Everyone is wishing each other a Happy New Year to welcome in 2013, but I have something else on my mind that I would like to offer in a question: If your heart stops beating today will you go to heaven? “Mind your own business Erik and stop showing off. Leave everyone alone with your preaching about heaven and God.” I can still see the eyes rolling and vividly hear the words being shouted in my face. I remember the night when I was a young teenager living at the house in La Mirada with my parents, when my father stormed in my bedroom one night after a discussion about salvation and heaven at the dinner table, and ripped off my bed blanket and screamed in my face, “I don’t need God. My hard work is my salvation!” I’ll never forget that long sleepless night and those words from my father that still ring in my ears. It was a difficult time in my life as a young Christian sharing and witnessing to my mother and father in the home about Jesus Christ, salvation, God and heaven.
Throughout this year, I have met many people that claim to be a Christian going to heaven, but after discussions, conversations, questions and answers, I discover their Christian claim has no more value than a bumper sticker on a car. How do I know? Because I always get around eventually asking a few questions:
Are you a Christian?
What makes you a Christian?
Do you believe in hell?
Do you believe the bible is perfect without error?
How do we get to heaven?
Where do you go to church?
It astonishes me both Christians and non-Christians get offended by these questions so easily, because they immediately assume I’m judging them. I recently joined a Christian community on Google+ and I asked the same questions. Within a few minutes I was kicked out and blocked from the group. These are important questions people, because you may very well be among the walking dead, and yet you proclaim to be a Christian going to heaven. Why are they uncomfortable with these questions? My new friend Patrick from this particular online community told me he didn’t want “conflict.” As Christians, we are called to hold each other accountable with grace. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12 that we are all of the same body in Christ, needing and belonging to each other. So forgive me for my questions. If I see someone drowning in the sea, I’m not going to turn and walk away, but rather rush and reach out with help.
Jesus made it clear and simple in Matthew 11:25-26:
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
If you believe in Jesus, you will listen to Him, obey His instructions, and serve Him. Why? Because you love Him. (Read this again… and again… and again… And think, think, think.)
You claim to be a Christian, but you choose not to believe in hell.
You claim to be a Christian, but you believe the Bible is not perfect with errors.
You claim to be a Christian, but your not involved with any church.
You claim to be a Christian, but you continue to sin without conviction or a conscious.
You claim to be a Christian, but you don’t seek God in prayer.
You claim to be a Christian, but you do nothing to serve God.
You claim to be a Christian, and you mislead others from God by intention or omission.
You claim to be a Christian, but your more interested in yourself.
You claim to be a Christian, but you don’t seek a relationship with Jesus..
So you say you believe in Jesus, but you continue to live with Jesus absent in your life. I say to you out of love and friendship, I’m sorry but you’re not a Christian and as a result you will not live in the Kingdom of Heaven but rather live in hell for eternity. “How dare you insult and judge me, Erik!” Being a good person that donates to charities, nice to people, and attends church during the holidays don’t make you a Christian. Going to church alone doesn’t make you a Christian. How many times have you prayed to God in 2012? How many times have you opened your bible to learn about your God? How many times did you make a decision trusting fully in God and not yourself? People! If you believe in something, then you follow it, obey it, and live by it. I remember the words of Pastor Carmen from the Men of Valor Bible Study I attend on Tuesday nights at Harvest Orange County, “the evidence of you being a Christian is your obedience.” Thank you Pastor Carmen.
A woman in Maricopa, Arizona earlier this year responded to my blog post about hell, and she told me we’re all saved by God’s grace no matter what we believe or not believe is correct in the bible. I have a serious problem with this statement. How can you claim your a Christian and doubt, question, or change the very book He gave us? A Christian believes the Bible, both Old and New Testaments from Genesis to Revelation, is the inspired Word of God that is perfect without error, and serves as the only written document and instructional manual in the world for gaining wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of God and Heaven, the salvation of sinners through His Son Jesus Christ, and His Holy Spirit. I suggest to the Maricopa woman to look up at the stars at night and tell God He’s not perfect. How can you say God is God, and question and neglect His own words? This is a serious contradiction.
Paul’s letter to Timothy states: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16
When you choose bits and parts of the bible and believe in the things that “feels” right to you, you are personalizing your own God. You’re creating a God that fits you. Stay away from your feelings and focus on the facts straight from the bible. And remember the devil loves it when you rely on your own feelings. Feelings are very dangerous and can easily lead you in the wrong direction away from God. Don’t rely on your feelings, but seek and depend on the written scripture from God. Stop relying on what feels right to you.
You claim to have faith in Jesus Christ, but you do nothing to show your love for Him. Faith is a verb and not an adjective nor a noun. Faith requires action. When you love something, you show your love for it with obedience. Erik, are you saying we need to earn our way into heaven by doing good deeds? Absolutely not. The good deeds are the result of your faith. It’s that simple. Pastor Greg Laurie said it best at Harvest Church in his Thursday night study, “Faith without works is dead.”
Erik, are you saying we can loose our salvation, as well? Absolutely not. You cannot loose your salvation, but I seriously question if you were ever saved to begin with. When Paul wrote to the church of Corinth, he explained salvation through Jesus Christ clearly: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17. You say you’re a Christian, but your still living the same life of sin as before with no action and no change. Jesus said it clearly in His parable of the four seeds that fell to the ground. Only 1 out 4 will become a Christian to enter into the Kingdom of God.
You have the freewill to choose – choose to love and obey Jesus Christ.
