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Do You Qualify for Heaven?

Do You Qualify for Heaven?

By David Jeremiah

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When it comes to eternal life and a future home in heaven, none of us can qualify on our own—though many keep trying. The largest religion in America is the “I’m-Trying-to-Get-There-on-My-Own” religion. Most people, if they believe in heaven at all, think they can qualify by having more merits than demerits on their ledger. They say things like, “Yeah, I’m hoping I’m going to heaven. I’m trying to be a good person and all.”

But according to Colossians 1:12-14, it’s the Heavenly Father “who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

That was the message of Ichabod Spencer, a remarkable pastor in Brooklyn, New York, during an earlier era. He once visited a woman dying of tuberculosis who had never read the Bible, been to church, or seriously thought of eternal issues. Now, she told him, she was too sick and it was too late. She hadn’t enough time left to “learn religion.”

Now, she told him, she was too sick and it was too late. She hadn’t enough time left to “learn religion.”

Undeterred, the Reverend Spencer opened his Bible and outlined the way of salvation. “The first thing is—that we are sinners,” he said. He explained sin and guilt and alienation from God, as well as our inability to earn God’s favor.

“The second thing is that just such sinners may be saved, because Jesus Christ came to seek and to save the lost.” After reading several verses about the redeeming love of Jesus, he continued, “The third thing is that lost sinners will be saved by Christ if they repent of sin and believe in Him.” He continued his explanation with several other details of the Gospel. The poor woman struggled to understand, so the Reverend Spencer used this analogy. “Suppose,” he said, “you were on an island and it was sinking into the ocean. You could run from one side of the island to the other, but you could not save yourself.”

“You would be lost!” he said. “But there is a boat there. You see it going back and forth, carrying people where they want to go. People tell you it is safe, and you only have to go on it. It seems safe to you as you behold it in motion. You believe it is safe. Now, what would you do in such a case? You just step on board the boat. You do not merely believe it would save you… but you go on it. You commit yourself to it…. You must trust the boat to hold you up from sinking, and to carry you…. Just so, trust yourself to Jesus Christ to save you. He will carry you to heaven.”

The woman’s face erupted in light as she raised herself up, leaning on her elbow. And there on her deathbed, she committed herself to Jesus Christ, trusting Him to be her Lord and Savior.

None of us can swim across the ocean, and none of us can reach heaven by our efforts.

None of us can swim across the ocean, and none of us can reach heaven by our efforts. Jesus Christ, who, being God, was perfectly sinless, died and rose again to qualify us for eternal life by His death and resurrection. It is Christ who carries us in the vessel of His love; it is Christ who positions us to finish well.

Jesus is the only one who qualifies us for eternal life. After we are qualified, it becomes our responsibility to stay focused on His purposes until the end of our spiritual journey.   

Qualifying for Usefulness

Christ also qualifies us for Christian service. In 2 Corinthians 3:5-6, Paul wrote, “By ourselves we are not qualified in any way to claim that we can do anything. Rather, God makes us qualified. He has also qualified us to be ministers of a new promise” (God’s Word Translation).

To be effective in service to our Lord, it is vital that we choose to reflect Him in our decisions and daily lives. Paul also said in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27: “Those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize.... I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

Christians can lose their usefulness through a lack of personal discipline. Church leaders have lost their ministries because they became entangled in immorality or alienated from someone in their congregation. Others have been drawn into financial woes through a lack of accountability. Many Christians today are so entangled with the world that their usefulness in the kingdom is becoming marginalized. Some believers, through lack of discipline, fall into theological error and become seduced by false doctrine.

Paul warned: “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head” (Colossians 2:18-19, NIV).

He gave Timothy this warning: “Athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5, NLT).

Following God’s will for us will be challenging, and it will require dedication. Throughout our journey, we continue toward the prize by staying resilient and relying on the Lord’s strength to do His work. We are qualified for heaven through the merits of Christ, and it is Christ alone who qualifies us to bear His name and advance His kingdom. Our job is to avoid those sins that can disqualify us from being effective witnesses for Him.

Avoid Disqualifying Sins

Perhaps the most difficult sins to detect and confess are dispositional sins—when our attitudes become un-Christlike. The famous Dutch Christian and holocaust survivor, Corrie ten Boom, traveled around the world for Christ, and she often battled physical and emotional fatigue. On one occasion, she was overcome by spiritual fatigue and wanted to drop out of the ministry. As she lay in bed one morning struggling with this, the Holy Spirit showed her that she had developed a spirit of resentment. She had begun to resent all the travel and responsibilities and letters and many other things. Corrie was in danger of losing her passion.

At first, she argued with the Lord about it. Then she remembered that Jesus cannot forgive an excuse, so she confessed her sin and expressed her willingness to do whatever He had for her. Arising, she read a passage from Ephesians 3 about God’s ability to strengthen our inner selves out of the riches of His glory. Her joy returned, and she plunged into her work anew.

Whether it’s as overt as an affair or as subtle as hidden resentment, we’ve got to avoid those sins that can disqualify us from effective Christian service. Establishing healthy boundaries can help us build fences around our moral life. It is important to guard against any habits that threaten to creep into our routine, endangering our reputation or diluting our usefulness for Him.

Resolve to stay pure, to remain clean, and to stay disciplined for Christ.

Resolve to stay pure, to remain clean, and to stay disciplined for Christ. Staying connected to your calling from God will keep you spiritually healthy. Ask God to help you remain focused and motivated. He will provide the necessary strength to stay effective in your calling.

In Christ, we have the hope of heaven and the privilege of earthly service. Choose to live in a way that keeps you ready to serve the Lord. And when you come to the end of your life on earth, you’ll be able to say with the apostle Paul, “I have finished the race, I have kept the faith…. There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Finishing well demands vigilance. We can’t let down our guard after our victories, for the enemy is always waiting to attack. After we succeed in our battles through the Lord’s help, let’s not rest in our success but praise God and keep pushing forward–always ready for redeployment. The Lord is never finished with us. As long as we are on this earth, there is more for us to accomplish.

Each day is an opportunity to look forward to what the Lord has for us next! Starting today, commit to finishing well. Run the spiritual race with endurance and live a life that encourages others to want to join you in the ultimate destination: heaven. 

An earlier version of this article appeared in the October 2006 edition of Turning Points magazine. Request your complimentary subscription today!

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