A Simple Question, Part I
by Joy Martin, Co-founder Set Me Free Ministries
This afternoon someone asked me a simple question. It was a simple question with a straightforward answer. Or so I thought. But my “straightforward answer” led to a conversation that left me deep in thought most of the evening.
It began with the question: “Joy, do you think that all of the good things I do for people now will make up for all of the bad things I’ve done in the past once I get to heaven?”
I have to admit that I was caught a little off-guard, but I quickly replied, “Nope. Works don’t get you to heaven. All you have to do is accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior and repent of your sins. Good deeds don’t get you in.”
In my mind, that was all there was to say. Jesus died for our sins. On the third day He rose from the dead. And now, because of His sacrifice, we are offered the gift of salvation. It’s ours for the taking, and all we have to do is accept that gift. End of story. It’s cut and dry. Right?
But, see, I was raised in a Christian home. I accepted that gift of salvation by asking Jesus to be the Lord of my life while sitting on the edge of my brother’s bed when I was just a little girl. I graduated from a Christian high school. I minored in religious studies in college. For as long as I can remember, Christianity has been an integral part of my life. I have never strayed too terribly far from the “straight and narrow,” so to speak. And because of that, it’s easy for me to forget that not everyone has that same background. So something that seems matter-of-fact to me may not be so easy for others to understand.
And that was the case today. As a result, that simple question quickly evolved into a more complicated conversation.
“So, a mass murderer can get into heaven if he believes in Jesus?” The question felt like a trap, but my answer remained the same.
“Yep. If a mass murderer comes to know Jesus and repents of his sins, then he’s forgiven, and he’ll be let into heaven just like you and me.” But I didn’t leave it at that. “In the same way, a man who has lived a good life and has never done anything terrible can end up in hell if he hasn’t come to know Jesus.”
It sounds harsh, I know. And the person I was talking to disagreed with me and said that he just couldn’t believe that someone who lived a good life could end up in hell while a mass murderer went to heaven. But the Bible is crystal clear on this point. In John 14:6, Jesus says to His disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Believe me when I say that I understand that reading that last paragraph may be hard for some of you. But that doesn’t make it any less true.
If you are one of those people who is extremely uncomfortable right now or is finding it hard to even continue reading, perhaps you will take comfort in this. Although there is but one way to heaven, the way is open to everyone. Yes, I mean everyone.
Romans 10:9-10 says, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”
And in Ephesians 2:8, we are told, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
What a gift! There is nothing we can do to earn our way into heaven. But Jesus has prepared a path for us, and all we need to do is have faith and confess that He is Lord. No matter how good or bad you’ve been, no matter how early or late in life you make the decision, no matter what you’ve done or where you’ve been, you have equal access to God's grace. I, for one, find great comfort in that.