Do not believe for one moment that religious behavior, routine, or heritage that you see as authentic Christianity will get you to heaven.
By Dr. Donald Whitchard
“And he was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. And someone said to Him, ‘Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?’ And He said to them, ‘Strive to enter by the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.’
“Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘LORD, open up to us!’ , then He will answer and say to you, “I do not know where you are from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets;’ and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers.’
“There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth there when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being cast out. And they will come from east and west, and north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first and some who are first will be last.”
- Luke 13:22-30 (NASB)
One of the tragedies that someone can experience is to believe that at the end of life, all we become is fodder for worms. Many people live by the notion that whatever Higher Power that put this universe into working order will check you over, weigh out your good and bad deeds, and let you into the next life. Others who claim to believe in God and live by His principles as best as they can are certain that all will be well at the close of their terrestrial journey. A lot of folks who “prayed a prayer asking Jesus into their heart” while living a contrary life believe that they are guaranteed a place in heaven. There are a lot of people who were faithful in serving their place of worship, were kind to others, good to their family, and assured those concerned that God has forgiven them, and will be in glory when life concludes here.
Some of these people are even pastors, bishops, deacons, Sunday School teachers, nursery workers, youth directors, missionaries, and denominational leaders. The horrendous fact is that unless they have truly repented and surrendered to Jesus Christ for salvation and live according to His demands, many of these souls will wake up apart from God and be in hell, shocked and frightened at what they believed they possessed in terms of eternal life.
As I observe the church today, I see reprobate behavior, friendship with the world’s beliefs, abandonment of sound biblical teaching and doctrine, preaching that resembles a pep rally or sales seminar, support of issues and trends that conflict with the standards of a holy God, and programs that keep people busy, but starves them in terms of spiritual food found only in the Scriptures. I do rejoice when I see God’s people in prayer and intercession around the world when sinners are truly transformed by the power of God, and am encouraged by the stalwart faithfulness of the persecuted brethren as they stand boldly for Jesus Christ, but the sad fact is that only a few who have confessed faith in Christ over the decades were real followers, totally sold out to Him.
Jesus emphasizes this hard truth as He went about the cities and villages of Galilee, teaching the people the truth of God’s ways and Word, the necessity of getting right with Him, and to repent of sin and wickedness. The LORD calls on all to come to Him for salvation, but we are to do so on His terms. We have nothing to do with it, nor does the sovereign God needs our input as to how to redeem His fallen creation. He never asks for advice or counsel, and we do not need to improve upon what is His perfect means to rescue us from our sins and the certainty of eternal death if we reject His offer. Following Jesus is not an option you can take up and put away when the mood strikes or when a crisis is at hand and you look to Him as some kind of “last resort”. When you surrender your life to Him and call Him Lord, let this sink in: HE OWNS YOU AND CAN DO WHAT HE WANTS WITH YOU AT ANY TIME AND PLACE FOR HIS GLORY AND PURPOSE. Do you see why the majority of humanity hates Jesus? We are no longer on the throne of life. When He saved you from your sin and the surety of hell, you abdicated, set yourself aside, and gave Him the right to rule over you. He is the Master of our soul and the Guide of our lives from now on.
Jesus made it perfectly clear to any would-be follower that there would be a cost, and to weigh it carefully before committing your life to Him, lest you end up as a seed in rocky soil and abandon the faith you thought you had because things got rough and the world suddenly started getting hostile towards you for being a “believer”. The cares and desires of this world are more worthy and beneficial to you than to give up everything for the sake of Christ and His rule. Therefore the “prosperity gospel” sounds so good to people. They will be more than glad to follow a Jesus who will give them wealth, health, and the desires of their heart, but avoid the real Lord Jesus Christ who demands their soul, their will, and their all.
People will say they want to follow Jesus, but just so long as He is in line with their political or social convictions, or if He agrees with or overlooks a certain lifestyle that is in clear violation of Scripture. They will follow Him if He seems to be a kind of mystical guru, a great prophet, a great moral example, or high ranking teacher, but balk at the fact that He is God incarnate who is the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords who demands terms of surrender from fallen man.
In reading these sobering passages of Scripture, Jesus warns us to abandon any thought of self-rescue in terms of your soul. Give up any idea of self-assurance that all is well by your own power. He implores everyone to go through the narrow gate, representing His exclusivity in providing the ONLY way to God the Father (John 3:16, 14:6; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9-10). We are to leave everything of our own making or conception behind, and to avoid this gate is to be shut out of the fellowship and kingdom of God.
The Scriptures also warn against giving Jesus “lip service”. Do not claim that He is Lord of your life when the fruit and evidence say otherwise. God will not be mocked, fooled, or flattered by empty words and fake action. He can see right through your hypocrisy and false piety. If this is describing you now, then you are traveling down the same hell-bound path that the Pharisees and religious frauds of history have taken through the centuries, ending up in eternal hell for their fake lives and putrid words. I urge you to turn around, repent of your hypocrisy and lies, and run to Jesus for true salvation right now, kneeling before His Majesty and embracing Him as Lord.
