Written by Victor Stanley Jr.
The Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10 asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ first response was that the man must keep the law. The young ruler said that he had done this, so Jesus then tells him to sell all that he has and give it to the poor and to come follow him. The young ruler walked away distraught because he had many possessions. Again in Matthew 16 Jesus says to his disciples that whoever loses their life for Christ’s sake will find it. Both of these exchanges reveal something about what it means to follow Christ. One must deny him or herself and be willing to commit his/her entire life to Christ in order to inherit the Kingdom of God, more commonly referred to as Heaven.
So the answer to the question, “How do I get to Heaven,” is a simple one: place the entirety of your trust in Jesus Christ and confess him as Lord. Some may say, “but I thought I had to believe in the Gospel?” Well, what is the gospel? In most churches the gospel is taught as what Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15: Jesus was crucified, buried, and raised from death on the third day. While this may be the central focus of the Gospel it leaves out the other 30,000 plus verses in the Bible. Two books of the Bible that provide very complete understandings of what scripture, in its entirety, teaches are Romans and Hebrews. Both books speak of Creation, The Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. These four could be said to be the pillars on which the biblical narrative stand. And so the Gospel in its fullness provides an understanding of each of these four.
In the beginning God created everything that exists, he spoke it out of nothing and it came to be. Most importantly he created mankind in his image with their purpose being to fellowship with and worship God. He issued one command, well actually He issued a few commands, but he issued one moral command: Do not eat from this tree over here, if you do you will die; long story short man ate from the tree. Now the reason man ate from the tree is because he wanted to be God, or be like God, that is he wanted supreme knowledge and power; this becomes important when we get to Christ. This violation of God’s moral command is deemed “The Fall” because man fell out of communion with God.
This had a few nasty results, specifically man became eternally separated from God, and this separation is known as spiritual death. Man’s mind also became corrupted along with his nature. By this is meant that man’s thoughts, his character, his actions, desires, and intentions now and forevermore are directed towards evil/wickedness. Now that sounds pretty extreme, but evil is not necessarily being Hitler. Evil or wickedness is simply what is called sin, and sin is anything that goes against God, i.e. greed, lying, stealing, cheating, sexual immorality, murder, arrogance, selfish ambition, or placing anything before God in order of importance or priority, etc. Now this whole situation leaves mankind in pretty bad shape and it begs the question, “how do we remedy man’s predicament?” Well that’s easy, man simply has to serve out the sentence for his crimes against God, that is his continued and incessant breaking of God’s law, and then he can be in the right with God. Unfortunately, the punishment for mankind’s crimes is death, so that makes it difficult to later be in the right with God because you know, you’re dead.
So what’s the answer? Is this God who claims to be good and all-loving going to just wipe out all of mankind? No way, but is this God who is also just and holy simply going to leave sin unpunished? Well He can’t do that. So, how does God both demonstrate His love while also carrying out his justice? Easy, He sends His only son the Lord of Glory, Jesus the Christ, to Earth as a man to live a life of perfection. Jesus living a life never having sinned, God allows Him to be sentenced to death, suffering the punishment for our crimes even though he committed none Himself. Then, this Christ comes back alive from the dead, goes back to God the Father and says, “Hey, all those folks over there are with me, I have paid the penalty for their crimes, and I can do this because I kept the law perfectly, I’m innocent, and I myself am not subject to the penalty of breaking your law because I never broke it. Also, I am the ruler and creator of the entire universe because you and I are one, and so I’m saying we need to pardon them.”
So God then credits man’s account as it were with Jesus’ righteousness; that is, he views our account as paid in full because Jesus paid it all. Of course one may wonder who “all those folks over there,” are that Jesus was talking about. Well, those folks are the ones who have confessed that Jesus is God, that he is the Christ, the Anointed one, who died as an atonement for their sins, and then raised himself from the dead thus defeating death and granting life to all those who place their faith in him. These folks have now experienced a Restoration because they have been restored into communion with God through Christ. Here’s the thing though, faith in Christ causes a transformation, it produces a new person, a person who is set apart (holy), and who pursues righteousness.
This means that the person who is truly in Christ keeps God’s law, not perfectly, for all men still sin from time to time. But, as they grow in their relationship with the Lord they increasingly live a life that mirrors Christ’s life of sinlessness. If you truly love Christ you will keep his commandments, for no one who continues in habitual unrepentant sin is truly of Christ. This is the Gospel: God created us, we sinned against him and descended into death and depravity, he sent his son to take the punishment for our sins, redeeming us from death and restoring us to life and a right relationship with God, but only for those who have placed their trust in Him.