“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
~Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)
One of the strongest opinions I hear when sharing my faith with others centers on the Christian belief that the moment you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior you are saved, regardless of the lifestyle you lived up until that point. The thief on the cross next to Jesus at the Crucifixion had no opportunity to change his lifestyle. He recognized Jesus for Who He is and Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43 NLT)
Heaven is not a reward for good behavior nor is hell punishment for people who behave badly. Our eternal destination is a choice, and God allows it to be our choice. Either we want to spend eternity with God (heaven) or we want to spend eternity without Him (hell). It really is that simple but I certainly understand why this Biblical truth challenges us.
We are taught that in life we must work diligently for the things we want and strive unceasingly for the achievements that matter most to us. The thought that we could “achieve” something as incredible as access to Heaven without working for it, without earning it, is completely inconsistent with everything we know as human beings. It goes against the grain, but the Bible teaches us that God’s ways are higher than our ways.
Someone once asked me, “So, you’re telling me that if a person lived a horrible life and accepted Christ with his dying breath, he is in heaven?” God’s answer to that question is yes, IF he was TRULY repentant and at that moment GENUINELY invited Jesus to be his Savior.
The thief on the cross did nothing to earn heaven. The thief on the opposite side of Jesus mocked Him along with the crowd. The other thief, recognized His Savior, and because of that, the gates of Paradise were opened for him! Both men led criminal lives and yet, one was saved…the one who repented and asked Jesus to save Him!
Accepting Christ in your life is not merely a matter of verbalizing it with words. It requires repentance …a GENUINE change of heart. Nobody truly knows our heart except God and I believe that when we get to Heaven there may be people there that we will be surprised to see! Sadly, there may also be some absent that we expected to greet us. (Matthew 7:22-23 NIV)
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus shares with us the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Whether the laborer worked all day, half a day, or an hour, the landowner gave them all the exact same pay. I have to say, if I was the one who worked all day in the hot sun and was given the same pay as someone else who worked only an hour, I would not be a happy camper! It is unfair and unjust by human standards.
Based on this parable, if you are someone who accepted Christ as a child and lived your whole life for Him; when you die, you will be with Him for eternity in Heaven.
If you were a rebellious teenager and young adult who did all kinds of ungodly things then repented and came to know Christ mid-life; when you die, you will be with Him for eternity in Heaven.
If you are nearing the end of your life and have lived an ungodly lifestyle for decades, then repent and genuinely accept Jesus as your Savior; when you die, you will be with Him for eternity in Heaven.
I may not understand God’s ways, but I clearly see His love for us shining through His plan. He wants us all to say “YES!” to His Son and be with Him for eternity. He patiently waits and rejoices when we say yes, whether that comes when we are a child, an adult or living out our final days.
This plan may not seem fair by human standards, but I am so grateful that God’s ways are higher than ours! Jesus knew no sin and could have rightfully said, “Dad, this plan of yours isn’t fair!” The good news for us is that’s not how He responded!
None of us are promised our next breath, let alone another day on this earth. God is patient, yet, someday the anticipation will be over and Jesus will return. (2 Peter 3:9 NIV)
I pray that if you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus that you will look beyond any lack of human understanding that you may have. God’s great love for us may be beyond our comprehension but He made the Way to Him very clear.
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NKJV)