as restricted my view. Once I was blind now I can see!

    Reply



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