How to Know You’re Going to Heaven

How to Know You’re Going to Heaven

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She looks at me through watery eyes, her grief seeping through her pores like something souring. She tells me she just wants to know for sure that she’ll see him again – the brother she lost too soon.  She says he professed belief in God.  He was a good person.  She wants to know if that’s enough – if it’s enough for her too.

We’re nestled between aisles of nonfiction books, stacked in faded rainbows of blues and reds, in the back corner of a small-town community library. This is where God chooses to let her grief leak out, where he chooses to open her up and let me in.  I count it an honor.

I want to tell her that being a good person is enough. I want to tell her that a vague belief that all pathways lead to God is enough, but I can’t lie.  I want to pour healing balm on her grief with the assurance that she’ll see him again, but I can’t.  And so I simply tell her the pieces of my story that need spoken in these whispers between the books . . . .

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe God was real. I’ve doubted him.  I’ve turned from him.  I’ve considered denying him.  But I always believed he was there.  I thought believing was enough for most of my life.  I wanted the Buddhists and the Muslims and the pantheists to be climbing the same mountain toward the same God, and I wanted to believe they were just different pathways to the same destination.

The summer my grandpa died, I was forced to make a decision. Fourteen years old, I didn’t know what to make of the possibility I’d never sit with him again to talk about beagles and eat Grandma’s molasses cookies.  I didn’t know what to make of the talk about heaven and hell and the way Psalm 23 is read at every funeral.

In an effort to figure it all out, I slipped my mom’s Old King James Version Bible to the hayfields behind the house and read for hours. I copied poignant verses into a spiral-bound blue notebook and tried to make sense of the New Testament.

It was under the setting sun in the solace of the hayfields that I found a verse I couldn’t shake: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me’” (John 14:6).

It was a decision-point. Either Jesus was just a man who was out of his mind in his claims that we only approach God through him, or he was, and is, the real deal – the Son of God – and the only pathway to God.

I hated the fact that his words meant my pathways theory didn’t hold up. I hated the controversy it stirred.  I don’t like debates.  I didn’t like the idea of defending absolute truth.  But his words resonated.  I decided I believed and committed to follow him.

The years that followed were tumultuous. I didn’t live like a follower of Christ and had no idea of how to make that happen.  I grew bitter when he didn’t bring all of my dreams to fruition, and I was disappointed it was so difficult to defy the cultural norms and walk with him.

Finally, in my early twenties, I decided once and for all to lay down any part of my life that didn’t seem honoring to him and follow him to the best of my ability. I returned to church.  I programmed my car radio to Christian radio stations.  I bought a devotional book and read a page every morning.  I tried to remember to pray.

Slowly, over months and years, the more I filled myself with things of God, the more I wanted. Worship nights were much more satisfying than nights at bars.  Shared meals with believers fed my soul in a way that shared drinks with strangers never could.  The emptiness of living for myself was transformed as I encountered the fullness of living for Christ.  He changed me.  Slowly.  And the change is my daily reminder of my assurance.

 

I looked at my friend across the aisle – we were sitting on the hard library linoleum at this point. I told her the Bible is full of verses that tell us what we need to do to know we’re going to heaven:

Confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9).

Receive Christ and become children of God (John 1:12).

Believe he is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Hebrews 7:25).

Ask forgiveness for our sins and repent (Luke 13:3).

These are the acts that indicate we’re on the right path. They remind me that I’ll be united with Christ in heaven one day.  But when my heart craves greater evidence, I look to my life.  I look and I see that he has changed it.  I look and I see the way I’m growing in a relationship with him, in the same way that I continue to grow in a deeper and deeper relationship with my husband.  I know it’s real because I’m living it.

Through her tears, she told me she has no evidence of a growing relationship. Through her tears, she told me she can’t see the ways he’s changed her.  She spoke of praying a prayer at an altar once and believing it was enough.

But we don’t get a ticket into heaven for saying the right words and then turning around and continuing to live for ourselves. Inheriting eternal life is more than simply possessing a ticket to heaven; eternal life is knowing God now through a growing relationship (John 17:3).  It starts in our time on earth, it grows as we come to know God, through Christ, more and more, and it culminates when we meet him face to face in heaven.

I often think of God’s people before the coming of Christ. I wonder what it was like to send the best of their herds to the altar to be slaughtered as payment for their sins.  Because God takes sin seriously, he called his people to pay for their sins with the blood of bulls and goats.  Life was required to pay for the death of their sins.

I’m amazed by the creativity and love of God to send his own Son to pay the final price for our sins. In his perfect plan, he knew no animal sacrifice could make atonement for our wrongdoing, and for this reason, his people had to offer the same animal sacrifices again and again.  But God’s ultimate plan was to send his Son to pay the price once and for all.

As a parent, I can’t fathom sending my child to die in the place of someone else. I can’t imagine sending my son to suffer and bear the wrath someone else deserved.  This is why the cross is the ultimate portrayal of love.  God showed his love for us by sending his Son to die in our place, while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8).

My friend absorbed my words like water on parched ground that day on the floor of the library. I prayed for her.  And there were no flashing lights or written commitments to walk in a new covenant.  But she told me she wanted to seek Christ in a thriving, dynamic way.  She wanted to follow him and pursue a relationship with him.

We climbed from the hard linoleum and walked into the sunlight, each of us one step closer to heaven.

~~~

If you’ve ever wondered what will happen to you when this life is over, let today be a starting point. Or let it be an affirmation that you’re moving in the right direction.  While deciding to repent and follow Christ can happen in an instant, I am most assured that I’ll be in heaven on the basis of two things:

  1. Scripture makes it clear that those who believe, repent, profess, and follow Jesus will be saved.
  2. He has done undeniable work in my life, and I am deeply in love with him. I walk in the assurance that my eternal destiny is sealed because I love Christ with all my heart, believe every Word he has written in the Bible, and he has radically changed me. He has opened my eyes to reveal his radical love for me through his Word, and the revelation of his love has changed me from the inside out.

 

 

About Stacey Pardoe

Stacey Pardoe is a wife, mother of two young children, writer, Bible teacher, and mentor. She is most passionate about walking closely with Christ and sharing his love with a broken world. Find out more about her at her website.

Comments

  1. Laurie Driesen says:

    Wow, what a beautiful post Stacey. You really laid it out there in an honest, genuine, faithful way!

  2. Beautifully written, Stacey! We must never shy away from proclaiming truth. You go, girl 😉

  3. Absolute truth spoken in love.

  4. Thank you for sharing. What a beautiful way to share your faith by telling your own story. I am pinning this one.

  5. I love how you were able to sit and talk even though it was there in the library. Thank you for sharing and encouraging us to speak the truth where and when we meet those in need.

  6. What a beautiful story God gave you the opportunity to be a part of Stacey!

  7. Such a beautiful testimony and witness for God! Thanks for sharing, Stacey!

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