How about religious traditions? You may be Catholic or belong to another denomination, and are strict in the rituals and routines. Be careful! What you practice repeatedly could easily replace the Christian relationship required with Jesus Christ to be saved. I can assure you Jesus is not interested in stats like how many times you recite a prayer, sing the same hymn over and over, light a candle, or walk into a booth or sanctuary. Jesus wants a direct and personal relationship with you, usually at a time in a day when you least want to give it.
As Christian’s, we are called to proclaim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We are called to repent (change), leaving behind the old life and living as a new creation by our own freewill. We are called to follow Him. How do we follow? Turn away from sin, talk to Jesus through prayer, seek His help and wisdom, obey His instructions, read and study the bible, and help others to do the same. You call yourself a Christian, but you fail to fully surrender yourself to God.
Erik, what’s the big deal about repenting? So many people forget about this word or choose to stay away from it, because it makes them uncomfortable. Repent means CHANGE. Change from what? The life you were living before you became a Christian. As a Christian, turn away from your sinful past. You see there is a before and after when you are reborn as a Christian. When you become a Christian, God’s Holy Spirit enters inside your body, which serves as a temple (tent or dwelling) for the Holy Spirit. As a Christian in human flesh, you need to take action, make an effort, strive, and pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ with obedience. Am I saying you need to be perfect? Of course not. You are still a sinner that may continue to make the same mistakes, but a Christian will at the same time pray and reach out to Jesus for help to live a life that serves and honors our Lord. You choose to do this by your own freewill. I can assure you Jesus will work abundantly and wonders throughout your life, but you need to show your faith in Him by listening and following His instruction. If you claim to be a Christian but never repented from various habitual sins, nor never chose to seek a relationship with Christ, were you ever a Christian to start? Repentance and faith go together.
Jesus said it Himself, From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17
There are several verses in both the Old and New Testament of the bible that address the meaning and purpose of repentance. Check out this verse in 2nd Peter: The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
I always want to remind myself that I cannot earn my way into heaven. The only way into heaven is believing in Jesus Christ by pure and unconditional faith. As a new creation, I will seek and strive for His wisdom, knowledge and understanding to live righteously in this world and help others find the same salvation. The blood of Jesus Christ washes away my past, present, and future sins. Trust me when I am say I’m far from perfect. I struggle just like everyone else, but I know inside myself I’m not alone, someone is helping me. I know my last breadth on this planet will be my first breadth in Heaven, which is very reassuring in my life. Amen.
I write this blog to all my friends and family members that are not Christians and those that are uncertain if they are truly saved through Jesus Christ. If you want to become a Christian or want to renew your walk in Jesus Christ, please bow your head, close your eyes, focus your heart and mind on God, and pray these words out to God now:
Father in Heaven.
I come to you as a sinner.
I’m powerless and weak without you.
I want to be with you in Heaven when I die.
I believe in you by faith alone.
I believe in your Son, Jesus Christ, who was crucified on a cross for my sins,
and then rose from the grave.
I choose to follow you.
Please come into my heart.
I accept you as my Lord and Savior.
Thank you for loving me.
Thank you for sacrificing your life for me.
Be my friend.
Be my Savior.
I commit my life to you from this day forth in Jesus’s holy name.
If you spoke these words and meant it, welcome to the family of God. The Holy Spirit is now living inside you. Please email me or call me at (714) 988-3745 so that I may personally welcome you to the family of God and give you a bible and reading guides to help remain strong in your Christian walk.
Remember the words you have spoken: want, believe, accept, and commit are words of action, words of change, words of a new beginning. The devil and his demons will do everything in their power to make you feel uncomfortable, weak, and lazy, lead you away with the world’s pleasures, and confuse you. Pray for strength through the Holy Spirit who is now living inside you. Remember your seed is now growing and can easily be snatched, withered, or choked by this world. Be on guard and alert, trust in God in everything, pray for direction and confirmation in your life on this planet, and please find a Christian church and friends to share your decision and new beginning. Living alone in Christ makes you more vulnerable to world influences, and a greater risk of idling with no interest in building an ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s true. Pastor Greg Laurie said in church, “When your spiritually lethargic, your more vulnerable to leaving Jesus.” I speak from experience. You need Christian friends to help and hold you accountable, and more importantly pray with you.
Does your life get easier now? Probably not. God will direct you and make the necessary changes to get you on a narrow path He wants you walking in your new life. Study God and pray He will reveal and confirm to you the direction you need to walk as a Christian. Get ready and always know God is in control. I promise you the life of a Christian is so much more fulfilling and fun than a non-Christian.
If you’re still not convinced on the path to salvation, allow me to say one last thing. All of us have one thing in common: our bodies will die. God knows when each of our hearts will stop beating and it will be too late to accept and live for Jesus. I was once counseled by Coach Edwards at Heritage High School, and he said it best and I still remember his words to this day, “Erik, you’re playing with fire.” We are blessed to have a patient God, but be careful on your timing to come around. It may be too late.
I write this today not to discourage, judge or condemn you, but rather help open your eyes to the Truth. Consider it a “faith check” in your life and a GPS map of the path your presently walking and your destination after you depart from this world. If anything, pray and ask God to speak to your heart about your salvation. Show me God! Don’t respond and act out of compulsion, but search with sincerity and conviction to be right with Our Lord and Savior, because he is coming back soon. Soon! I recently learned there are 260 chapters in the New Testament, and 318 times Jesus’s return is mentioned. No doubt about it! We need to be ready.
So if your heart stops beating today, are you certain, based on biblical text and not on feelings nor world theology, you’re going to heaven? I hope and pray your answer will be a resounding “YES!!”
Happy new year and God bless you.