What Can One Do to Qualify to Go to Heaven?

September 7, 2019

Rector’s Weekly Letter to the Congregation for Sunday, September 8, 2019

What Can One Do to Qualify to Go to Heaven?

God is holy. He is so holy that he shines brighter than the sun. He cannot co-exist with unholiness. Any unholiness that approaches him will be burnt up by his holiness. This is not because God is mean. It is just that that’s how things are. Holiness burns unholiness into extinction. It is like if I put my finger on a fire, the poor thing will be burnt, not because fire is mean. The way life works is that fire burns that which comes into contact with it. It is the same way with God. He burns any carrier of unholiness that comes in close proximity with him.

We human beings are unholy, from the one we might think is actively seeking holiness to the worst of the worst criminal we can imagine. There are some people who cannot fathom calling every human being unholy and unfit for heaven. They think themselves good people. They smile at everyone. They desire to help others and try as much as possible to be friendly with all. They are good neighbors in their community, and everyone speaks well of them. They consider themselves well-groomed. However, if you asked them whether they are perfect, they will be quick to admit that they are not. Now, that imperfection they feel is the unholiness and sinfulness that resides inside them although perhaps they may not be able to pinpoint a particular sin in them. But for most human beings we are aware of our failings.

The Ten Commandments that God gave the world through Moses, were not designed to make us holy. They can’t make us holy. If anything, they condemn us and show us how imperfect we are, and therefore unfit for heaven.  Their purpose is to show us how helpless we are, and how we need a savior from outside of ourselves to make us acceptable to God. No one can keep the law of God perfectly and on account of that perfect obedience to the law to be permitted into God’s presence. I feel saddened when I ask church members, even people who have been going to church all their lives, whether they will go to heaven. I get answers like, “Well, I don’t know. I am trying my best to be good, but sometimes it is hard, and I fail. Only God knows what he will do with me.” That is a sad answer. Hidden in it is the understanding that a human being is supposed to work hard to make oneself holy and acceptable before God, and that through that being holy and acceptable the same will be rewarded with a place in heaven. Wrong.

It is true we are called upon to live holy lives on earth, and we should, but not so that we might win a ticket to heaven. No one can be holy enough to be worthy of heaven. This is a crucial Christian doctrine. Human beings are sinners, and they don’t have the wherewithal to get out of their sinfulness. No one can be holy 100 percent, and it is only 100 percent holiness that is required to enter heaven. In James 2:10 it reads, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (ESV). In other words, if one obeys all the laws of God, but breaks one at some point, the same is guilty of breaking all of them. If you are a Mr. Clean all over, but you get a small dot of dirt on you, that disqualifies you from heaven as much the notorious Mr. Dirty is disqualified. There’s no chance that a human being can work on one’s own and win heaven as a prize.

If that be so, how does one get to heaven then? Good question. That’s what the Bible is all about. God created human beings. Human beings rebelled against Him. God already had a plan to take care of the rebellion of his creatures. He started with the call of Abraham. Abraham produced the Nation of Israel. From the Israelite tribe of Judah came Jesus the perfect human being. Jesus died on the cross as punishment for the sin of the world. He declared, “It is finished,” the debt of humanity towards God was removed. Now, sin can be forgiven fully by accepting the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. We accept Christ as our savior and Lord, and we cannot wait to live holy lives because of the joy we have for being forgiven freely. We sing loudly about Jesus and what he did for us. We go about life with a carefree gaiety with thanksgiving in our hearts. We are free. Our sins have been forgiven. When we die, we go to heaven, not because we have lived exceptionally holy lives, but because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. “For by grace have you been saved through faith. And it is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV). And please don’t misunderstand me. We the saved of Christ love holiness. We seek it. We enjoy it. 

We desire to live in it in thankfulness for what Jesus did for us. We want to please our Lover, God. How can we, children of the divine Lord, live in deliberate sin! It would be a contradiction in terms. This is the Christian life as the Bible defines it.

To commit your life to Christ, you can pray a prayer like this:

Dear Jesus, for too long I have kept you out of my life. For too long I have done things my way. I am tired of that kind of life. I want to belong to you. Please come into my life and be my savior and my Lord. Fill my emptiness with yourself. Enable me to live for you from now on. Thank you for dying for me a wretched sinner. AMEN

This is the only way to go to heaven. You don’t qualify by working hard to please God. You cannot qualify on your own. You are offered heaven as a free gift from God through Jesus Christ. And so, we exuberantly sing songs expressing delight in Jesus our redeemer, such as: 

More about Jesus would I know,
More of his grace to others show:
More of his saving fullness see, 
More of his love who died for me.

More, more about Jesus,
More, more about Jesus,
More of his saving fullness see,
More of his love who died for me.


The Anglican Catechism (ACNA)

The catechism is a question and answer format of teaching the basic principles of the Christian faith. The catechism is not meant just to be memorized by rote. Rather, it is meant to be discussed, reflected upon, internalized, and allowed to form us. I urge every family to take the time to study the catechism at home, discussing it word for word, phrase by phrase, sentence by sentence, without passing over any statement that is not understood or is unclear. Parents, please take the lead to teach your children and to anchor them in the Christian faith. Let everyone ask questions and get answers. Please write down any questions that arise in your discussions, questions you cannot answer locally, and pass them to the Rector. May the Holy Spirit guide your learning.



60. What does Jesus’ crucifixion mean?

It means that Jesus was executed as a common criminal. He was scourged, mocked, and nailed to a cross outside the walls of Jerusalem. Though humanly a miscarriage of justice, his execution fulfilled God’s plan that Jesus would bear my sins and die the death that I deserve, so that I could be saved from sin and eternal condemnation and reconciled to God. (Matthew 20:28; 27:32-37; Romans 5:10-11; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

61. Why does the Creed make a point of saying that Jesus died?

The Creed makes the point to emphasize that Jesus died a real, bodily death such as all people face because of our sins. (Matthew 27:45-51)

62. Why does the Creed emphasize Jesus’ death in this way?

The Creed emphasizes Jesus’ death to counter suspicions that Jesus did not truly die on the cross, to celebrate the fact that He died there to secure our salvation, and to prepare our minds to grasp the glory of his bodily resurrection.

63. What does the Creed mean by saying that Jesus descended to the dead?

That Jesus descended to the dead means that he truly died; his spirit did not remain with his body, but entered the realm of death. (1 Peter 3:19)

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