I loved to hear my mother laugh. And there was one story that would always cause her to giggle.
She and dad had been visiting in Georgia. He was impatient and wanted to drive back to their home in Florida even though it was pouring rain.
So, they departed that stormy night. Soon after, he lost his way and was a little flustered. Ahh, but the entrance to the tollway was just ahead. Dad pulled up to the booth and handed a dollar to the uniformed man. But the guy responded by saying, “Uh sir – this is an army base!”
Dad attempted to enter a place where he was not welcome and which required more than a dollar. Some of us may have a similar experience one day – but it won’t be as funny.
As someone who ministers to the dying, I have often found that they are usually confident that heaven awaits them, regardless of how they have lived or whether they are religious or not.
According to Jesus, this may be a fatal presumption.
He said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven—only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many powerful deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me…” – Matt 7:21-23
Shocking words and yet spoken by the Prince of love – because of His love for us. He wants to awaken us from the blind presumption that heaven is a universal entitlement.
The problem is that we want to hand the sentry a dollar to get by when something else is needed.
Paul tells us what. “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
Heaven comes to us as a gift from God. It is not a privilege that we earn, but rather receive. It was purchased for us by Christ who bore the penalty for our sin. We are given a pass to heaven the moment we look to God through Christ, in faith and say, “God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am!” – Luke 18:13
But how can we know that our faith is genuine? After all, the Scripture says, “Even the demons believe…and tremble with fear.” – James 2:19
The fruit of saving faith is the proof of saving faith.
Jesus said, “a tree is known by its fruit.” – Matthew 12:33. John the Baptist said, “Produce fruit that proves your repentance.” – Matthew 3:8
In other words, the way we live, the values we embrace, the faith we practice, the Lord we serve tend to trace the validity of our faith.
We are saved by our faith in Jesus, but there should be evidence to follow. Saul’s heart and behavior were radically changed after his Damascus Road experience, whereas, the thief on the cross experienced not much more than a changed heart. But, both were produced out of a saving faith.
Now if this blog causes you concern, then it is likely because your heart already belongs to Jesus. Why would you even worry about this issue if it didn’t? Unless – you have never trusted the Lord, then your concern is drawing you to Jesus. If that’s the case you probably need to whisper that prayer, “God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am!”
When you and I stand at the toll booth in the sky, may we offer not a dollar, but evidence of a faith in Christ that has changed us!
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A PRAYER: Lord thank You for truth that will keep me from tragedy at the gates of heaven.
Scripture references are from the NETBible ®