IT’S THE BIBLE QUESTION OF THE WEEK.
It comes from Tom Hartman, an Oakie who wins a free, signed copy of a book of mine. He chose Bible Snapshots.
I asked my Facebook readers to tell me what one question they would ask God if they got the chance. Here’s what Tom said he would ask.
“Have I been good enough to make it to heaven? And if not, what do I need to change?”
That questions makes me sad.
- Bad memory.
- Bad me.
“My wife says I’m not good enough to be a pastor.” That’s what a pastor friend of mine told me many years ago.
I was having lunch with him at the time, talking about other stuff. Out of the blue, he volunteered that confession, adding, “And I have to sleep with her.”
He resigned from pastoring.
A gifted preacher, he regrets that decision, I’m fairly certain.
I’m sad for him. And I’m sad for the congregations he would have served, which may well be enduring worship services less energized and engaging than if he had been there.
Still, I believe God has adapted to the change, and is putting the former pastor to good use in other ways.
I write easy-reading books about the Bible. I’ve made it my job to help people understand what the Bible teaches. I’m managing to sell some books, over a million so far. But I’m not sure I’m getting the main message across.
Let me try harder, with a personal note to Tom, whom I’ve never met.
Tom, don’t ask that question anymore. Not if you’re betting the wad on Jesus.
If the Bible doesn’t teach squat else, it teaches this:
“Everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life,” (John 3:16).
Tom, you aren’t the first to ask the question.
One of the first on record who wasn’t a Jew was a jailer in the Greek town of Philippi.
Here’s his version of the question, which he asked to Paul, one of his prisoners: “What must I do to be saved?”
Paul’s answer: “Have faith in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved!” (Acts 16:30-31).
I once went to a conference for pastors, though I’ve never been a pastor and never want to be; a congregation of humans would drive me nuts. I was at this conference as one of the instructors. But in my free time I sat in on sessions led by others.
One session leader asked the pastors a question a lot like the one Tom and the jailer asked. He asked, “What does it take to be a Christian?”
The crowd tossed back a bunch of answers. A few, as I recall:
- Attend church regularly.
- Volunteer to help in church programs.
- Comply with the rules of the church that are written in the manual.
These were preachers talking, giving one wrong answer after another.
So, Tom, don’t feel bad about asking the question, or any version of it.
What does it take to be a Christian? Where do we get our ticket into heaven? How do we know if we’re good enough to make the cut?
Jesus. Jesus. And Jesus.
He’s what it takes to be a Christian. “All who call out to the Lord will be saved,” (Romans 10:13).
He’s the ticket into heaven. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” (John 14:6).
He’s the one who’s good enough—for all of us. “Christ did not sin…Christ carried the burden of our sins….By his cuts and bruises you are healed,” (1 Peter 2:22-24).
So, Tom, go ahead and do good things, attend church, support the church with offerings as best you can, try not to break any more rules of the church than necessary (sometimes, I’ve discovered, it may be necessary). But don’t depend on any of these to get you into heaven.
You know who you can depend on.