Polls asking about Heaven and Hell (a link to one from gallup is here) show that the majority of people believe in both, and furthermore that most people think they're going to the good place.
What do you believe it takes to get into Heaven?
There are of course many belief systems, ranging from Muslim to Jewish to New Age to Secular Humanism. I'm going to focus today on the Christian faith, since despite presidential pronouncements to the contrary I still believe we are largely a Christian nation, accompanied of course by the freedom to worship in ANY way we see fit, a doctrine I firmly support.
I also am focusing on Christianity because I believe it is true. As a skeptic I spent almost a year investigating the claims of the resurrection, without assuming the existence of God or miracles, and came to the conclusion that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. This truth has rocked my world and redirected the course of my life. You can read about how I came to this conclusion on my website HERE.
If you walk into a church or a revival meeting, it seems to be a fairly easy proposition to be assured a place in Heaven -- you simply say a prayer and you're set. Polls have shown a fairly stable estimate for North Americans questioned of about 40% saying they attended church (or other place of worship) at least 3 weeks out of 4, which suggests that many people are OK.
But wait a moment. Just because someone sits in a pew, and sings hymns, and says a few prayers, does that really mean he's OK? Many speakers make it sound so easy to be a Christian, but truly I haven't found this in my own faith walk. It is exhausting to wrestle with God and at the end to lay everything at His feet, day after day. Job in the Bible suffered the loss of all he had -- possessions, family, faith -- yet finally says, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face." (Job 13:15, NIV)
Jesus describes two ways:
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matt 7:13-14, NIV)
The wide gate is the easy way, the way that says you can pray to God for whatever you want and, like the genie in Aladdin's bottle, He will grant it to you. The wide gate says that God wants you to be happy happy happy in this world, and he is an indulgent parent who will give you health, riches, honor, whatever, as long as you ask Him. He will forgive you even if you're not quite as repentant as you should be, because after all, He loves you. It's all about you, you, you.
The narrow gate is hard. The road to it is rocky and the way precarious. You need to squeeze through a difficult fit in order to focus on Him. You need to trust that He knows what He's doing, even when it doesn't seem like He does. This world will not necessarily be pleasant, although it can make you strong in faith if you let it. You need to give up all you have, and are, in order to be opened by Him.
It comes down to what sort of relationship you want to have with God, whether the center of that relationship resides on you, or on Him.
I sometimes listen to my ipod as I write, and yesterday ran across 4 Minutes by Madonna and Justin Timberlake. Yes, I listen to selected Madonna songs (she's amazingly talented), although 4 Minutes happened to be put on by my daughter so I hadn't heard it before. In the middle of the song there were these lyrics:
The road to hell
Is paved with good intentions, yeah
But if I die tonight
At least I can say I did what I wanted to do
Tell me, how bout you?
Wow, this scared me. The broad way, whether religious or secular, is basically about "doing what I want to do."
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