Do not believe for one moment that religious behavior, routine, or heritage that you see as authentic Christianity will get you to heaven. Do not be fooled into thinking that because your parents or relatives are followers of Christ that you get to ride into glory on their coat tails. Do not assume that because you are a faithful member of your local church all is well, either. The Scriptures clearly teach that we are to examine ourselves (Philippians 2:12-13) to see if we are the real deal in terms of being right with the Lord. Do not count on a “sinner’s prayer” you said years ago at the behest of the pastor or zealous evangelist out of guilt, manipulation, pressure, or a way of getting them to leave you alone. Anyone can repeat a prayer, but not mean it or not said with sincerity and a genuine love for God.
For those of you who are truly saved and at peace with the Lord Jesus Christ, let me say this. The number of years or decades that you have walked with the LORD may have looked to you like you were the last man standing in the midst of all of the filth and wickedness that has grown and spread like a putrid cancer. You have seen friends and family walk away from the faith they once claimed to possess. You have been faithful in the task to which the LORD has assigned you yet you wonder if any good has come of it because you do not see anything or anyone apparently changing for the better. You have prayed, it seems forever, for a loved one to be saved and you do not see any evidence of it on the surface. Pastor, you have been in one little country church for years, desiring to go to another field of service that looks more fruitful, and you wonder if your work has even been noticed by God at times.
Sir or madam, you have claimed to be a follower of Jesus Christ for years and you mean it, but there has been a secret sin that has grabbed a hold of you like a vise and you have fought it, rebuked it, did your best to walk away from it, but you keep being pulled to it like a moth to a flame. You pray for forgiveness and feel as if God is going to take away the salvation you claim to possess. Your spouse knows about it and it has caused a rift in the relationship and made you question your very life and wonder if it had any merit or meaning. The guilt and hurt you have is more than you can bear and you come to God in desperation, praying that He will not turn His back on you and cast you to hell. Am I right on all these observations? Then read further.
Considering that everyone who was used of God in the Scriptures were at one time hell-bound sinners and reprobates before He got a hold of them, redeemed them, and used them to do mighty and wondrous things for His glory and grace should tell you that in the kingdom of heaven, nobody is miniscule or insignificant when it comes to the duties and responsibilities to which the Sovereign God of all creation has called and equipped you to accomplish in this life. No matter your race, background, education, place of service, ethnicity, gender (only two!), physical limitation or mental shortcoming, Jesus Christ loved you enough to not just die for your sins and redeem you by His sinless blood and life on the cross, but sees you as important and worthy enough to be used in His time and place to do something for Him that only you can do.
He gave you the gifts and talents to accomplish that to which He assigned you, great or small. He will also give you His strength to overcome the sins that keep you from your task, and He will forgive you if you do fall short. He never leaves or forsakes us. He holds no grudges when you come to Him for forgiveness of sins. He is the Good Shepherd and He will not leave any lamb to face the wolves, ever. We will not know what kind of influence we have had as a follower of Jesus Christ until we get to heaven and be witnesses to the fruit we produced (1 Corinthians 3:10-16; 2 Corinthians 5:10). We will receive rewards for the little we did do for Him, even it was to scrub floors in an office building for His glory or lead a mission group somewhere and preach the gospel. But all this depends on where you stand with Him at this moment. Are you sure you are really His child? If you are uncertain, or have read this and are convicted to surrender your life and purpose to the Lord Jesus Christ, then use this prayer as a guide:
“Lord God. I confess to you that I am not right with you and I am under judgment for my sins and wrongdoings. I repent of my wicked lifestyle and words and come to you in the name of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation and forgiveness. I surrender my life and everything with it to His Lordship and rule. I will follow you all my life. I will read your Word and let the Holy Spirit of God guide me from this point on. Thank you for saving me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.” Welcome home. Welcome back. Now go serve your King and I will see you in glory.
Donald was born and reared in the authentic Cajun country of south Louisiana. He is a 1978 graduate of LaGrange High School in Lake Charles. He is also a graduate of Louisiana College (B.A. in History Education, 1984), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1994) and Andersonville Theological Seminary (Doctor of Ministry, 2000). He is an ACPE Certified Chaplain with training in Trauma/ER, NICU, and Psychiatric Pastoral Care from the McFarland Institute in New Orleans (2003). He has over thirty years of ministry service, which concluded when he was called to serve as pastor of Meadowbrook Baptist Church in Muskogee, Oklahoma from 2017-2018. Due to health concerns, he retired from public ministry in 2020 and now devotes his time to internet evangelism through the writing of Bible studies, sermons, and articles on current issues for varied Christian webpages and ministries. He is a regular contributor to sites such as Rapture Ready and Sermon Central as well as Inspirational Christian Blogs. He and his wife Cathy are both active members of Eastern Heights Baptist Church in Muskogee. Don will often serve as a panel member of the Gospel Rescue Mission Pastor’s Round Table Broadcast, shown monthly on the mission’s Facebook page as his health allows. He has a personal evangelistic blog as well and can be contacted at his Email address.